Kendrick Lamar performed in Cincinnati on May 7 as part of the Yahoo! On the Road tour.
The moment that signaled 25-year-old Top Dawg Entertainment artist Kendrick Lamar's rise from West Coast underground cult hero to mainstream superstar happened on stage at a hometown concert in during the summer of 2011.
With Dr. Dre looking down from the balcony seats, Lamar was joined on stage by Snoop Dogg, Kurupt, and Game. Those West Coast icons, gangster rap torchbearers for two decades crowded around Lamar and hugged him, calling him "the new king of the West Coast." The crowd starts chanting, "Kendrick! Kendrick! Kendrick!" And the way Lamar reacts begins to explain why his presence in rap, as a proudly ordinary and honest guy with an extraordinary gift, is so necessary and so refreshing: Kendrick Lamar gets choked up.
A little more than a year later, Lamar released the album that silenced listeners who doubted his crown or thought he'd have to change to reach mainstream success. 2012's good kid, m.A.A.d city, Lamar's major-label debut album, is a sprawling masterpiece of technical rapping and structured storytelling that defies and expands the conventions of his genre. It's a classic album that feels like a classic movie, deftly weaving moments from Lamar's life together to form a narrative that becomes an empathetic ode to a troubled and dangerous place. Like a lot of eternal characters from literature and film and a lot of ordinary kids, Lamar finds himself torn between the temptation to do wrong and the wisdom to right.