The performance opened with soldiers stomping onstage in front of an American flag backdrop. Lamar stood stoic as he recited his rhymes to “XXX.,” gradually growing more animated before Bono and the Edge strode onstage to perform their guitar and vocal parts. The screen flashed “This is a satire by Kendrick Lamar” before Chappelle appeared. “Hi, I’m Dave Chappelle,” the comedian deadpanned. “And I just wanted to remind the audience that the only thing more frightening than watching a black man be honest in America is being an honest black man in America. Sorry for the interruption.”
From there, Lamar transitioned into other visceral verses from “DNA” and Jay Rock’s “King’s Dead,” as a woman banged away at a taiko drum. The performance ended on a jaw-dropping note, with simulated gunshots firing and dancers falling to the ground, one by one.
Lamar earned seven total nominations for this year’s ceremony, including Best Rap Album and Album of the Year for Damn., which landed at Number One on Rolling Stone‘s 50 Best Albums of 2017 list. The LP’s lead single, “Humble,” is up for Record of the Year, Best Rap Song, Best Rap Performance and Best Music Video, and “Loyalty” (featuring Rhianna) is in contention for Best Rap/Sung Performance.
The Compton rapper previously performed a politically charged medley at the 2016 Grammys, including two tracks from his acclaimed 2015 record, To Pimp a Butterfly. He was that the most-nominated artist at that year’s event, with 11 total, including a win for Best Rap Album.
Lamar and U2 have collaborated on several recent tracks. The rapper sampled U2’s Songs of Experience song “American Soul” on his Damn. cut “XXX.,” and Lamar delivered a brief monologue in the final section of the band’s “Get Out of Your Own Way.”