Kendrick Lamar killed it at Okeechobee

Review: Kendrick Lamar at @okeechobeefest.

The first time I heard the single "Alright," I had to park my car by the side of the road.

As a hip-hop writer, I had long given up on my favorite genre. There were too many rappers who pandered to the radio, choosing mainstream stardom over authencity. But this 28-year-old Compton, Calif., rapper was real.

"No matter how high they put me out on a pedestal," he said after asking a fan to join him onstage Saturday night at the Okeechobee Music and Arts Festival, "as long as I'm on this stage, I'll be somebody you can relate to."

He started his set with an elfish grin, stepping back to relish the crowd's screams a couple of times before going into his single "For Free [Interlude]." He then plunged into his set, drawing from his 2015 album "To Pimp a Butterfly" and rolling through singles such as "These Walls," "i" and "u."

The fans were mixed, all ages, shapes, sizes and colors. It was a reflection of the aim of the festival, which crossed generations with artists as diverse as Saturday headliner Lamar and Friday headliner Robert Plant.

There is an angry, passionate determination in Lamar's words. Hailing from Compton, the five-time Grammy award winner said during the show, "It's important that we never forget where we come from."

Slicing the air with his hands, he often closed his eyes, seemingly skipping breaths, spitting out his raps. Hip-hop has a reputation for being bad live, but Lamar's forceful words were joined by a band, complete with electric guitar, bass, drums and keyboards. 

And like any headliner, he stepped out before his big hit "Alright," soliciting chants from the audience, "We will be alright."

The elfish grin returned as he came back onstage. Mac Miller joined him as Lamar exclaimed the single's chorus, with the crowd repeating after him. It all restored my faith in hip-hop and reminded me why I fell in love with it in the first place.

Marian Liu has covered hip-hop for Source Magazine, the San Jose Mercury News and the Seattle Times. 

mcliu@sunsentinel.com; @marianliu

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