Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar delivered on his promise as one of rap’s most exciting young talents during his stirring 65-minute performance at a packed Royal Oak Music Theatre Thursday.
Lamar, who releases his major label debut album “good kid, m.A.A.d city” Oct. 22, stuck mostly to material from last year’s “Section.80” mixtape, which was more than okay with fans. The crowd enthusiastically rapped along to songs like the hypnotic, hazy “A.D.H.D.” and the Pimp C/ Aaliyah tribute “Blow My High,” greeting the songs like huge hits and treating Lamar like a visiting superstar, rather than a young artist at the beginning of his career.
Many rappers experience mixtape success before attempting to launch into mainstream stardom, and while some falter, Lamar seems poised to stick his landing. He already has a wealth of material from which to cull, and he can command a stage. While he has scored hits with his first two singles from “good kid,” he took his time getting to them Thursday; “The Recipe” didn’t arrive until 40 minutes into the set, and “Swimming Pools (Drank)” didn’t hit until the one-hour mark. Lesser performers would have jumped into the two singles 20 minutes in and been back on the tour bus by the 30-minute mark.
But Lamar has the makings of a real deal rap star. Coming from Compton gives him instant credibility, and his thoughtful approach to his music defies easy categorization. His leanings are toward alternative hip-hop, but his gritty background and gravelly voice don’t fit the typical alt-hip-hop hippie kid profile. He’s carving his own path, and doing it with artistic merit to spare; “Swimming Pools” is one of the most satisfying singles of the year, and has set a high bar for “good kid” to reach.
Thursday’s show was Lamar’s biggest local concert to date, but it felt like just the beginning of what we’re likely to see from him down the road.