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Posted at 11:35 AM ET, 08/15/2011

In concert: Kendrick Lamar at 9:30 Club

Up-and-coming rapper Kendrick Lamar proved his hype was well-founded Friday at 9:30 Club. (All photos by Lucas Alvarado-Farrar/Far Fetched Future)
Any time rapper Kendrick Lamar stomped his sneakers into the stage of the 9:30 Club Friday night, his DJ was at the ready — BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! — triggering explosive sound effects that resembled a dozen mortar shells going kablooey.

Cool trick, for sure. But what fans heard between those sonic boom-booms was something far more thrilling: the sound of a rapper exceeding his own hype.

Last month, the 24-year-old Compton native self-released “Section.80,” one of the most absorbing rap albums out this year. Over a slurry of futuristic keyboards and neoclassical boom-bap beats, Lamar raps for his peer group, an online generation coping with crime, drugs and Internet-fueled ennui. Equal parts clear-eyed realist and bleary-eyed dreamer, he says “Section.80” was inspired by Tupac Shakur — who visited him in a dream.

You could hear it on Friday during “[Expletive] Your Ethnicity,” a song that touches on God, war, poverty, alien abductions and the eternal salvation of hip-hop, the “music that saved my life.”

And if Lamar’s riveting delivery wasn’t enough, hearing a young, multiracial audience shout the song’s refrain made you wonder if “post-racial America” wasn’t actually a myth: “Now I don’t give a [bleep] if you / Black, White, Asian, Hispanic, God [bleep] it / That don’t mean [bleep] to me / [Bleep] your ethnicity!”

The club was crammed with fans who had memorized every word of “Section.80,” but Lamar also has fans in high places. California hip-hop legend Dr. Dre has reportedly snagged him for a cameo on his long-anticipated “Detox” album, something the young rapper tried to play down during “The Spiteful Chant.” “Everybody heard that I [work] with Dre, and they wanna tell me I made it,” Lamar fumed. “I ain’t made [expletive].”

Still, throughout his 70 minutes onstage, Lamar posited himself as a child of West Coast gangsta rap — once quite literally as he reenacted a scene from his childhood where his father played him Tupac records while his mom argued in favor of Nate Dogg. It was quirky, and a huge momentum killer.

But the crowd refused to let the energy wane, turning Lamar’s dreamier songs into throaty shout-alongs. Between the profane choruses of “A.D.H.D.,” Lamar mused on his generation’s collectively short attention span: “We never do listen / Unless it come with an 808 / A melody and some [girls] / Playstation and some drank / Technology bumping soul.”

Before all that California dreaming, the evening felt hyper-local. The concert was curated by the locally rooted hip-hop blog DC to BC and included a fiery set from Maryland rapper Phil Ade. The audience stood frozen. Equally frustrating: When Phil Da Phuture performed his hiccuping regional hit “Stupid Dope Moves,” flanked by local rappers XO, Gordo Brega and others. The crowd had no moves, stupid, dope or otherwise.

By  |  11:35 AM ET, 08/15/2011

Categories:  In concert | Tags:  Kendrick Lamar

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