Just a few days after literally breaking the floor at a Detroit concert, Grammy-nominated rapper Baby Keem stormed the stage at New York City’s Terminal 5 to a packed crowd of young fans, dazzling them with a laser-light show and hits from his debut studio album “The Melodic Blue.”
Keem, the cousin of 13-time Grammy winner and Pulitzer Prize-winning artist Kendrick Lamar, could nab himself a Grammy or three this year, alongside his famous family member. The 21-year-old is up for best new artist, and his single “Family Ties,” featuring Lamar, is nominated for best rap song and rap performance. On top of that, Kanye West’s “Donda” is up for album of the year, on which Baby Keem has a standout verse on “Praise God.”
His “Donda” appearance and “The Melodic Blue” marked a breakout 2021 for Keem, when he finally entered into the mainstream last year after his previous mixtapes “Die for My Bitch” (2019) and “The Sound of Bad Habit” (2018). Before that, the young artist had a few A-list songwriting and producing credits on Lamar’s “Black Panther: The Album” and Beyoncé’s “The Lion King: The Gift,” and his Sunday night concert proves he’s already a major force with the Gen-Z crowd.
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Keem sold out the multi-level, 3,000-person venue, and although opening acts Scott Bridgeway and labelmate Tanna Leone hyped up the crowd on this cold and snowy Sunday night, impatient chants for Keem began the minute they’d left the stage. After a brief break, Keem burst in with “Trademark USA,” the fierce opening song on “The Melodic Blue,” and got everyone jumping. Luckily, unlike the Tuesday concert in Detroit, the floor didn’t buckle and the show went on without many hiccups.
Keem started the show with bursts of strobe lights, a video wall and smoke that covered the stage, which illuminated his silhouette to the point where he was just a black outline rapping against a backdrop of white light at times. His early songs, like “Hooligan,” “Pink Panties” and the throwback “Moshpit,” kicked off with some more lo-fi special effects, but they were merely a taste of the spectacle to come.
Many in the crowd had already been reciting songs word for word, but by the time “Range Brothers” came on, it seemed like everyone was singing along. The song, one of two ultra-popular hits featuring Lamar, electrified fans, who rapped along with Keem’s lyrics and Lamar’s adlibs later in the song.
The turning point of the night came with Kanye West’s “Praise God,” which begins with audio of his late mother reciting an excerpt from a poem: “Even if you are not ready for the day, it cannot always be night.” As the song started, a red, robot-like laser pierced through the air, and the crowd erupted at Travis Scott’s opening verse.
The rest of the concert played out like a light show. “Lost Souls” followed up and washed the crowd in laid-back, purple light, while green lasers zigzagged over the crowd during Lamar’s aggressive opening line “Have you eve been punched in your motherfucking face?” during “Vent.” For the finale, Keem performed “Family Ties,” his Grammy-nominated and most popular song featuring Lamar, as a wall of flames projected behind him. The crowd lost its collective mind at the banging song — which didn’t include Lamar’s explosive verse — so much so that someone started climbing the bannister between the ground floor and first level and jumped into the crowd. Despite chants for one more song, Keem left the stage, which was practically melted from the fiery video wall behind him.
You can buy tickets for Baby Keem’s Melodic Blue Tour here.