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Kendrick Lamar To Perform with the National Symphony Orchestra

The Kennedy Center concert will be a first for the rapper.
Kendrick Lamar To Perform with the National Symphony Orchestra
Kendrick Lamar performs at the Kennedy Center's Concert Hall on October 20. Tickets go on sale Wednesday. Photo by Christian San Jose.

On October 20, Kendrick Lamar will join the National Symphony Orchestra for a performance of songs from his second album, To Pimp a Butterfly, conducted by Steven Reineke. It’ll be the first time Lamar has performed at the Kennedy Center–and the first time he has ever performed with an orchestra.

According to NSO artistic administrator Justin Ellis, orchestras usually collaborate with artists who have had 20- or 30-year-long careers. But Ellis also believes in fostering collaborations that are a little more cutting-edge. Last year, the NSO collaborated with Nas for a twentieth anniversary celebration of his album, Illmatic. Since then, the NSO has been looking for other opportunities to work with hip-hop artists.

Around April, a connection through NSO staff members led Ellis to Lamar. “We were interested in finding somebody who was avant-guard,” Ellis says. “Someone that had a lot to say musically.”

Another plus: A Kendrick Lamar show gives Washington’s twenty-somethings a great reason to visit the Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall.

Local arts institutions across the city are going to great lengths to lure millennials. Just a few weeks ago, the Kennedy Center’s front plaza morphed into a full-fledged skating park, equipped with a skate bowl and ramps, as part of a ten-day jazz, art, and skateboarding festival.

As far as the specifics of the Lamar-NSO performance, Ellis isn’t divulging too many details: “The music that you’re going to hear is going to be a cross section of things that he has done–and things you probably haven’t heard him do live.”

Tickets for the show go on sale for members September 29 at 10 AM and for non-members September 30 at 10 AM.

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