Kendrick Lamar, 50 Cent Set NYC Ablaze In Back-To-Back Concerts

Just a handful of days after releasing the video for “Poetic Justice,” Kendrick Lamar graced the East Coast and performed two back-to-back shows in NYC’s Roseland Ballroom last night. Whether or not his debut album good kid, m.A.A.d city will be considered a “classic” will take time to determine, but one thing is becoming clear: the MC’s slow burn mainstream transition feels natural, and his evolution as an artist is a pleasure to witness.

Kicking off the first night of Hot 97’s 5 Boro Takeover Tour, Kendrick was conversational with his attentive audience between songs. “How do I have this connection over here even though I’m from Compton, California?” he asked before launching into “A.D.H.D” and other tracks from his critically acclaimed mixtape, Section.80. And he wasn’t alone up there on stage, either. Despite the second show boasting appearances from both 50 Cent and A$AP Rocky, this earlier concert felt more like a TDE family affair; Ab-Soul, Jay Rock and ScHoolboy Q made the Black Hippy cypher complete.

Admittedly, I was nervous about his height, and whether I’d be able to see him from the back of the venue behind hundreds of fans with souped-up hydrolics. However, Kendrick stood tall in his 40oz VAN “NY” hat, and seeing him very clearly slay a crowd that knew and chanted his rhymes – “Poetic Justice,” the intro to “Backseat Freestyle,” the “that’s just how I feel” lyric from “Money Trees,” call-and-response “po’ up, drank” from “Swimming Pools” – felt special. If I told you that a flower bloomed in a dark room with lasers, would you trust it?

We’re spoiled in New York City because we get to see artists evolve firsthand.

In August of 2011, we saw the Dr. Dre protege perform at tiny NY venue SOBs, but now he’s tearing down consecutive shows in a substantially larger (ball)room, and the “big shit poppin'” T.I. reference from “Hol’ Up” made it all the more surreal. We’ve seen T.I. grow up here, too, over the years. And now Kendrick “deeper than one song, deeper than one gimmick” Lamar is doing SNL and trying to deepen his bi-coastal bond. “I don’t know who said that New York don’t turn the f*ck up!” K-Dot yelled, acquiescing to the energy in the room and dispelling any self-doubt that may have been lingering. “There are two motherf*cking shows tonight because of y’all!”

Related: Even Without Janet Jackson Kendrick Lamar Turns “Poetic Justice” Into A Movie