Hip-hop is one of the most popular musical genres in the world, both commercially and culturally, but the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix after-race concert series hasn’t always represented this dominance.
Only nine of the 48 musicians who have performed as part of the festivities since the first race can be categorized as rappers; sorry, Post Malone, but your excessive singing prevents you from making the cut. From that small group, only one—Eminem—has performed as the headlining act at the famous race day event.
Fair enough, you can’t really blame the promoters for this lack of gigs because, to be honest, most large-scale hip-hop performances are derivative, with the exception of a select few.
Audience members for the 2019 double bill of Future and Gucci Mane, who essentially put on a club show in a stadium, would have witnessed this while attending the Abu Dhabi F1 concert. Other artists have demonstrated the genre’s full potential, including Jay-Z in 2013, J Cole in 2017, and UK grime star Stormzy’s explosive performance last year.
With his stunning performance at Etihad Park on Saturday, Kendrick Lamar has officially lifted the standard. Simply told, this was the best hip-hop artist performance at the Abu Dhabi F1 to date.
It was dynamic and compelling with just the perfect amount of production value to captivate non-fans. The fact that it was so harsh, however, was more remarkable.
Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers is touring in support of a new album, and I was curious to see how these songs, which frequently explore dark childhood trauma, would sound on a festival stage. Lamar overcame the difficulty by turning the drama up.
Each song was delivered with the icy focus of a master technician. United In Grief and N95, two heartbreaking songs, became almost operatic in their grandeur because to his varied vocal style and inventive use of rhymes, cadence, and syntax.
Lamar’s vocal stylings on the new album’s song “Die Hard,” which alternates between aggressive spoken word and melancholy croon, were another standout. The emergence of the major anthems was all the more powerful as a result of these beguiling detours into turbulent issues.
A crowd of close to 30,000 people danced to King Kunta’s horn-infused funk and Humble’s marauding piano riff. The devoted were also treated to a scorching rendition of Lamar’s breakout song, m.A.A.d city, which just recently marked its tenth anniversary.
It is simple to overlook how sparse the performance actually was with all the showy explosions on display.
Solo, Lamar seized the stage and ruled it. Each song has its own moment, supported by thematic graphics, from the blue monochrome of DNA to the fire and sun of King Kunta. He limited his interactions with the crowd to a minimum while donning a baseball cap, a shirt, and boots; as a result, when the rapper did mention “the electricity of Abu Dhabi,” the audience erupted.
Lamar produced a hip-hop show deserving of the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix by concluding the set with the energetic Saviour and a fireworks display.
At Etihad Park on Sunday, Def Leppard will perform as part of the ongoing post-race concerts.