As you'd expect for an artist who was recently declared today's Hottest MC, Lamar's show was hell to get into. Even badge holders who showed up two hours early and gained entrance to the venue were still kept out of the main tent, at least initially.
But the rapid fans were undeterred by the imposing guards lining the entrance. After pleading and sweet-talking proved fruitless, the crowd periodically surged forward and tried to force their way through security. Those attempts proved moderately successful and also allowed a few people to slip under the guards' arms and disappear into the crowd while their attention was divided.
Additionally, one obnoxiously vocal woman was allowed in because, according to the bouncer, "I don't want to deal with you anymore." In short, most people didn't get in by following the rules.
But Lamar's set was more than worth the trouble. He assaulted "B-tch, Don't Kill My Vibe" with a fervor not present on the album version and even treated the crowd to his verse on A$AP Rocky's "F-ckin' Problems."
The audience had clearly been following him for some time, because the crowd seemed to know the lyrics to cuts from his Section.80 mixtape as well as the good kid, M.A.A.d City tracks.
When he dropped "Backseat Freestyle"—a song that every bar in Austin seemed contractually obligated to play on the hour—and turned the mic on the crowd, they backed him up on the entire track. Not just the intro, not just the memorable lines: Every damn line.
Lamar seemed to appreciate the love without necessarily relishing it. While he's more than earned a right to brag about his skills at this point, he mostly talked about Black Hippy during the between song banter, reminiscing about freestyling in gas station parking lots, pointing out they've been "chasing money trees for nearly ten years" and taking a full thirty-second break from the mic to crack up about ScHoolboy Q showing off his "sexy body."
If Lamar was exhausted after his intense SXSW run, it didn't show. The whole night felt like a victory lap, but while lesser MCs might've rested on their laurels, Lamar kept sprinting ahead full speed. Talib Kweli recently tweeted that Lamar's on his way to becoming one of the all-time greats. And as humble and grounded as Lamar remains, it's starting to show.