Kendrick Lamar, fresh from Pulitzer Prize win, will headline Top Dawg concert in San Diego
Being self-congratulatory has long been de rigueur in hip-hop, a music that celebrates achievement — both real and aspirational — along with boasts, toasts and more boasts.
But Kendrick Lamar has more justification to bill his recently launched “Top Dawg Entertainment: The Championship Tour” as a triumphant victory lap than any tour by any rapper, well, ever. Make that a triple-victory lap.
The 30-date tour, which kicked off May 4 in Vancouver, includes a Sunday show here at Mattress Firm Amphitheatre. The lineup also features Lamar’s fellow TDE artists SZA, ScHoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Ab Soul, SiR and Lance Skiiiwalker.
The North American concert trek was announced less than just five days before this Compton hip-hop maverick won five trophies at the 2018 Grammy Awards, where he beat out Jay Z to take home the Best Rap Album prize for his fourth album, “DAMN.”
Lamar, Jay Z and Childish Gambino were all up for Album of the Year honors, too. The retro-soul-championing Bruno Mars emerged victorious in that category, but that’s another story.
On Feb. 9, less than two weeks after the Grammys, came the Lamar-curated “Black Panther: The Album.” It’s the soundtrack to the action-hero movie “Black Panther,” which is now approaching $1.5 billion in worldwide ticket revenues. Lamar co-wrote all 14 of the chart-topping album’s songs and performs on five of them.
But his Grammy and “Black Panther” triumphs were just a prelude.
On April 16, Lamar became the first hip-hop performer in history to win a Pulitzer Prize for music — and the first winner who is not a classical or jazz musician. At 30, he has already reached a career pinnacle that may well be impossible to top.
To put his achievement in even broader perspective, no hip-hop album had ever even been nominated for a Pulitzer prior to “DAMN.”, despite the number of worthy hip-hop releases that have clearly merited consideration.
Then again, it wasn’t until 1997 that trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis became the first jazz artist to win a Pulitzer for music. Only two other jazz musicians have followed in his footsteps, Ornette Coleman in 2007 and Henry Threadgill in 2016.
Marsalis won, incidentally, for “Blood on the Fields.” A nearly three-hour jazz oratorio, its lyrics and music vividly conveyed the numbing horrors of slavery and the enormous challenges faced in its aftermath by this still-young nation.
That makes “Blood” an ideal companion piece to “DAMN.,” which the voting members of the Pulitzer music committee hailed as “a virtuosic song collection unified by its vernacular authenticity and rhythmic dynamism that offers affecting vignettes capturing the complexity of modern African-American life.”
The topics vividly addressed on “DAMN.” include race, politics, faith and the collision of conflicting views and emotions at a time when our nation has never felt more polarized.
That conflict is reflected in the lyrics to Lamar’s song “XXX,” which includes such searing couplets as:
Hail Mary, Jesus and Joseph / The great American flag is wrapped and dragged with explosives / Compulsive disorder, sons and daughters / Barricaded blocks and borders / Look what you taught us / It’s murder on my street, your street, back streets, Wall Street / Corporate offices, banks, employees, and bosses with homicidal thoughts / Donald Trump’s in office / We lost Barack and promised to never doubt him again / But is America honest, or do we bask in sin? / Pass the gin, I mix it with American blood.
What makes “DAMN.” stand out, though, isn’t simply its unflinching frankness, linguistic dexterity and sonic innovations. As grim as some of its socially and politically charged songs are, “DAMN.” also exudes a sense of hope — however muted at times — in an era when hope seems to be in increasingly rare supply.
So, welcome back to San Diego, Kendrick Lamar. Here’s hoping your Sunday victory lap here will resonate far beyond Mattress Firm Amphitheatre.
“Top Dawg Entertainment: The Championship Tour,” with Kendrick Lamar, SZA, ScHoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Ab Soul, SiR and Lance Skiiiwalker
When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Matttress Firm Amphitheatre, 3500 Entertainment Circle, Chula Vista
Tickets: $39.50-$179.50 (plus service charges)
Phone: (800) 745-3000
Sign up for the Pacific Insider newsletter
PACIFIC magazine delivers the latest restaurant and bar openings, festivals and top concerts, every Tuesday.
You may occasionally receive promotional content from the Pacific San Diego.