As quickly as he emerged on stage with a bottle of Dom Perignon, Kendrick Lamar disappeared just as fast.
Perhaps I should start over, but from the beginning.
Last night I was hired to provide the soundscape in between the performing acts for the Get Home Safely Tour in Manhattan's Irving Plaza, and thus was given a front-row seat to the festivities. It's a well-documented fact that New Yorkers are notoriously mercurial toward anybody outside of the Tri-State Area (Big K.R.I.T.'s debut was met with a shower of boos, and Trinidad James certainly didn't do himself any favors with his now-infamous comment), or damn near any opening act for that matter. You think those archaic, anti-"All Radio Everything" purist/elitist types are finicky? Try keeping a venue full of volatile New Yorkers entertained and violence-free for several hours before the main acts finally decide to lumber on stage.
But I digress.
The irony in this? That artists from California who venture into The Cold Apple are almost always warmly received. Whether it's due to the New York diaspora where many out-of-towners - myself included - emigrate here on a seemingly weekly basis and diluted the pool here of sorts, or that Manhattan is still reeling from the effects of Tha Dogg Pound and Snoop kicking over buildings in their "New York, New York" video, but the proverbial red carpet is rolled out for most Lefties these days. That love, though, is returned in spades, as evidenced by the event last night.
Prior to the surprise appearance by K. Dot, the crowd was treated to warmup performances from the likes of 2DBz mainstays G4SHI and Bryant Dope, yet the best opening act came courtesy of the live stylings of the artist known simply as The Rapper H. Aside from having the worst possible name to Google for an artist (it's hard to find anything on you, H. You may want to do me a favor and find me instead), H - alongside his 5-man (and woman) troupe - put on a rousing show punctuated by each member of the band doing brief solo sets. While G4SHI and Bryant both put on solid performances themselves, it was obvious that who the crowd was here for.
After the ever-improving Skeme melted some of the frost from the packed house, Dom Kennedy emerged in trademark Cali attire - Kings jersey, Dodger fitted cap, ball shorts and high socks - and proceeded to spend the next hour performing tracks from his tour's eponymous album, while reintroducing older cuts from his extensive back catalog. When Dom's Yellow Album standout "We Ball" blared through the venue's sound system the crowd rapped Kendrick's braggadocio-laden verse word-for-word, unaware that he had just arrived backstage fresh from surprising Madison Square Garden. Then as "Backseat Freestyle" began to play he appeared, microphone in one hand and a celebratory bottle of champagne in the other, whipping the once stone-faced crowd into a tween-like frenzy. But, as quickly as he emerged from the back, Kendrick Lamar disappeared just as fast into the night, quite possibly to stop crime or something.
For those that braved the near-single digit weather last night in New York, they were treated to one of Dom's largest - and best - NYC show yet. For those that missed it, check out the video and stills throughout this post and try not to kick yourselves too hard.
All photos courtesy of Mariama Rafetna
Shot by David Downer