Kendrick Lamar elevates hip-hop performance to another level. This talented artist took the stage Sunday at the 56th Annual Grammy Awards with Imagine Dragon delivering a powerful performance that had new artists and legends in the audience standing together to their feet driving to head turning explosion. Most would never think to fuse a young rapper out of Compton with four alternative rock guys out of Nevada for a night at the Oscars for music. However these young men embraced their differences and were one band, one sound.
Born Kendrick Lamar Duckworth, later to drop the Duckworth when he came into his own as an artist. Now he is simply known as Kendrick Lamar. When his name is spoken there will be a chart topping song to follow. Kendrick Lamar grew up listening to the legendary late rap artist Tupac Shakur. However his life did not mirror the life of Shakur who by the age of 23 had already been shot several times, served a prison sentence, and violently murdered. Kendrick Lamar, at the age of 23, was working with famed music producer Dr. Dre (who had also worked with Tupac Shakur) and so far escaped any violence. Though according to LA Weekly, Kendrick Lamar was exposed to relatives who were involved in criminal activity but he was able to escape the dark underworld. Kendrick Lamar was painfully shy as a kid and afraid to speak in school, has penned hit after hit in heavy rotation on R&B and pop stations. Though he has not reached the age of 30 he has catalogs that the industry believes will be highly respected by generations to come and continue to touch music lovers universally.
Hip-hop stage performances has evolved from such artists as the Sugar Hill Gang in 1970s, Eric B. & Rakim and NWA in the 1980s, and Notorious Big in the 1990s where the artists had a deejay and a microphone with their neighborhood friends sharing the stage to hype up the crowd. The first rap artist to collaborate on stage with a rock band was Run DMC. Known for such hits as It’s Like That and My Adidas with an 808 bass that thundered through walls that could be heard blocks away. They hit the stage in their Kangol hats and thick gold chains and that was all they needed to move the crowd. They took a song titled Walk This Way written by Tyler Smith and Joe Perry of the legendary rock band Aerosmith and wrote a rhyme over the heavy guitar that was unheard of in 1986 in rap music. MTV aired the music video and it was the first time rap music had crossed the line to diversity. Though hip-hop has evolved into a universal genre, rarely does the world get to witness the fusion of rap and rock for an amazing performance. Kendrick Lamar elevated hip-hop performance to another level Sunday night.
Powerhouse acts such as Beyonce and Jay-z who received a standing ovation after gracing the Grammy award stage Sunday night, many artists would be intimated to follow behind no matter how many awards or nominations they have. Imagine Dragon and Kendrick Lamar dressed in all white, orchestrated a strobe light and smoke, and hit the stage to perform MAAD City that had ladies in their ball gowns and men in designer suits head banging to the performance. There was a roar from the sea of artists when the song ended. Fans took to social media praising Kendrick Lamar’s lead performance. Hip-hop was elevated to yet another level. Billboard reported Daniel Reynolds of Imagine Dragon stating before the awards began, “In a perfect world, it would be like the Hunger Games and at the end, me and Kendrick would light on fire.” And that it was…on fire. Kendrick Lamar reminded hip-hop that the performance is just as important as the track. Kendrick Lamar elevated hip-hop performance to another level and caught fire.
Opinion by Meleika Gardner