Kendrick Lamar at Bonnaroo

One of the highlight performances at Bonnaroo this year was Kendrick Lamar, an insanely talented rapper with a good sense for music. Lamar is able to alter his flow to match the temperament of the crowd, something that not all performers are able to do. His performance of the song “Fuckin’ Problems” incorporated a heavy, hard guitar which was an interesting variation of how he’s played it elsewhere. And then he followed this version with a slower, funkier take. A lot of critics have compared Lamar’s music to that of Drake, but I actually think that Lamar is the more inventive craftsman. Drake borrows material from other artists, and Lamar does too, but then Lamar’s own personal stamp is just so authentic and so good, that it works. His raps are very intricate, and he makes it all look effortless. He also does a nice job of avoiding pigeon-holing himself as a “lyrical” rapper. His music is not sing-songy at all. He finished up his set with the song, “Alright”, which he blended with new, original verses. The conclusion was a boisterous celebration, but also not without moments of reflection. Overall, the performance dovetailed with and enhanced the vibe of the festival. While it would be unlikely to see Lamar traipsing through a field wearing a rainbow-colored tutu any time soon, his music does extend a very powerful idea about the importance and seriousness of art above the entire Bonnaroo experience. His work is infused with an earnestness and positivity. For example, he sang at one point that “love is not just a verb, it’s you looking in the mirror.” That is a great ethos that everyone, from hippies in mud puddles to the whole world, can appreciate.


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