Kendrick Lamar Threw A Beautiful Hate Party At The Forum

Timothy Norris/Getty Images for pgLang, Amazon Music, & Free Lunch

Kendrick Lamar Threw A Beautiful Hate Party At The Forum

Timothy Norris/Getty Images for pgLang, Amazon Music, & Free Lunch

What do you think Drake was doing last night? Was he watching? I bet Drake was watching, and I bet he got his feelings hurt all over again.

Last night was Kendrick Lamar’s massive one-off Juneteenth concert at the Kia Forum in Inglewood, California. The show was billed as The Pop Out: Ken & Friends, and Kendrick only announced it a couple of weeks ahead of time. The show was obviously Kendrick’s grand victory lap after he rinsed Drake in their historic feud and went straight to #1 with the anthemic “Not Like Us.” Kendrick performed many of his Drake disses, opening with “Euphoria” and ending by doing “Not Like Us” no less than five times in a row. But last night’s event was bigger than Drake. It was also a truly exhilarating display of West Coast pride and unity.

Kendrick was the main event, so let’s talk about him first. The LA-area crowd was absolutely electric all night, and Kendrick began his set with the live debut of “Euphoria.” The audience included tons of prominent rappers and basketball players, and the camera kept showing LeBron James, mutual friend of Kendrick and Drake, out there. That crowd rapped along word-for-word with this intricate six-minute diss track. It was a goosebump moment when they all bellowed out, “What is it, the braids?”

Kendrick wore way more jewelry than usual, but he was otherwise fairly nondescript, wearing glasses and keeping his hood up all night. (There’s speculation that he intentionally dressed like 2Pac at the ’94 Source Awards.) He never got too demonstrative, acting about as low-key as you possibly could while giving a massive hometown victory parade. As the set went on, Kendrick did all his hardest anthems — “DNA,” “Element,” “Alright,” absolutely nothing from Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers. For “Money Trees,” Kendrick’s old friend Jay Rock rose up in an onstage elevator, doing his legendary verse. This led to an onstage reunion of Black Hippy, with Ab-Soul and ScHoolboy Q visibly delighted to be back out with their original crew. “Collard Greens” hit especially hard. They all stayed out onstage and danced victoriously while Kendrick rapped “King Kunta.”

From the Black Hippy reunion, Kendrick Lamar went into “m.A.A.d. City,” “Humble,” and his first performance of his feud-opening verse from Future and Metro Boomin’s “Like That.” It would’ve made sense for Future and Metro to be there, but the night was all about California, and the only rappers who appeared onstage all evening were the ones from the region. Case in point: After “Like That,” Dr. Dre materialized onstage, joining Kendrick for “Stil D.R.E.” and “California Love.”

Dr. Dre also kicked off the night’s biggest moment, whispering the “I see dead people” intro to “Not Like Us.” From there, pandemonium ensued.

Kendrick stopped “Not Like Us” at the “A minor” line and then ran it back a few times. At one point, he basically let the crowd rap the entire track for him. He kept performing it as the stage filled up with well-wishers, including NBA greats Russell Westbrook and former Toronto Raptor DeMar DeRozan. At this point, the stage looked less like a performance and more like a celebration. Kendrick ended it by gathering up everyone to pose for a group photo.

It was a command performance. Kendrick rapped by himself — no backing vocals, no hypeman other than the 17,000-ish fans in the building. He got his lyrics twisted up a couple of times, but not badly enough that anyone could complain. And he showed just how hard these songs can go off in concert.

Kendrick’s performance was the culmination of a night that was already a powerful display of West Coast strength. Carson’s DJ Hed opened the night, bringing out a succession of recent-vintage underground stars for a song apiece itself, including Remble, Rucci, Jay Worthy, AzChike, Westside Boogie, G Perico, BlueBucksClan, RJMrLA, Shoreline Mafia, and Jason Martin, the rapper formerly known as Problem. I knew some of those songs and didn’t know others, but the crowd was on board for all of it. It ended with Tommy The Clown and a whole team of dancers showing off LA’s extremely unique street-dance style.

Online, I saw some commentators grumbling that certain LA greats — 03 Greedo, the associates of the late Drakeo The Ruler — were excluded. Still, it had to take serious work to bring together all these artists from across the landscape of underground rap, many of whom have different gang affiliations.

Next up was “Not Like Us” producer DJ Mustard, a West Coast star in his own right. Mustard brought out a bunch of more-famous Southern California stars for a song or two apiece: Blxst, Ty Dolla $ign, Dom Kennedy, Steve Lacy, Roddy Ricch, and an extremely energized Tyler, The Creator. He ended by doing a mini-set with his old collaborator YG. (Drake namechecked YG on the opening of his Kendrick diss “Family Matters,” and it seems like that blew up in his face.)

The whole display was absolutely exhilarating, even if you only witnessed it through your computer screen. It’s the kind of thing that every regional rap star should be doing, since it locked into so much of what’s unique and great about LA-area music and culture. Kendrick said that this wouldn’t be the last of these shows, but it’s hard to imagine one that’ll be better than this.

01 “Euphoria”
02 “DNA”
03 “Element”
04 “Alright”
05 “Swimming Pools (Drank)”
06 “Money Trees” (with Jay Rock)
07 “Win” (with Jay Rock)
08 “King’s Dead” (with Jay Rock)
09 “6:26 In LA” (with Ab-Soul)
10 “Collard Greens” (with ScHoolboy Q)
11 “THat Part” (with ScHoolboy Q)
12 “King Kunta” (with Black Hippy dancing)
13 “m.A.A.d city”
14 “Humble”
15 “Like That”
16 “Still D.R.E.” (with Dr. Dre)
17 “California Love” (with Dr. Dre)
18 “Not Like Us”
19 “Not Like Us”
20 “Not Like Us”
21 “Not Like Us”
22 “Not Like Us”

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