Kendrick Lamar is officially Live from New York — again! The rapper, 35, rocked the stage on October 1 as the official musical guest for the Season 48 Saturday Night Live opener, backing up host Miles Teller of Top Gun: Maverick. Kendrick wore a blue LA Dodgers hat to represent his hometown as he performed song “Father Time” with Sampha in the time honored musical guest tradition for the sketch show. The two slayed the song in a set that looked like a small apartment, completely covering up any recognizable elements of Studio 8H.
“I got daddy issues, that’s on me/Lookin’ for, ‘I love you,’ rarely empathizin’ for my relief/A child that grew accustomed, jumping up when I scraped my knee/Cause if I cried about it, he’d surely tell me not to be weak,” Kendrick rapped in the emotional performance.
In his first performance of the evening, Kendrick got the show started with tracks “Rich Spirit” and “N95.” A dancing shadow of Kendrick appeared against the wall behind the LA native, grooving to the DJ Dahi produced beat. With just a fan and changing lights, the “Humble” rapper needed no other bells and whistles for his incredible performance — carrying the show with just his tunes and rich lyrics.
The “HUMBLE” rapper is a veteran performer on the legendary NBC comedy sketch show. He previously performed on the show in February 2014, November 2014, January 2013, and in 2018, he performed “Tints” with Anderson Paak. Once dubbed “The greatest rapper alive” by Rolling Stone, Kendrick clearly has a flair for all things performance. And spending time on the set of a comedic program might not completely be an accident. He told the magazine in 2017 that “everything” makes him laugh.
“Sh**, everything makes me laugh,” he said when RS posed the question. “Everything. This guy right here [pointing to videographer]? He got something under his hat that makes me bust up laughing every time he takes it off. I didn’t even know God invented hairlines like that,” he continued, laughing. “That sh** is terrible! I always say that the best entertainers have to have the most wickedest sense of humor, to be able to take pain and change it into laughter.”
Pain is also something Kendrick has incorporated into his life and music, and he’s admitted to dealing with depression in the past. “Um, as of now, I’m cool,” he told the magazine. “I won’t say I’m content. I don’t want that word. I’m not satisfied yet. But as far as having a sense of personal stress to that level, no. That’s a good space because I can now listen to my listeners’ struggles and help them.”
Still, and ironically, it’s Kendrick’s optimism that seems to keep him going. “I’m mothaf***in’ optimistic for sure,” he said. “I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t! Come on, man, this sh** don’t happen to everybody. Almost all of my best friends are in prison. Forty years plus. Every show, they wanna see pictures. They tell me, ‘You gotta be optimistic as f*** to be where you at. We didn’t have that. The glass was always halfway empty.’ And it’s not just being optimistic. It’s really about being responsible. You can talk about dreams all day and ‘what I want,’ but you gotta put an action behind it.”
A steady gig of appearances on one of television’s longest running, and most popular show would be a good reason for optimism. And clearly, Kendrick’s star continues to rise — even on late night TV.