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Preview: Kunta’s Groove Sessions featuring Kendrick Lamar 

Lamar and the Wesley Theory play the Civic Theater Oct. 28

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Loving Kendrick Lamar is complicated. Like Andre 3000's metamorphosis on The Love Below, Lamar's emergence from his Compton cocoon on this year's To Pimp a Butterfly (Interscope/Aftermath) — wings fully spread and antennae attuned — is practically engineered to be both universally admired and entirely misunderstood. The central star of good kid, m.A.A.d city now flows like an unseen surging current through a mad, mad world — one that makes less sense the closer you look. It turns the political personal and the personal political; answers calls for free love with the deeply embedded metaphor "This dick ain't free." Opener "Wesley's Theory" comes at the case of Wesley Snipes' IRS persecution from both sides — a black man trapped by a hustling Uncle Sam ("What you want, you, a house or a car? / Forty acres and a mule, a piano, a guitar?") and the rapper's "Taxman" ("Pay me later, wear those gators / Cliche, then say f—k your haters"). That verse, bookended by Dr. Dre and George Clinton cameos, splits the difference between G-Funk and P-Funk, launching a series of spit-take productions that register as psych-out flashcards: hardcore geysers-of-consciousness ("For Free? (Interlude)"), swaggering funk grooves ("King Kunta") and free-jazz spazzes (almost every other track). "I'ma put the Compton swap meet by the White House," Lamar boasts in the first of several presidential references, and he backs it up by photobombing Pennsylvania Avenue on the cover and eviscerating American economic policy within. This show falls in the middle of a baker's dozen of "small" limited engagements dubbed Kunta's Groove Sessions, in which Lamar and band The Wesley Theory lay intimate waste to symphonies and theaters. Jay Rock opens. Tickets $50 advance purchase, $150-$350 VIP.


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