After watching Kendrick Lamar absolutely murder the stage with Beyoncé during their surprise opening performance of “Freedom” at last night’s BET Awards, we are even more hype for him to headline ESSENCE Festival this Sunday, July 3 at the New Orleans Superdome.
As great as K-Dot’s albums are—both good kid, m.A.A.D city and To Pimp a Butterfly are already hip-hop classics—his electrifying live performances are taking him to another level as an artist. Let’s face it, he is simply the best live rap performer on the planet right now. (Sorry, Kanye and Jay.)
To see him at his all-the-way-livest, let’s look back at his five most memorable TV performances.
5. Saturday Night Live, November 2015
”Hit me!” exhorted Lamar, bringing the James Brown funk during an electric rendition of his self-love single “i.” Rocking half-braided hair and contacts that made his eyes entirely black, he even busted some trippy dance moves that let you know just how much he was feeling it.
4. 2014 Grammy Awards
Kendrick rocked the Grammy stage for the first time with Imagine Dragons. With Lamar and the alt-rock band decked out in all white, they ripped through a killer mashup of Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive” and K-Dot’s “m.A.A.D city.” But even though it was Imagine Dragons who won a Grammy that night, it was Kendrick who ruled that performance.
3. 2014 NBA All-Star Game Weekend
Kendrick Lamar’s versatility as a rapper was on full display during his two-song set at the Smoothie King Center in New Orleans. He flowed seamlessly from the blistering “m.A.A.d city” to the smoothed-out “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe.”
2. 2016 BET Awards
Anyone who has seen Beyoncé’s Formation World Tour knows just how fierce her performance of the Lemonade banger “Freedom” is. But it’s missing a key element on tour: Lamar. Seeing the two of them bring their collaboration to life in a surprise opening performance was everything and then some. The sight of Bey and K-Dot going one on one in that splashdown was a true moment.
1. 2016 Grammy Awards
Kendrick may have been robbed of the Album of the Year Grammy for To Pimp a Butterfly, but he still won the night with an epic medley of “The Blacker the Berry” and “Alright.” Taking the stage handcuffed and shackled with a prison-cell backdrop, the rapper then broke free and gave us full African dance realness. In the end, he brought it all back to his motherland: Compton.