Kendrick Lamar Showed Us How Beautiful Compton Can Be

Photo by Erik Kabik /

Photo by Erik Kabik /

When Kendrick Lamar’s September 27 Life Is Beautiful set began with a slow-panning, cinematic shot of the streets of Compton on the Downtown Stage’s massive screen, I prepared myself for something heavy, gritty and maybe even a little bleak. True to that expectation, he fired off his festival-closing with “Money Trees”—with TDE cohort Jay Rock playing the surprise accomplice—and ran through several grim cuts from the Good Kid, m.A.A.d City LP.

But this was a festival, after all, and they don’t call Kendrick “King” for nothin’. “This ain’t a show, this a motherfuckin’ party,” he said. And after navigating us through robberies and burglaries, he took us there, performing “Swimming Pools (Drank)” twice—once with the original music, the second time to the tune of Snoop Dogg’s “What’s My Name?” A live band gave each track a full, enormous sound, ratcheting up the energy with solos. When “m.A.A.d City” dropped, the audience chant of yawk-yawk-yawk-yawk was loud enough to cause a noise complaint in Henderson.

In true festival fashion, there were giant beach balls being tossed around, showers of confetti and the obligatory which-side-is-louder crowd-hyping. But we didn’t need any of that. All we needed was Kendrick, and his final promise to Las Vegas: “Believe I will be back.” ★★★★★

Photos by Erik Kabik /

Set List

Money Trees
Backseat Freestyle
m.A.A.d City (Part 2)
Art of Peer Pressure
Swimming Pools (Drank)
Fuckin’ Problems
Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe (Remix)
Poetic Justice
Mad City (Part 1)
Sing About Me
The Recipe
King Kunta
I Am (Interlude)



Vegas Seven