When I found out Kendrick Lamar would be performing New Year’s Eve, my first question was: why Drai’s? While Kendrick’s rhymes are nothing short of legendary, his music isn’t necessarily “turn-up” music. You don’t party to Kendrick’s music—you absorb it. You vibe with it, you feel it, you let it hit you. For a club like Drai’s, where even their production coordinator dances on stage, turning-up is the norm. So even with Drai’s being the prime spot for seeing hip-hop artists on the Strip, Kendrick at Drai’s just seemed off. Future at Drai’s? Understandable. Rae Sremmurd? Necessary. T.I., Trey Songz, or DJ Esco? Absolutely. But Kendrick Lamar? How would that translate to Drai’s?
It started with DJ Franzen ,who set the mood playing throwbacks and music akin to Kendrick’s vibe. His playlist created the perfect energy so that by the time 1:30 a.m. rolled around and Kendrick took the stage, the transition was seamless.
The Grammy Award-winning hip-hop phenom performed a set that included favorites such as “Swimming Pools (Drank),” “Poetic Justice” and “Money Trees.” He didn’t talk much in between songs, but he didn’t have to. His demeanor delivered a clear message. He didn’t come to Drai’s as a celebrity ready to party; he came as an artist ready to perform.
He didn’t have a huge entourage on stage, the light show wasn’t too crazy and there wasn’t confetti pouring down every five minutes. Instead, the focus was his rapping, as he sounded off lyrics with such energy and passion even those in the back corners of the club felt it. But that’s Kendrick’s style: less pomp and circumstance, and more focus on the music.
In the middle of a packed nightclub, Kendrick gave a true performance. The party seemed to suspend for 40 minutes as people absorbed the musical genius in front of them.
He ended with “Alright,” a perfect transition from concert back to party. And as there is a consensus that 2016 was the year from Hell, hearing Kendrick repeat the phrase “we gon’ be alright” provided a reassuring entrance into 2017.
Kendrick at Drai’s pleasantly surprised me. Somehow Drai’s was able to balance the insane vibe of a New Year’s Eve party with the laidback atmosphere of an intimate concert. Hey, get you a club that can do both.