What makes this performance so special is that it's the first time that Kendrick Lamar performed good kid, m.A.A.d city's "Money Trees" live with Jay Rock! The chill album cut has been an immediate fan favorite since it's release. It's not hard to tell with the dozens of fans rapping along to every word at a New York City Best Buy.
K-Dot showed off his romantic side on his 2013 single "Poetic Justice," which got elevated by a live backing band. The rapper's smooth, jazzy rendition on Saturday Night Live is an oft-looked over moment in his career, but always worth bringing up.
The artist appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show two years ago to make his live debut of "These Walls," a stunning highlights from To Pimp a Butterfly. The performance's beauty is in its subtlety. Lamar breezily raps his bars on the side of the stage as a couple dances in the corner. Once the song is over, a painter is seen finishing up a vibrant portrait of the live performance.
The coolest part of Kendrick is that he loves to interact with fans whenever he can. During his 2015 Sweetlife Festival set, he prodded the lively crowd to see who could rap "m.A.A.d. City" word for word. The first guy he brought on stage couldn't keep up with the rapper's signature song. But he soon found his match in a girl named Ayanna who totally demolished it!
My co-workers and I can attest to K-Dot's performance at the inaugural Panorama Festival being one of his best. I mean, we were there to see the rapper in all his powerful glory. The night was still warm once he sauntered the stage for his headlining slot. But once he revved up the crowd with the "Alright" anthem, the chills were almost tangible.
Lamar was the first musical guest on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and boy he did own it! The artist ripped through an incredible To Pimp a Butterfly medley that included “Wesley’s Theory,” “Momma,” a wicked rendition of “King Kunta." He also added in a sprinkling of "u." At the time, we couldn't see how K-Dot could top this performance, but of course he always outdoes himself.
On Beyoncé's final night of the Formation World Tour last October, she gave the audience three special treats. Guest appearances like her husband Jay Z for "Drunk in Love" and Serena Williams for "Sorry" were almost expected. But no one could've predicted that her third surprise would be Kendrick Lamar. As soon as the rapper's voice was heard on the sound system, the stadium roared with excitement.
No one could ever expect Lamar to collaborate with Imagine Dragons, but their joint performance at the 2014 GRAMMYs quickly became one of the biggest highlights of both their careers. K-Dot's almost-manic rendition of "m.a.a.D City" combined with the intensity of "Radioactive" was no doubt the best moment of the night.
The rapper continued to prove that his artistic power can be expressed with a single microphone. When he stopped by The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon last May, he decided to debut a new track. There were no pyrotechnics, no fancy lights, no fuss about the performance. While donning a simple flannel and jeans outfit, Lamar grabbed every minute of our attention with his poetic flow.
It was only a matter of time until Beyoncé and Cornrow Kenny partnered up for a song, and Lemonade's freedom was the perfect introduction. The pair brought the tune to life for the first time at last summer's BET Awards and brought almost all of nature's elements to the stage. From the rage of fire to the artists stomping in water, the performance was thrilling, strong and confidently Black.
K-Dot's return to SNL in 2014 was not only one of his best performances, but one of the strongest performances the show has seen in years. Paying homage to Method Man with his getup (whose debut Tical album was then celebrating 20 years), he transformed to being more than just a rapper. Kendrick immediately become a performance artist. The set was expressive, passionate, intense and captivating—all things that embody his unmatched artistry.
You knew this one was coming. At this point in his career, Cornrow Kenny already proved that he is the most prolific rappers to ever come out of this generation. But his 2016 GRAMMYs performance solidified that he is without question a legend in the making. The artist tied together politics, anger, cultural expression and art into a single set. He first entered the stage shackled in chains within a prison cell for "Blacker the Berry" before boasting the beauty of Africa with tribal dancers for "Alright." It's hard to describe the performance with one word. But stunning seems to do the trick.