Concert Reviews

Kendrick Lamar Was an Undisputed Legend at American Airlines on Saturday

Kendrick Lamar's tour stop in Dallas was a masterful, Broadway-level production.
Kendrick Lamar's tour stop in Dallas was a masterful, Broadway-level production. Greg Noire
Since he left Los Angeles for The Big Steppers Tour earlier this month, Kendrick Lamar has sold out one venue after another. His July 23 stop in Dallas was no different.

Mr. Morale’s 26-song performance on Saturday at the American Airlines Center was electric. The rapper rose from the bottom of the stage at 9 p.m., sharply dressed in a black, freshly creased military jacket with three large diamond-encrusted pendants on his chest, a diamond-studded white glove on his left hand and his dreadlocks tied back — his outfit and star power recalling the touring days of Michael Jackson.

Kendrick Lamar is arguably one of the most decorated and celebrated artists in the hip-hop community and across all music genres. The Pulitzer Prize-winner’s artistry was on full display the entire night during song and stage transitions, with a Broadway-style production that included more than 10 people who danced and acted in small skits. One scene involved a glass box that floated down from the rooftop and boxed Lamar in with several people in hazmat suits, who began to administer a COVID test on him.

It’s one thing to hear Kung Fu Kenny’s storytelling on a streaming platform or a CD, but to see, hear and feel the emotion live left some people in the crowd with stunned faces and uncontrollable tears, even before the halfway point of the two-hour set. Songs like “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe,” “Alright” and “Savior” were triggers for some audience members who couldn’t help but cry and dance at the same time. I was one of those people.

Between songs, as Lamar took a short, deep breath, the crowd of 20,000 erupted with the synchronized chanting of “Kendrick” before the beat of the next song dropped and the chants turned to excited screaming. After that, fans sang along word for word for the rest of the night.

One of the many highlights of the show was Kendrick bringing out Baby Keem and Tanna Leone, two artists signed to his creative collective, pgLang. They were both listed on the flyer, which confused some fans, as neither of them opened the show. Keem and Leone performed their feature tracks alongside Lamar. The show peaked when Baby Keem snuck out onto the stage before the beat to their Grammy-award winning song “Family Ties” dropped. At least two mosh pits formed in the pit with the fans who'd paid over $300 to be closest to the stage. Real fire rose from the floor of the stage and white rave-style lights flashed intensely throughout the arena as Kendrick did his famous dance seen in the song's music video at the opposite end of the stage from Baby Keem, who demanded the majority of the attention with his captivating verse.

But Tanna Leone was the real rock star of the group. He came out shirtless, shaking his dreadlocks and doing box jumps that made us totally forget he has about only eight words total in the Mr. Morale album. It was evident that Lamar is prepping both his protegees for something greater: Billboard charts and an inevitable rise.

It had been five years since Kendrick Lamar had either dropped a full-length project or performed in Dallas, and that was back in 2017 during the tour for the DAMN. album release. Some of us had almost forgotten how legendary Kendrick is as an artist and performer. The songs in the setlist were meticulously curated, like one extra-long, detailed, masterful album. The balance between the emotion-tugging songs and high energy was a rollercoaster ride that allowed for everyone in attendance to remain fully engaged.

Whether you think Kendrick is the first, second or third greatest rapper of all time, he showed why he proclaims himself as number one. This performance makes it hard to argue with his ranking. Even the term "rapper" is too small for Lamar: It’s time to push him to the top. It's time he gets his due as one of the greatest artists of all time. 
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Malen “Mars” Blackmon has been a contributor to the Observer since 2019. Entrenched in Southern California’s music and culture at an early age, he wrote and recorded music until he realized he wasn’t cut out for the music industry and turned to journalism. He enjoys driving slowly, going to cannabis conventions and thinking he can make sweatpants look good with any outfit.