After a four-year hiatus, Tyler, the Creator’s music festival and carnival returned to Los Angeles’ Dodger Stadium on Nov. 11 and 12. In the years leading up to its pandemic-induced break, Camp Flog Gnaw was quickly becoming one of the most beloved annual music festivals in the area for its Coachella-esque approach to the live music experience: good food (local favorites like Monty’s Good Burgers and the Birrierria Michi Mexican food truck were on the menu), free carnival rides and a lineup consisting of fresh and established artists.
The 2023 festival came this year with assistance from talent ranging from Ice Spice, Willow, Turnstile, PinkPantheress, Maxo Kream and Fuerza Regida, to veterans of the festival like Rex Orange County, Lil Yachty and Earl Sweatshirt, who first appeared on the lineup for its second iteration in 2013.
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On Saturday night, Kendrick Lamar and Baby Keem closed the festival with a joint performance under their new alias, “The Hillbillies.” The experience was cinematic, as expected, in its nods to the new name and symbolism behind Lamar and Keem’s familial relationship. An old photo of them with unnamed family members was displayed on a large sheet as a backdrop to their collaborative song “Family Ties,” along with “N95.” Keem also announced the Dec. 5 premiere date for a short film he’s releasing in tandem with Amazon Music titled “The Melodic Blue,” after his 2021 album of the same name.
The remainder of the setlist was split evenly between both artists on stage, but it was the middle of the set that really shined: “m.A.A.d city” followed by “Praise God” and “Humble,” before Keem entered with “Orange Soda,” “16”(the 16th song on the setlist) and “Range Brothers.” Helicopters could be heard overhead, and the bright neon lights lit up every inch of the stadium’s lot, but every person at the festival was locked in on the duo’s high-spirited stage presence and music.
Tyler joined them briefly on the main stage, where he had just finished delivering a career-spanning performance that was more like an exhaustive sing-a-long for die-hard fans of his earlier discography including his Frank Ocean-featuring “She” and “Yonkers.”
He took a short break only to give the audience a speech about having “such a huge ego.”
“[Critics say] He’s so full of himself [and] hell fucking right I’m full of myself… I’m full of me because everything I said I wanted to do, I did and I didn’t let nobody tell me nothing else. I got a resume to back it up. So everybody out there. If y’all got dreams and y’all feel some type of way about yourself that might exceed how others feel about themselves: Fuck them and don’t let that shit clouds your brain for real,” he said.
Tyler’s set also had the most elaborate stage design of all of Flog Gnaw’s performers. His was a gigantic junkyard of cars (a recurring visual theme in his work) with a large claw hovering over the stage. Kali Uchis, who had played even earlier on the same stage that evening, brought her visuals and setlist over from her “Red Moon in Venus” tour and welcomed Omar Apollo as a guest for their collab “Worth the Wait.” SZA also similarly lugged her “SOS” tour props to the stadium, with the addition of a few new quirks like the massive wrecking ball she descended on stage from.
Although acts like Teezo Touchdown, AG Club and Ice Spice had a smaller stage to work with, their crowds were just as big and just as active as some of the more hyperactive moments of the nights coming from acts like Turnstile and Willow.
“Y’all know I came all the way from the Bronx to see y’all,” Ice Spice told the crowd before diving into her usual fast-paced and hits-filled set. Billie Eilish was among the L.A.-raised stars in attendance for Ice’s performance and could be seen from watching the drill rapper in awe from the side of the stage. Tyler also made an effort to watch some of his favorite acts and could be seen at the front of the stage for Clipse to witness the rare reunion of siblings Pusha T and No Malice.
SZA closed out Sunday night at the top of her game — just a few days after receiving the leading total of nine Grammy nominations for her “SOS.” Though SZA’s microphone was cut during her last song due to city curfew, the crowd of thousands stuck around to sing her closer, “Good Days,” while dreamy images played behind the R&B star. And just like that, the weekend closed with a high-spirited note to “believe in good days” — a sentiment echoed by Tyler the night prior. Admitting the fact that COVID derailed the festival, he graciously acknowledged that “three or four years later, and y’all still care to come.”
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