Kendrick Lamar burst onto the stage Monday night and kicked off his performance with the explosive song, "DNA."
With pounding intensity, Lamar roused a packed crowd at Infinite Energy Center in Duluth. Fans threw their arms up in the air, moved to the beat, sang every word of the song.
I got, I got, I got, I got
Loyalty, got royalty inside my DNA
Cocaine quarter piece, got war and peace inside my DNA
I got power, poison, pain and joy inside my DNA
I got hustle though, ambition, flow, inside my DNA
Lamar never let up, performing with intensity, focus and conviction.
Monday's show at Infinite Energy Center is just the 4th stop on the "DAMN. Tour." The tour kicked off last week in Glendale, Ariz. Travis Scott and D.R.A.M opened up for the artist. Quavo from the group Migos and 2 Chainz made surprise appearances.
Lamar tells deeply personal stories about love, police brutality, faith, money and materialism. The New York Times has called his lyrics "dense and Morse-code tricky." Even die-hard fans admit to it taking some time to understand and appreciate the words.
"I never get it on the first time. I usually start by working on my own interpretation and then I go talk to friends about it," said 24-year-old Krystal Turner who traveled from Birmingham to attend the show. Her favorite Kendrick Lamar song is an older song,"Money Trees," which talks about poverty, money and about doing the right thing. (He performed this song on top of a cage with white lights).
"His music is so relatable, he is a positive voice," she said.
"DAMN." is Lamar’s fourth studio album, following “To Pimp A Butterfly” two years ago and “good kid, m.A.A.d. city” - both praised for being ambitious and beautifully executed. This latest album from the Grammy Award-winning artist features songs all in capital letters with a period - from HUMBLE. to LOYALTY. to LUST. to LOVE.
And the album leads Nielsen Music’s mid-year R&B/hip-hop charts for 2017, according to Billboard.com.
Lamar, known for eschewing flamboyance and excess, was largely alone on stage. There was occasional, selective pyrotechnics. A couple of dancing ninjas showed up for one song. And he and a female dancer appeared to levitate while lying horizontally at one point. But for the most part, Lamar was solo on stage in a compelling performance that made Infinite Energy Arena feel smaller. While short on over-the-top glitz, the visuals presented strong images - from a young boy running through an open field to an enormous American Flag waving in in the breeze. The images helped deepen the experience while keeping the focus on the music and lyrics.
"Kendrick Lamar is a very good storyteller," said 21-year-old Morgan Plumlee who traveled from Nashville for the performance."This is not necessarily a culture I come from, but it is intriguing hearing his stories and he puts all of his heart into it."
Plumlee said Lamar's songs have impacted her.
"I guess you would say I am a white person of privilege. And his songs have been eye-opening. They open your eyes to things you might not necessarily experience yourself."
Lamar started the song...
And he let fans take over.
Meanwhile, Scott delivered a very different kind of performance that was fun, inventive and far less serious the main act. Scott even rode the back of giant bird above the stage. Fans loved it.