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Concert Reviews:
Kencrick Lamar plays Top Dawg at DTE show

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2018

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- Winning a Pulitzer Prize apparently doesn't require Kendrick Lamar to exercise his best grammar.

"Do Detroit now how to party?" the rapper asked early during his set headlining his Top Dawg Entertainment’s TDE: The Championship Tour on Wednesday night, June 13, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre. And rest assured few in the exuberant, youthful crowd that packed the DTE pavilion and hill took Lamar to task for his word choice.

The 30-year-old Compton MC didn't waste any time celebrating his historic Pulitzer win on Wednesday; A "Pulitzer Kenny" blazed from the stage's large video screens as he performed the opening "DNA.," one of the seven tracks featured during the encoreless hour-long show from his lauded 2017 album "Damn." Mostly, though. Lamar was there to throw a party, celebrating not only himself but also Top Dawg crew, showcasing five of the company's other rappers (Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock, Ab Soul, SiR and Luke Skywalker) during the show -- although SZA was a no-show due to vocal cord issues.

Her absence hardly dampened the evening, however, as Lamar and company, along with a four-member house band positioned on both sides of the stage, kept the energy high and the set changes minimal. Lamar, sporting a Nike TDE jacket, touched on all four of his albums during his set, starting out on a raised platform at the rear of the stage before coming down front for the bulk of the set, segueing "DNA." into "ELEMENT." and then "Big Shot," keeping his between-song commentary minimal -- frequently saluting the "day ones," aka longtime fans, in the crowd -- and shifting his vocal flow from muscular ("King Kunta") to atmospheric ("New Freezer," "LOVE.") to ferocious ("Bitch, Don't Kill My Vibe," "Backseat Freestyle").

Lamar smoothly touched on the political during "XXX." and "m.A.A.d city," letting his lyrics and a few images on the video screens do the real talking. Lasers and pyrotechnics accented his set, with Jay Rock making cameos during "Money Trees" and "King's Dead" and Zacari coming on during "LOVE." After conducting the DTE crowd through a couple verses of "HUMBLE.," Lamar invited the rest of the night's performers onstage for a full-on version of the song, although nobody heeded the chorus message to "sit down" as a T-shirt cannon fired souvenirs into the pavilion.

Lamar finished by promising that TDE "will be back," and that probably can't happen soon enough for those who helped celebrate the "championship" on Wednesday.

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