Hip-hop at The Wilbur Theatre is a delicacy. The stately venue, usually reserved for stand up comics and, well, white people, hardly ever has beats and rhymes within its hallowed halls. Mos Def came through last year, but that’s it. Finito. With this in mind, when the Black Hippy crew (or at least most of it) rolled through on Sunday as part of the TDE tour, it was an event.
These dudes weren’t just repping for Compton, but for their genre as a whole.
Jay Rock, the most visibly g’d up member of the crew, hit the stage first. From the time he picked up the mic and rocked “Boomerang,” his gangsta snarl stoked the crowd. His new single, “Yola,” clearly had him open, and he spread the energy like Cali green.
Next up to bat was Ab-Soul, the goofy genius that dropped Control System this year, showing just how deep the Black Hippy roster goes. With a voluminous ponytail that juts out from his snap-back and his hiked-up socks, the Easy-E comparisons were almost inescapable. He kept the vibe extra live, dropping bombs like “Druggy Wit Hoes Again,” sadly without Schoolboy Q. “Y’all turnt up,” he said, giving the Boston hip-hop faithful a vote of confidence.
Now it was time for Kendrick. After Ab-Soul’s frenetic set, the crowd was ready to get even more hyped. He moseyed on stage and launched into “Hiiipower,” the disarmingly powerful joint that closes out Section.80.
The song, with its references to Huey P and MLK, is basically Kendrick’s style writ large—a paradox that fuses poise with poison.
From there, Kendrick never let up. He walked the crowd through his roots, breaking out other selections from Section.80—“Hol’ Up,” “Blow My High” and “Ronald Reagan” to name a few—that got him where he is today.
In just under a year, his ascent from underground scrapper to Dr. Dre’s sidekick is staggering.
His major label debut, good kid, m.A.A.d city is out October 22. As he passed out Beats By Dre headphones intermittently to the front rows, it was a reminder that the kid had made it.
When he asked fans to Tweet the next song, the request was “Rigamortus”—my pick for the best rap jam of the past year. Before he ripped it, he prefaced it by saying, “I wrote this cause I killed your favorite rapper.”
While people certainly freaked for these “classic” cuts, the collective freak out was far greater for the new tracks. “Swimming Pools (Drank)” and “The Recipe,” the Dr. Dre produced banger, upped the ante of the energy. Below, a video with Kendrick and Dre rocking “The Recipe” at Coachella:
And “Cartoons and Cereal,” the closer, introduced a raucousness unfound at The Wilbur unless Dice Clay is in town.
“This ain’t no fan and artist connection, I’m talking about a family connection,” Kendrick said late in the set. That isn’t your typical hip-hop banter, but then again, this wasn’t your typical show.