Country artists Eric Church, Maren Morris and Brothers Osborne delivered a moving performance of Eric Clapton's Grammy-winning classic "Tears in Heaven", during the 60th annual Grammys Awards in New York City on Sunday, the names of victims behind them.
His performance cut between a spoken word segment from Dave Chappelle, who told the crowd, "The only thing more frightening than watching a black man be honest in America is being an honest black man in America".
The performance included a giant American flag and dancers in hoodies, who collapsed to the sound of gunshots as Lamar rapped.
Minutes later, Lamar and Rihanna won the first award of the night: Best Rap/Sung Performance for "Loyalty".
"The painful truth is that this year in just those two events 81 music lovers, just like us, went out to enjoy a night of music and never came back home", Morris said.
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Lamar and Bruno Mars were among the early winners at the Grammy Awards.
The ceremony has been billed as a battle between Lamar and Jay-Z with both nominated in the bigger categories including album of the year.
Mars swept up awards for best R&B performance, best R&B song and best R&B album.