Kendrick Lamar Takes His Victory Lap

Photo by Clint Hale
Kendrick Lamar didn't disappoint before a packed house at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion on Saturday night.
Donald Glover is having a heat-check month. His hit show, Atlanta, just wrapped up a critically acclaimed second season. He’s starring in the new Star Wars film. And his latest single under the Childish Gambino moniker, “This is America,” is the most-played song in America. In short, it’s good to be Donald Glover right now.

Now, what exactly does this have to do with Kendrick Lamar? Well, everything and nothing. Lamar has experienced far more success than Glover in the musical realm, and the same can be said for Glover with regard to film and television. But if Glover is having one hell of a month, Kendrick Lamar has somehow done the same for more than a year now.

Lamar and friends – including SZA, Schoolboy Q and Jay Rock – brought their Top Dawg Entertainment Championship Tour to Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion on Saturday night. This not only afforded the thousands in attendance (seriously, place was packed) to catch the hottest rapper in the game, but one at the height of his powers.

It’s good to be Kendrick Lamar right now. His latest album, DAMN., has gone Platinum three times over since its release last April. He masterminded the Black Panther soundtrack, a hit album to accompany a monumental film. And, oh yeah, he was recently awarded the Pulitzer Prize for the masterpiece that was DAMN.

So, if Lamar was in town on Saturday night as part of a Championship tour, consider this stunning performance his victory lap. Clad in a stock car racing jumpsuit with the Nike “swoosh” logo, while a Formula 1 car sat nearby, Lamar wowed the crowd with a 16-track, 70-minute set that featured old and new, hits and deep cuts.

The newer stuff, such as “Loyalty” and “DNA” brought the crowd to its feet, but the fans’ knowledge of Lamar’s entire catalog was quite impressive, as older tracks like “Swimming Pools” and “Levitate” were greeted with equal resound.

By the time Lamar brought out all members of the tour for the show-closing "Humble," there was really no need for an encore. The hottest artist in hip-hop today had long since taken his well-deserved victory lap.

Throwback Report: Throwbacks were hot in the streets on Saturday night in The Woodlands. You could essentially create a Hall of Fame roster with the throwbacks in attendance at Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. Jordan. Pippen. Hakeem. Drexler. Vince Carter. Shawn Kemp. Rondo. An extra special shout-out to the dude in the beer line rocking an old school Bo Jackson Raiders throwback.

So, How Was the Opener?: I got to see them all! This is rare, mostly because I don’t like spending 4-5 hours at a single venue and because The Woodlands is really far from my house off the 610 loop. Nevertheless, my plus-1 (my teenage son) and I arrived in plenty of time to catch Jay Rock, Schoolboy Q and SZA. I’ve been down with Schoolboy Q since Oxymoron dropped four years ago, and he didn’t disappoint. Plus, he finished with “Man of the Year,” which remains a banger after all this time. SZA seemed an interesting choice to open for Kendrick. Talented, for sure, but the crowd certainly featured those who used her set as an excuse to grab a drink while waiting for Kendrick. Others, meanwhile, seemed in attendance solely to see SZA, almost as if she was their headlining act. With talent and drawing power, this probably explains why she was on the bill in the first place.

Random Notebook Dump: It’s a drive to be certain, but damn, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion is one hell of a live music venue … Kendrick had to be hot in that Formula 1 get-up … Props to the guy in front of me, dancing his ass off while his lady looked on with a mix of embarrassment and fascination. We onlookers were entertained … Schoolboy Q has a new record coming out soon, and I’m very much looking forward to it.

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