Kendrick Lamar w/ National Symphony Orchestra @ The Kennedy Center

September 29th, 2015, started out like any other day.  I woke up, fed my asshole cats, got dressed for work, packed my lunch, and caught the bus to my office. I usually check Twitter, Facebook, Feedly, and Instagram on my 20 minute commute. So there I am, scrolling through Twitter, still sleepy, when I see this:


Kendrick_KenCen_PosterI love Kendrick Lamar. LOVE. HIM. To Pimp a Butterfly is definitely in my Top 3 albums of 2015 (and will likely stay there even with the release of new Ellie Goulding and Adele albums this month) and you can frequently find me blasting my KL playlist while running errands in the District.  To see Kendrick perform with the Steven Reineke led National Symphony Orchestra would be a treat and a half.

I immediately sent out an email blast to friends asking if they wanted to attend, and got several affirmative replies immediately. Events like this are why the $60 Sustainer Membership is worth the investment (it is also fully tax-deductible). I was able to purchase tickets during the presale window, during which the event sold out in 10 minutes. Happy. Birthday. To. Me.

On the day, my fellow concert goers couldn’t get together until just prior to the show starting, so I met up with my friend Jimmy at Tonic on 21st and G for dinner and drinks after work.  If you are ever in DC, Tonic’s tater tots with their dipping sauce trio will cure whatever ails you. It’s a short walk from Tonic to the Kennedy Center.

I’m not a music critic or event reviewer, so trying to review this concert would minimize the greatness of it. However, a few things stood out to me as I took in the show:Mellowtones

  • There are so many up and coming talented musicians in this city. The young men and women of The Mellow Tones from the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, who served as the opening act, showcased a few of these artists.  Remembering their cover of Blue Skies still gives me goosepimples.
  • A widely diverse crowd attended this show, and I’m not just talking in terms of race. From all ages, gender, professional backgrounds, economic backgrounds, and fashion styles, the crowd in the Concert Hall just goes to show that true music artistry can speak to anyone.
  • There were several points during the performance where you could see Kendrick just stop and take it all in. Like he couldn’t believe that he was experiencing what we were experiencing.  Fewer things are cooler to me than seeing artistic genres merge like that of the classical symphony orchestra playing the music of a rap superstar. I got the sense Kendrick felt the same way.


  • I also got goosepimples during Kendrick’s performance of Alright as the encore. We are living in a time of great social tension and injustices across the globe, and I don’t think there was one person in the audience that couldn’t identify with a part of this song.
  • I was expecting Kendrick to only perform songs from To Pimp a Butterfly, so I was pleasantly surprised when he did a few songs from good kid, m.A.A.d city, including my favorite, Backseat Freestyle. You’ve not experienced a rap/hip-hop concert properly until you’ve experienced it with me jumping around, waving my arms in the air like the white girl I am.
  • The Concert Hall at the Kennedy Center is a shockingly good venue, as long as you don’t sit on the sides of the upper level balcony. The angle that you are seated towards the stage is really uncomfortable (this applies more to shows where you are seated, not standing and jumping around).

Kendrick_OvationKendrick Lamar Setlist John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Washington, DC, USA 2015, Kunta's Groove Sessions

A bonus video of Kendrick’s performance of These Walls, courtesy of the Kennedy Center’s YouTube page (obvi NSFW):


  1. November 18, 2015 / 5:11 am

    I love Kendrick Lamar! So fun when an artist you like puts on a good show!

  2. November 18, 2015 / 5:12 am

    I love Kendrick Lamar! Sounds like he puts on an awesome show as well!

    • November 18, 2015 / 6:31 am

      It was really amazing! It was also a little bit weird because he normally puts on a super high intensity show, but with the venue and the orchestra, I think he may have been a little more laid back as well (while still being pretty intense…if that make sense).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *