Some of the best albums of the past few years have featured amazing interludes. Master P’s master class on race and entrepreneurship in between the tracks on Solange’s A Seat at the Table, Warsan Shire’s poetry woven into Beyoncé’s Lemonade film, and SZA’s mother and grandmother giving her relationship advice on her album CTRL were all part of the campaign to make interludes great again. Opening up Sunday night’s Grammy awards, Kendrick Lamar just took took things to a new level.
Continuing his tradition of highly politicized performances, K Dot delivered live renditions of “XXX.,” DNA," and Jay Rock's "King's Dead,” with imagery of the American flag and the Statue of Liberty setting the backdrop. Dancers dressed as marching soldiers and gunshot victims at various points during his set, mirroring the themes present in his album, DAMN. Bono and the Edge even joined him onstage at one point. But it was the commentary from comedian extraordinaire Dave Chappelle, delivered live on the stage, that really set Kendrick's opening number apart. Chappelle used his signature combination of race-conscious humor to add context to Kendrick’s performance.
“I just wanted to remind the audience that the only thing more frightening than watching a black man be honest in America is being an honest black man in America. Sorry for the interruption,” said Chappelle during his first intervention. And later he wondered “Is this on cable? CBS? Because it looks like he’s singing and dancing, but this brother’s taking enormous chances,” in response to a choreographed number involving a female dancer and a drum. It was a truly electric performance that you have to see to appreciate.
Kendrick has already won big at tonight’s ceremony, taking home awards for Best Rap Performance, Best Rap Song, Best Rap Album, and Best Rap/Sung Song for “Loyalty,” his collaboration with Rihanna.