February 1, 2023

The stage sparks explosions as Kendrick Lamar performs N95. Photo by Khi Davis

"... to see Kendrick put so much thought and effort into his performances, and just like even the tiniest details, really showcases who he is as a person. And as an artist." Valdez on The Big Steppers Tour

As of July 19th of this year, in Oklahoma City, Oklama presents The Big Steppers Tour has officially commenced. 

Kendrick Lamar steps into the Paycom Center with fellow pgLang artists and show openers Tanna Leone and Baby Keem to make their debut, here in OKC, traveling to 41 different cities across the U.S. 

Crazy thing is, this is Kendrick’s first tour in 5 years. And with there being relations between Oklahoma’s name and KDot’s alias, Oklama, the symbolism grows from the term ‘Okla’ meaning ‘people’ in the Choctaw language. Whatever the case may be, Kendrick and his team truly put on one hell of a show. 

Before the doors opened at 6:40, the venue was packed on all sides of the building, waiting out in 115℉ weather. Everyone and their mom were there, some getting there as early as 3:30. Luckily, most kept water on them and the security guards passed some out as well. Then as soon as those doors opened, the people rushed through getting all their tickets scanned.

The merch table consisted of different items, from t-shirts, long sleeves and hoodies, to socks and posters, even dad hats and tote bags. That was the first place most of the people stormed to. Early birds get the worm and save a trip. 

Kendrick dances in the quarantine box. Photo by Khi Davis

Fellow OCCC students Ian Torres and April Valdez attended the show. While Torres bounced between the 100s and 300s seating, Valdez had gotten front row seats and actually “touched the barricade”. For someone who truly loves Kendrick, she saw this as “a surreal experience” being able to be right next to Kendrick. 

But as everyone was  getting ready, grabbing snacks and getting their seats arranged, the show began. 

The first opener, Tanna Leone comes through and fills the room with energy. He performs a few of his hits from his album Sleepy Soldier. Songs like ‘Lucky’, ‘Fatal Attraction’, and ‘Here We Go Again’ had the crowd jumping. He got the audience engaged with his vibes and set the tone for what the night was going to be like. As a fresh artist, and as pumped up as everyone got, his music has offered many song suggestions. 

Next up, Baby Keem takes the stage as trademark USA  marks his introduction. Immediately, everyone was in tune. The crowds were moshing, the people were rapping along, the hype was real. As his set goes on, he performs many songs from his discography, such as ‘MOSHPIT’, ‘range brothers’, ‘vent’, ‘ORANGE SODA’, and ‘lost souls’, just to name a few. In songs like ‘HONEST’ and ‘16’, he truly interacted with the audience, from waving hands to the melodies to holding flashlights in the air. The crowd showed love to Keem before he exited. This performance is worth remembering, and this got everyone pumped up, ready for what Mr. Morale had to bring to the table. 

Curtains project shadows during “Worldwide Steppers.” Photo by Khi Davis

Valdez has been familiar with both of the openers, but it wasn’t until tonight that it got her to download some jams from Tanna Leone. 

“I really enjoyed his set and his music. And it inspired me to start listening to more of his music…I love Baby Keem…And once he came out and even performed some songs from the Kanye West album Donda,…it was just wonderful. I love Baby Keem.” she expresses. 

Torres thought Tanna Leone “was great”, enjoying the energy he radiated through the crowd. 

“So the first opener, I think he was great. He had a lot of energy. But you could definitely tell he was probably a little nervous for his first performance…And then Baby Keem,…I didn’t know he was Kendrick’s cousin. He’s a natural performer as well. He just gave his 100, opening night in Oklahoma City. Both of them killed it.” he states. 

The openers truly got the adrenaline running through the fans and families. As Kendrick’s set was in preparation, there was this voice that spoke throughout the show serving as the guide for the performance. At first, she was letting everyone know “Mr. Morale” wanted everyone to turn off the “flash on the cellphone lights”. 

KDot’s set begins with harmonies featured on his album Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, in the song ‘United In Grief’. This is before 11 dancers make their way on stage and move in unison to the song’s string instrumental. The curtain behind them rises, and the dancers exit. Then, as the song continues, the stage is lit up and Kendrick can be seen playing the piano with a puppet look-a-like sitting on top. The crowd is already in tune with him. 

He’s seen wearing a black suit with a sparkly glove, similar to Michael Jackson’s mojo. As he makes his way down the runway, holding his puppet, he takes on the mic, and the beat drops. He goes in rapping hard and the puppet can be seen rapping along with him. As heard through the audiences, everyone was ready to live this moment. 

Throughout the performance, it was set up like a story and had theatrical elements that kept all eyes on KDot. He takes on the stage solo when he performs ‘N95’, ‘ELEMENT’, ‘Worldwide Steppers’, and ‘Rich Spirit’ before he welcomes the dancers back to perform the world-renowned song, ‘HUMBLE.’

During his ‘’N95 and ‘Rich Spirit’ performance, he uses strobing lights along with explosions from the stage to add different effects to his presence. And in ‘ELEMENT’ and ‘Worldwide Steppers’, he uses these curtains to project different images holding symbolism behind the verses he delivers. And for sure one highlight in this moment was when he performed ‘Backseat Freestyle’. Literally everyone in the venue knew the lyrics word for word.  

After ‘HUMBLE.’, he returns to the stage sitting in a chair, opening up to the audience in the song ‘Father Time’. Next up, he brings the energy back playing ‘m.A.A.d city’. He continues on, performing more hits like ‘Purple Hearts’, ‘Alright’, ‘B***h Don’t Kill My Vibe’. He and a few dancers show off more choreography in ‘Die Hard’ before the show transitions into an artistic intermission with the dancers displaying shadows through the curtains. 

Shadows projected onto the curtains featuring the dancers. Photo by Khi Davis

When the curtain rises again, the beat drops and transitions into ‘DNA,”Money Trees,’ and ‘LOVE.’ Kendrick then walks to the end of the stage and is inside this box of quarantine. During the show, he puts on an act and gets a COVID test. This is before he brings out Baby Keem to present ‘family ties’. As the energy continues to travel through the room, Kendrick stays in the box through the songs ‘Mirror’ and ‘LOYALTY.’

He then performs ‘Auntie Diaries’ and uses this moment to give a speech to the crowd. He sympathizes with the feelings people may undergo and lets the people know everyone has a place here in this world. Both Torres and Valdez consider this a highlight of their nights’. 

“I think the highlight of my night was when Kendrick was on the platform when he was speaking to the crowd…he said some powerful words about how everybody’s evolving…I think what he meant by evolving is like changing. And I think it’s something that I resonated with because we always change, we always evolve as a person. He was very right about saying, ‘I’m not the same person that I was five minutes ago’. And, it’s true…he was so real with everybody in the crowd, and it’s something that we, as a whole, we shared.” Torres expresses. 

This moment felt personal to everyone in the room. 

“His speech that he gave near the end of the show was really inspiring. He’s always been like a super inspiring artist and I’ve always loved his storytelling, but it seems like he just always knows just what to say in the perfect moment.” Valdez states. 

Front row view. Courtesy Photo from April Valdez

As he finishes the song, the box lifts and Kendrick is back to breathing the same air as everyone in the room. 

Entering the final stretch, the crowd gets to jumping while the dancers do their thing to ‘Silent Hill’. He progresses into another sentimental moment when KDot plays the piano and performs ‘Crown’. When ‘Mr. Morale’ cues on, the dancers return to the stage along with Tanna Leone who features on the song. Next, he performs ‘Count Me Out’, where on the curtains, shows Kendrick with arrows in his back, representing how he feels like a target. Kendrick then concludes his night with the song ‘Savior’, preaching the final message to consider one’s own beliefs. The curtains fall and Kendrick waves goodbye after putting on an amazing show. 

Torres felt as if the show “was like a story”. Along with the execution of this performance, he thought “Kendrick was spectacular” and considers it “one of the best performances” he’s seen. 

Valdez enjoyed the show as well. She compares the tour’s performance to a performance “at the Grammys”. 

She states, “…just like the dancers, the lighting, the visuals, you know, everything was perfect. Although there were some technical issues during ‘family ties’, it’s still such a wonderful experience. And I think that was probably like my favorite part of the show…they performed it right near where I was standing. They had these little skits…I just love those little like interludes, because a lot of the stuff that she was saying was very deep, just resonating with what I needed to hear at the moment. But to see Kendrick put so much thought and effort into his performances, and just like even the tiniest details, really showcases who he is as a person. And as an artist.” 

It’s not often that big artists like KDot make a trip to OKC, even then it’s rare that people debut here. And the fact that the people got all that in one night, it’s like a once in a lifetime opportunity in a way. Overall, this show was a masterpiece of its own world. With each of the acts putting their everything into these performances, it made for a great night for the people to cherish. 

As the audience was engaged throughout most of the show, it made the entire venue sound like a choir group, the way the lyrics flowed through everyone’s souls. The way Kendrick used the stage as his domain, the choreography involved and the lighting effects added more emotion into each of the songs and truly enticed the people to move with the rhythm. While present, it felt like Kendrick held a moment with each and every person in that room. 

“I can’t please everybody,” Kendrick performing Crown. Photo by Khi Davis

With how close Valdez got to the stage, she swears KDot made eye contact with her and her friend. This makes another highlight for her night. 

“Me and my friend, and I didn’t even know if he made eye contact with us. But whenever he looked in our section, interacting with our section, that was probably the highlight of my night…it felt like he was looking into my soul. And like, as soon as he turned his back to us, I started squealing to my friend.” Valdez said. 

Out of all the songs that were heard that night, Valdez enjoyed Baby Keem’s ‘16’, as well as Kendrick’s ‘Money Trees’, ‘Rich Spirit’, ‘Die Hard’, and ‘Crown’. 

For Torres, he enjoyed more of the songs from the album DAMN., like ‘DNA.’ and ‘HUMBLE.’. 

In the end, this show was absolutely amazing. That post-concert depression began hitting people as soon as they left. And it was totally worth waiting out in the 115℉ weather. Hopefully sometime in the future, he and his team can come back. As the tour continues, let’s hope he, Tanna Leone, and Baby Keem have safe travels on the road. 

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