Take a trip with me. Not just a random trip to the corner store or even an airline trip to Paris to take a selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower because “Gee, Nobody has ever done that before.” I mean a trip that relocates the mind away from its body. A trip that that cause your heart to beat differently and sharpens your visual to see it’s rhythm dance before you. A trip called The DAMN Tour hosted by Hip Hop’s chosen son Kendrick Lamar.
The location was the Verizon center in downtown D.C. The first performance was Big Baby DRAM while people were still walking in. DRAM was ok for ok sakes and, to his credit, understood his purpose was solely to warm up the crowd. His voice sounded like a frog that was on life support as he performed familiar hits “Cha-Cha” and “Broccoli.” The most entertaining part about DRAM’s performance was his ability to give a shout out to his “Mommy” in the audience while there were lighting images of stripper asses in the background. The crowd’s interest began to increase with the anticipation of Travis Scott to perform. All the nerd like drug pill poppers dressed in their rockstar torn jeans started a small chant of “We Want Travis!!!” but were heartbroken to read a sign that stated: “Due to unforeseen event Travis Scott will not be performing tonight.” Rumors began to swirl like “Travis got arrested for smoking weed,” or “Travis missed his plane” caused his dedicated fans to start hissing choice words out loud and tweeting with passion and anger. At that very moment, the DAMN tour put me in the same mindset as the wait on a critically praised movie with weak ass trailers.
After it was announced that Travis Scott wasn’t performing there was a 15min somber feeling among the crowd. Facial expressions of disappointment were contagious until the lights in the arena shut off completely. What was probably 45secs felt like an eternity as people instantly became quiet and frozen with their attention directly at the stage. Smoke began to rise on stage and sounds of a storm were being heard throughout the arena as people began to cheer loudly. A white married couple next to me who were in their 50s started to jump up and down like it was Woodstock. The wife informed me that she’s been a “fan of Kendrick Lamar since 09” and was so excited for this show that she bought tickets for herself, husband, son and his girlfriend. “I am sooooo pumped!!!” she said. My eyebrow raised with a look of “How did we get here?” expression but before I could ask, the lights on stage begin to flicker like lightning that built an explosive BOOM sound with smoke everywhere until the curtain raised and revealed Kendrick Lamar. Dressed in a classic Bruce Lee all yellow jumpsuit with the side black stripe; Kendrick was in full “Kung-Fu Kenny” persona. For eternal seconds Kendrick stood there as if he had descended upon us from the Hip Hop heavens ready for battle armed with a silver Mic for his arsenal. Kendrick then took in the energy from the crowd’s cheers, stepped forward and with a rage supplied by another BOOM yelled, “I got Loyalty, got royalty inside my DNA!!!” Kendrick rhymed with a precision and controlled fury that was interpreted by a real life Ninja warrior who joined him (Kendrick) on stage and displayed superior nunchuck skills. Any thought that the show would be disappointing was removed and replaced with an eruption from the crowd as they took in Kendrick’s every word at that moment like it was a State of The Union address under President Obama.
The next dose of the trip infiltrated the body like a sugar cane rush with the track “King Kunta” which base guitar from an unseen band caused waves of hands to go up and down throughout the arena. Stoners united by blowing the illest of smoke in the air when KDot turned up the vibes with “Levitate.” Red smoke blowing throughout the floor added by the smells of the finest of Cali trees made the Verizon center looks like a scene from all the Friday movies. A brown skin slim gentlemen wearing a used-to-be-white tank top gave me dap and offered some of his earth reciting at the same time as Kendrick the lines:
“Love won’t get you high as this Drugs won’t get you high as this…”
Kendrick spits his intoxicating verse from the “Mask off” remix causing the pill-poppers to drop all white capsules into the red cups which filled the void that Travis Scott had left. The hard core stuck-in-the-90s dudes with their oversize jeans and wave caps that covered their receding hairlines gained permission to step into the present once they heard Kung-Fu Kenny yell “Biiiiiiiitch, this your favorite song!!!” from “Collard Greens” making them wish they had a 40oz near by to showcase their excitement. Rainbow psychedelic light colors filled the air that placed everyone with seeing eyes into a trance as Kendrick paused to ask “Are we the liveliest place in the world tonite DC?!!” and with no hesitation united we all responded saying “Yeeeeeeaaaaaah!!!”
Kendrick stood on stage as if he was as in awe of us in the audience as we were of him. He spoke on how thankful he was to the loyalist that have been down since the Section 80 days to the present. Now fully engaged in our trip, we were taken back to the year 2012 as the haunting sounds of “Swimming Pools” came on and we all chanted:
“Pour up, Drank. Head shot, drank!”
A wave of consciousness swept through the audience; from the ground floor to the nose bleed sections with everyone chanting in unison:
“First you get a swimming pool full of liquor, then you diiiiiiiive in…”
Up high you can see a group of young black and white teens dressed like 80 Bboy breakdancers slowly groove to the chorus. Kdot staying on the “Good Kid Mad City” course started to increase the aura temple by spitting “Backseat freestyle” and performing lyrical surgery on the mind reminding everyone why he is the new Hip Hop King. A medium size smoke blew past a group of multi-racial professional dressed women wearing white business shirts and knee high black skirts all rapped with KDot screaming:
“Goddamn, I got bitches Damn I got bitches Damn I got bitches Wifey, Girlfriend, and mistress!!!”
Kendrick recognized that taking a ride down memory lane is great but the true tribute to the dedicated fans was showcasing “Loyalty.” Couples across the arena begin to hold hands making the thuggish of dudes sentimental as the 6’5’ 300 pounds plus guy wearing the NY baseball cap held his 5’3 lady joining her singing out loud the chorus:
“Loyalty, Loyalty, Loyalty….”
Complete darkness came upon the arena with only the stage screen showing the words “Ain’t Nobody Praying For Me” as quietly Kung-Fu Kenny lyrically massaged the crowd as he now appeared dressed in all red center stage in a cage that was decorated in Christmas lights. There was a quiet noise as he performed “Feel” making the audience cling to every word like a cat hanging from a tree. The trip continued to produce rhythmic vibes as KDot began to rise from the center cage rapping “LUST” . A gaze came upon folk’s eyes as the trip now had them physically on earth but mentally gliding through space and time being guided by Kendrick to a destination of his choosing. Within an instant the music stopped and Kendrick stood on top of the stage and said “DC, do you remember?!!” and set up the meanest base drop this side of Mars when his band dropped the key first note of “Money Trees.” Now the trip was about to get real as the Verizon center became more than just a stadium. It became a nest for a diverse society as I saw one white bald male wearing a t-shirt, faded blue jeans and boots hugging a black man who was dressed in 3 piece suit and both sang:
“It go Halle Berry or Hallelujah…”
The night was young and KDot was only just getting started in the zone.
The Damn Tour showed how Kendrick Lamar is also an MC who commands his audience like a southern preacher on Easter Sunday. His rhymes were like a lyrical lullaby that worked their way through the crowd uniting folks from all over to a moment that can only be witnessed physically, accepted mentally and understood emotionally. It was also a graduation as Kendrick himself acknowledged how his first trip DC had the “Liveliest 200 people he ever seen” to now a sold out arena. And although short “BOOs” were yelled at a Travis Scott (who apparently had been watching the entire show from the floor seats) as he was rushed out of the side exit, it was clear that the audience gave little to no fucks about his early absence. To call The DAMN Tour a concert would be belittling and a denial that your heart skipped a beat once “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe” was performed. To suggest it was a mere “rap show” would mean you have a disconnect to the culture. A culture that felt the chill when Kendrick returned on stage for an encore to perform “GOD” that lifted the most stubborn of atheist to a spiritual plane that made a soul feel like it was floating in the clouds next to angels. Not one individual whether they were blue-collar or suit and tie would have the exact same “favorite” moment in the night but all would agree that the DAMN tour was more than a show to be seen but an experience to be lived.
Here’s the playlist to the DAMN Tour soundtrack