Lamar’s past three albums — 2012’s Good Kid M.A.A.D. City, 2015’s To Pimp a Butterfly and 2017’s Damn — have each been near-universally anointed the best albums of their respective years.
This wild critical acclaim is matched by Lamar’s popularity, as he headlines festivals worldwide and won last year’s Triple J Hottest 100 with smash hit Humble.
It’s a tricky balance being adored by music experts and commercial audiences, yet Lamar’s music is tailormade for the task.
Look at some of his most well-known tracks. Swimming Pools became a drinking anthem even though it’s about peer pressure, the dangers of alcohol and the cycle of addiction.
King Kunta is based on a novel about a slave whose foot is severed to prevent him escaping a plantation. (The parts about yams reference another novel in which an African American character smells yams cooking on the street and reminisces about them being a popular food, and symbol of social status, in Africa.)
In Humble, Lamar brags about his success and status but aims the hook — sit down, be humble (referencing Jeremiah 13 18) — squarely at himself.
That these songs became hits says a lot about how Lamar packages such dense lyrics.
His records remain accessible and often downright fun, and that translated to a vibrant concert in Adelaide.
Backed by a band, Lamar breezed through a selection of his most beloved tracks, retaining command of the audience throughout.
He maintained a positive yet engaging vibe, enhanced by martial arts themes being interwoven throughout the show via video interludes and an accompanying dancer.
The concert at once seemed like a no-frills affair, and a big deal. A Serious Moment, and a fun singalong. A lesson and a party.
It captured and highlighted these dualities, which have made Lamar the most revered artist of his generation.