After Drake battle, Kendrick Lamar turns victory lap concert into LA unity celebration (2024)

By RYAN PEARSON
AP Entertainment Writer

INGLEWOOD, Calif. (AP) — Not content with merely taking a victory lap after winning his battle against fellow rap superstar Drake, Kendrick Lamar turned his Juneteenth “Pop Out” concert at the Forum into a cathartic livestreamed celebration of Los Angeles unity.

Lamar curated a three-hour concert featuring a mix of up-and-coming LA rappers and stars including Tyler, The Creator, Steve Lacy and YG. When it was his turn to take the stage, the 37-year-old rapper powered through a set with Black Hippy collaborators Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul and Jay Rock, performed his Drake diss songs “Euphoria” and “6:16 in LA,” then was joined on-stage by Dr. Dre.

The two West Coast titans performed “Still D.R.E.” and “California Love” and Dre called Lamar “one of the greatest that ever did it” before quieting the roaring crowd by requesting a moment of silence. It was a misdirect. He then delivered the “Sixth Sense” quote that opens Lamar’s chart-topping “Not Like Us”: “I see dead people.”

A crowd of 17,000 that included The Weeknd, LeBron James, Ayo Edebiri and Rick Ross rapped along to every word of the biting-but-jubilant DJ Mustard production, which Lamar restarted twice after the first verse and performed four times in full.

Shuffling, frolicking, dancing and spinning around him as Lamar strode the stage in a red hoodie: NBA stars Russell Westbrook and DeMar DeRozan, Mustard, rapper Roddy Ricch and even a teenage dance troupe led by the krumping innovator Tommy the Clown.

Lamar reveled in the moment: “Y’all ain’t gon’ let nobody disrespect the West Coast. Y’all ain’t gon’ let nobody imitate our legends, huh,” he said, referring to Drake’s use of an AI tool to mimic 2Pac’s voice on one of his diss records. He also added a line to “Euphoria” referencing Drake’s purchase of 2Pac’s jewelry: “Give me 2Pac ring back and I might give you a little respect.”

But the Compton native had more on his mind, calling out to specific men and women to join him on-stage for a group photo.

“Let the world see this,” he said. “You ain’t seen this many sections on one stage keeping it together and having peace. … For all of us to be on this stage together, unity, from East side … LA, Crips, Bloods, Piru — this … is special, man. We put this … together just for ya’ll.

“This … ain’t got nothing to do with no song at this point, ain’t got nothing to do with no back and forth records, it’s got everything to do with this moment right here. That’s what this … was about, to bring all of us together.”

After the final song, Lamar exited, saying “I promise you this won’t be the last of us.” The stabbing horns of the “Not Like Us” instrumental kicked in once again and the crowd rapped the lyrics without Lamar as they filed through hallways out to the parking lot. The Twitch and Prime Video livestream concluded.

The feud that that energized hip-hop fans over the last few months had long been a sort of cold war, with coded, subtle and deniable insults woven into some of the two rappers’ biggest hits over the past decade, from “Energy” to “All The Stars,” “Gyalchester” to “HUMBLE.” It began after Lamar’s attention-grabbing verse on Big Sean’s 2013 “Control,” in which he laid out his ambition to beat out Drake and other top rappers. The Canadian actor-turned-rapper, who as the bigger star had hand-picked Lamar to join his second headlining tour a year earlier, felt personally insulted.

The two then took widely divergent paths as their careers flourished on parallel paths. Drake shares images of his wealth and jokey memes online, collaborates regularly with up-and-coming artists and integrates bubbling musical trends in hip-hop and the broader pop world to pump out club-ready singles at a consistent pace. Lamar often disappears from the public eye for years at a time to build deeply introspective concept albums featuring few voices other than his own — while maintaining a minimal social media presence.

Drake’s taste-making ability mostly kept him on top of the rap world, with an approach that matched the direction of pop music as a whole. But as his hit-making consistency diminished, an opening emerged. Lamar, Future and Metro Boomin kicked off their direct assault on Toronto’s king in March with “Like That.”

Lamar made his disdain clear: He sees Drake as a talented outsider who enjoys and profits from hip-hop culture but didn’t grow up in it, code-switching his way into the mainstream without a core identity or authenticity. His nail-in-the-coffin final verse on “Not Like Us” sums up his view: “You run to Atlanta when you need a few dollars / No, you not a colleague, you a … colonizer.”

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After Drake battle, Kendrick Lamar turns victory lap concert into LA unity celebration (2024)

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