A Tupac Shakur video clip set the tone for the evening, as the Compton native, who looked like a mini Bernie Mac, in a black suit and T-shirt with a single gold chain, deftly controlled the crowd with a similar amount of authority, despite his age.
With Dre looking on from the the balcony, Kendrick brought out a veritable who's who of West Coast rap royalty, alternately receiving praise from his heroes and delivering crowd favorites from his 2010 mixtape 'O(verly) D(edicated)' and noteworthy street album 'Section 80,' which he released in July.
"Ayo, throw up dubs for Kendrick Lamar," fellow Compton rapper Game announced, as he surprised the significantly smaller rapper by coming out early in his set to rock 'The City,' their collaboration from Game's forthcoming 'The R.E.D. Album.' "The illest n---- in the west right now is this n---- right here. This n---- right here can flat out rap. It ain't no n---- in this city, including me, that can f--- with Kendrick Lamar."
The night continued with a special dedication to Kendrick's parents, an impromptu Nate Dogg memorium, and song after song from the up-and-coming MC's internet-only releases, as he was joined on stage by his Black Hippy partners Jay Rock, Ab-Soul and Schoolboy Q, who opened the show with an energetic set, and surprise guest Talib Kweli.
Though the sound cut out during 'A.D.H.D.,' which should have been one of the hypest songs of the night, Mos Def made a brief cameo, followed by Big Sean, who likened Kendrick and himself to Tupac and Biggie Smalls, a bold, albeit somewhat dubious comparison.
"I'll tell the world man, you one of the only rappers that inspire me," Big Sean exclaimed. "Let's be like what Biggie and 'Pac was to our generation."
After Game returned to contribute a verse to 'Blow My High (Members Only),' and Schoolboy Q rocked crowd-pleaser 'Michael Jordan,' the show took on a ceremonial quality, as Kendrick was joined on stage by West Coast legends Snoop Dogg, Kurupt, Warren G and several others, who figuratively passed him the torch, once again.
"I'm sittin' there with Dr. Dre, we watchin' you rock, and we watchin' Game pass the torch," Snoop barked. "You great at what you do. You ain't good at what you do, you great. You got the torch n----, you better run with that mothaf---er."
Things got emotional then, as the group of Cali O.G.'s surrounded the visibly moved young rapper in a group hug, and he appeared to tear up, while the entire crowd chanted his name. Closing with 'HiiiPower,' it felt like Kendrick might actually have a real shot at success, with the whole city behind him -- even the bartenders were shouting out their streets at this point.
"Tonight was for everybody to understand me," he concluded. "I'm Kendrick motherf---in' Lamar. Los Angeles, I love y'all."
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