Day 1 of Tyler, the Creator’s sold-out Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival, held at Dodger Stadium, featured Compton’s Kendrick Lamar alongside his cousin, Baby Keem (a.k.a the Hillbillies), a pair of Latin music stars, brand new Grammy nominee Ice Spice and the festival organizer himself.
The Times’ August Brown, Kenan Draughorne and Mikael Wood took it all in from Chavez Ravine.
‘Y’all still care’
Tyler, the Creator made it one song into his triumphant Camp Flog Gnaw performance Saturday before he needed a beat to revel in the moment — it’d been four years since the festival last manifested, and Tyler had missed the celebration as much as his fans.
“Covid f— us, bro,” he said from the stage. “Didn’t leave a towel, didn’t call to see if we made it home safe, just f— us. But three or four years later, and y’all still care to come.”
Without a new project around which to center a performance, Tyler loosely ran through songs old and new, performing two songs off his most recent deluxe album “Call Me If You Get Lost: Estate Sale.” The set felt slightly less dressed-up than past Tyler shows; rather than elaborate outfit changes into the blond wig and pastel suits of the Igor era, he sported a Golf Le Fleur T-shirt and baseball cap from start to finish, performing in front of a junkyard-themed backdrop that remained the same aside from the changing digital sky.
Tyler, 32, summoned enough animated energy to get the crowd going, although some rust from time off from touring showed at times — longer than usual pauses to catch his breath, requests for towels to dry himself off, jokes that his “legs hurt” in the days leading up to the festival. Still, his performance of “New Magic Wand” was a highlight, made even more awe-inducing when he donned a flamethrower and shimmied about the stage shooting fire into the air.
“The last two weeks I was walking around. L.A., people were telling me ‘I’m excited for Flog,’ and people were hitting me [to say] ‘I’m flying from Nebraska,’” he told the crowd. “To know this random idea I had, brings the spirit of L.A. up for two days. I say this with every bone in my body: Thank you all.” — Kenan Draughorne
Kendrick Lamar’s family affair
Saturday night, the question of “Who are the Hillbillies?” was officially answered: Kendrick Lamar and his cousin, Baby Keem. After a black-and-white video flashed across the screen, showing the two smoking by a car soundtracked to Keem’s verse on “Savior — Interlude” from Lamar’s album “Mr. Morale and the Big Steppers,” the two launched into a frenzied set with their anthemic song “Family Ties,” the intro of which had fans leaping in the air before the two had even touched the stage.
Contrasted with the fiery animation of Tyler, the Creator, Lamar and Keem controlled the crowd with little wasted movement. The duo also impressed with their range of emotion: Baby Keem’s moshpit-inspiring “Trademark USA” gave way to therapeutic cries of “Lost Souls,” before Kendrick returned to spark more chaos with his “m.A.A.d City.”
Multiple times, Lamar expressed how proud he was of Tyler for building the festival into what it is now. Eventually, Tyler appeared onstage to dance alongside Kendrick and Keem as they closed out with their song “The Hillbillies,” putting a heartwarming bow on the night. — K.D.
A kittenish come-on with attitude
Curled on a sofa in a shimmering baby-doll dress, Kali Uchis sang her dreamy TikTok smash “Moonlight” as though she were the lead in some Las Vegas sex caper directed by Quentin Tarantino — a vivid reminder that nobody does a kittenish come-on with more DGAF attitude than this L.A.-based pop dramatist.
Though she’s been playing Flog Gnaw since 2016 — a year before she and Tyler released “See You Again,” which never seems to leave the Spotify Top 50 for long — Uchis returned Saturday as a true star of the streaming age thanks in part to the success of her 2020 single “Telepatía,” which she said changed her life even though she made it “in the middle of what we didn’t know would be a pandemic”; her luxurious stage show framed her as a diva surrounded by dancers attending to her every need.
The music was crisp yet deeply vibey, her breathy croon floating over her band’s retro-R&B arrangements. Introducing “Te Mata,” the latest single from a new Spanish-language album she’s prepping for release in January, Uchis offered an English translation of the song’s lyrics, which she said are about moving beyond others’ perceptions of you. Yet perceptions are her specialty — establishing them, toying with them, tossing them away. — Mikael Wood
A short set, stacked with hits
“L.A., y’all know I came all the way from the Bronx to see y’all,” Ice Spice told an overflow crowd at the Flog stage, and she wasn’t the only one who’d traveled to be there: No other act I saw Saturday inspired folks to run at full speed across the festival grounds to catch a set as they did for the 23-year-old pop-drill phenom.
Dressed in her signature tennis skirt and knee-high boots, her strawberry-blond curls bouncing with every twerk, Ice Spice arrived at Flog Gnaw the day after she picked up four Grammy nominations, including a nod for the coveted best new artist prize. (Among the others is pop duo/group performance for her appearance on “Karma” by her gal pal Taylor Swift.)
Yet for all the adoration she’s enjoying, the rapper is still clearly in her leave-’em-wanting-more era: Here she was onstage for all of 17 minutes, whipping through hits like “In Ha Mood,” “Munch (Feelin’ U)” and “Princess Diana” — “I’m the girl of his dreams / Thinking ’bout me when he brushing his teeth,” she boasted memorably in that last tune — with the relentless forward thrust of someone who grew up knowing stimulation was just a swipe away. — M.W.
Headliner energy from an Inland Empire act
If you wanted to find a SoCal band from a very different genre than Tyler’s former group, Odd Future, but with the same sort of outlaw energy, you could do worse than San Bernardino’s Fuerza Regida. The five-piece is a leading light in the wave of young regional Mexican music to blow up TikTok and the Billboard charts. They rose as part of the local Rancho Humilde label that gave nostalgia-steeped balladeers the edgy glamour of hip-hop.
Like-minded acts including Peso Pluma and Natanael Cano have made Corridos Tumbados — Mexican ballads with the sheen and churn of hip-hop, often with lyrics about drug lords — as much a part of the contemporary L.A. music landscape as gangsta rap was in its heyday. (The tensions are similar too — Fuerza Regida had to cancel a planned Tijuana show in October after a cartel threatened violence on a handwritten banner).
Fuerza Regida was a savvy choice for a genre-agnostic L.A. festival celebrating that roguish underground attitude, and from “Sabor Fresa” on down they drew one of the biggest crowds on the side stages. They brought out Chino Pacas for “Dijeron que no la iba lograr” and Juanpa Salazar for “Mi Terre CLN,” and the high-life drug-game bravado of “TQM” whipped up the crowd and placed this music directly in this generation’s limelight. By the time they wrapped with the rave-adjacent closer “Harley Quinn,” they’d made a solid case to be at the top of the bill next time. — August Brown
A coke-rap reunion
For all the old heads in the crowd (people ripping mixtapes on DatPiff in 2006), a Clipse live reunion is a world-historic event. The Virginia brother duo of Pusha T and No Malice were likely your favorite rapper’s favorite rappers growing up, known for the noir of their drug-game yarns and the icy, experimental sonics courtesy of producers the Neptunes. Pusha T found an acclaimed solo career after his brother left the group to explore his newfound Christian spirituality, but after returning to the fold on Pusha’s LP “It’s Almost Dry,” the duo hit the Flog Gnaw stage ready to re-assert just how foundational they were to this era of stylish, restless gothic rappers.
It would have been nice if a bigger sea of fans had shown up to affirm that, but the tight crowd knew every word to 2002’s deep cut “Virginia” and “Popular Demand (Popeyes),” with special affection for tracks off 2006’s “Hell Hath No Fury” like “Momma I’m So Sorry.” Tyler, the Creator sprinted directly to the front of the crowd to watch the set, still sweaty in a green fur hat after his own performance minutes earlier. Here’s hoping this is the start of a victory lap for Clipse. — A.B.