LOS ANGELES, CA -- As Kendrick Lamar makes his way onto the Los Angeles Dodgers’ field for his ceremonial first pitch, the Compton, California MC can’t help but reflect on his rise from being a good kid in a m.A.A.d. city.
"To play ball at the local parks in Compton and to come all the way to Dodger Stadium and throw them same balls on the field, [I’ve got] a lot of different emotions, man,” Kendrick told MTV News shortly before taking the mound on Monday night. "It’s a beautiful thing.”
A couple of hours before the first pitch, Lamar looks relaxed. Dressed in a fitted charcoal hoodie, matching joggers and Reebok ZPumps, K.Dot moseys onto the Dodger grass surrounded by loved ones. Dot’s crown is a classic Dodgers snapback, just like the one he wore in his "King Kunta" video.
Almost as soon as the To Pimp A Butterfly MC hits the field, a fan approaches him for a selfie. Lamar throws up a peace sign and the supporter leaves smiling, his #lifegoals accomplished.
Shortly after his arrival, K. Dot is greeted by Dodgers legend Orel Hershiser, a pitching icon. They exchange smiles and handshakes. This is what it’s like to be a guest of honor at a Dodgers game when your name is Kendrick Lamar.
While cameras flash and the visiting San Francisco Giants players warm up on the field, Lamar turns his attention to the fans. Just minutes after arriving, he faces them and realizes where he needs to be. So, he walks over to the stands.
“Kendrick,” a fan yelled. “Kendrick! Can I get a selfie?” Lamar throws up the peace sign and poses before taking out a sharpie. And then it begins. For the next 20 minutes or so, Kendrick grabs baseballs, magazines, ticket stubs, hats and a few other items, inking his name quickly.
His fans range in ages and races, just like he observed on Section.80’s “F--k Your Ethnicity,” but they all have a similar zeal in their voices. "Thank you," a young man said, clutching onto his newly-signed hat. A little girl is filled with joy. She can't believe her eyes. “Kendrick, can I have a selfie?” another fan begged.
Soon, Lamar has to head back to the field. He’s about to embark on a momentous occasion. The ceremonial first pitch is a huge deal for anyone, but being on this field holds a special sentimental significance for Kendrick because he grew up approximately 20 minutes away from the stadium. Still, he's never gotten to experience a Dodgers game quite like this.
"This is amazing, especially being from the inner cities of L.A. We’ve never been to the Dodger Stadium on this type of level. I’ve probably been way up there," he said pointing to the upper deck, "but to actually be in the dugout and on the field, that’s a whole ‘nother story coming from Compton. It’s a blessing, man. It’s a blessing."
Kendrick gets a moment of downtime in the dugout. He and his TDE family share jokes and laughs before the rapper grabs a glove and takes the field for some warmup pitches.
By this time, TDE’s CEO, Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith, has arrived. He stands near Kendrick as the Compton MC winds up for practice throws. It looks like Top's there to offer some guidance and levity. At one point, Top asks K. Dot to throw some “heat.” Kendrick smiles.
"I can’t show my moves,” K. Dot said, slyly. "This is warmups, baby."
Later, I ask Kendrick what other advice Top was giving him. "Clownin’ as usual,” Kendrick said with a smile. "Make sure I don’t do a 50 Cent. Shout out to Fif for that throw, for that pitch. I gotta at least do better than what Fif did," he cracked.
Of course, K. Dot's referencing 50 Cent’s meme-inducing first pitch at a New York Mets game last year. It went wide left and viral -- an all-around bad look.
After his warmups, Kendrick buttoned up his customized Dodgers jersey and took the field. Before this, I asked him what he was thinking as the big moment neared.
"I’m thinking about striking some sh-t out,” he said with a smile. "That’s what I’m thinking. Nah, man. Really just having fun.”
When Lamar walks up to the mound for his first pitch, of course “King Kunta” is blaring out of the house speakers. He walks to the mound with the confidence. The pitch is straight ahead and right over the plate. No 50 Cent incident here.
“Ya-da-da-mean,” Lamar screamed in excitement as he walked off the field with a fist bump, similar to the energy of Tiger Woods' signature move after sinking a hole in one.
Dodgers owner and Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson recognizes Kendrick's greatness. "The young man just came on the scene and blew everyone away with his incredible talent," the Hall of Famer told us shortly after K. Dot's pitch. "To have a young man be from L.A. to come to Dodger Stadium, and throw out the first pitch is incredible for our Dodger team, organization and all our fans.
"Our players were going crazy, just like myself, to have him here," Magic added, flashing the grin he's become famous for. "This is really unique and special for all of us. We hope that he comes back because he's gonna be around for a long time with hit after hit after hit after hit."
Lamar, who grew up a Los Angeles Lakers fan, would likely appreciate those compliments.
Moments later, the glee on Lamar's face from a successful first pitch is replaced by a pensive glare. Kendrick's hat is on his chest as he stands next to the Dodgers squad for the National Anthem.
He looks out into the stands at a sea of supporters, understanding that some of them purchased their tickets to see him throw out that first pitch tonight. And just as he does on many songs, Lamar's got a message for those fans.
"The message I want to send to the kids is that you can do anything you put your mind to,” Lamar said. "It may be clichè, but it’s 100 percent truth when you come from where we come from.
"Just me being out on that field is inspiration, I’m sure it is, because...they know I’m really from out here," he added. "So, me being out there, that should be just enough to spark the idea to do what you want." This is what it’s like to be a hometown hero.