After a legendary debut at Hip Hop Kemp 2013, Kendrick Lamar has become an unlikely household name in the Czech rap scene. Almost a decade later, a capacity O2 Arena was more than ready to step big with the king from Compton.
With Mr Morale being a narrative-focused album with ebbs and flows of emotion and volume, a Kendrick concert is never going to be full of bangers. Indeed, it felt more like a well-crafted theatre performance than a rap show.
Take for instance, the repurposing of “Alright” as a post-pandemic anthem. Kendrick performed the former protest song against police brutality in a ‘quarantine box’ with the British female narrator voice-over declaring “Mr Morale, it’s time for your COVID test…I’m afraid you are…infected”.
In a song with lyrics about “po-po killing us dead in the streets”, this self re-appropriation of “Alright” was a way of universalising the rallying cry of “We gon’ be alright”. It felt like a way of declaring, that yes sometimes human suffering is specific to an issue or group, but more often than not, we are truly all in this together.
Baby Keem’s inclusion on this tour was a genius move, allowing the young crowd to get their energy out early. And while the Mr Morale aspect of the show was finely curated, Kendrick couldn’t help but break out into dance and smiles when his cousin blazed onto stage for their collabs “Family Ties” and “range brothers”
Kendrick is the kind of artist who comes around only once in a generation. At a crossroads in his career, and the self-deprecation of “I am not your savior”, one gets the sense that he is approaching the penultimate phase of his career. However, as the crowd moshed and rapped and sang, Kendrick did promise emphatically that “I will be back!”.
The experience can be summed up best in the words of the Czech fan I heard next to me, “To je banger do píči!”