Camp Flog Gnaw Reveiw
No other place compares to Camp Flog Gnaw. Entering into Exposition Park for the festival’s fifth installment, the first thing you notice is Tyler the Creator’s voice welcoming you to his colorful wonderland of music and youthful exuberance, to put your phone down and tune into the carnival’s switchboard.
This year marked the first time Camp Flog Gnaw had been expanded to a two-day event. Having attended last year’s escapade, this past weekend felt monumental. More epic in a way. Just check the line-up for proof. Performances from Schoolboy Q, A$AP Rocky and Ferg, Joey BADA$$, Flatbush Zombies, Lil Wayne, Lil Uzi and Action Bronson left attendees with a plethora of choices to choose from. There were even surprise cameo appearances throughout both days by Mack Maine, Chris Brown, D.R.A.M., YG, Mac Miller just to name a few.
Except, Camp Flog should not be labeled as just a simple hip-hop festival. Hand-picked by Tyler himself, the music spectrum of the carnival featured notably diverse artists such as Toro Y Moi, Death Grips, jazz musician Kamashi Washington and Katyranada.
So it would make sense for the curator of this festival to want you to be fully present in the moment, which turned out to not be extremely difficult.
Each portion of the festival was mesmerizing. Arrays of blues and pinks dotted along the walls, deep yellows bobbed in popcorn machines and rays of purple floated endlessly as the camp’s ferris-wheel made its rotation. The two stages hosting music’s top-tier elite and rising stars acted as the center to the colorful microcosm, the carnival games and rides the sprawling decorations. When exploring Camp Flog, you could have seen the lights throbbed and the cheery faces of fans ablaze in the night.
Mid-way through Saturday I found myself at the end of a crowd dancing to Chance the Rapper. Seeing the Chicago native was an exhilarating experience as he performed deep cuts from both Acid Rap and Coloring Book to the applause of the crowd. The highlight of his performance came when he rapped Coloring Book intro, “All We Got.” Starting at the second verse, Chance continuously repeated the words as if in sermon, the tempo slowed down, his voice gliding through the night air, all of us melting there in peace.
By 10pm on Saturday, the majority of the attendees had made their way to the main stage for Tyler the Creator. Dressed in an all cheetah print polo and shorts, he strutted on stage making the crowd go wild to “Death Camp,” anthemic screams from fans came with every line. He covered tracks from all three of his albums, from classics like “Tron Cat” to recent releases like “What the Fuck Right Now.” During “Domo23” the moshpits started to open up. During his rendition of “Darkese Latifah” Tyler had the crowd kneel until the beat dropped, ordering them to jump and continue losing their minds to the excitement.
At the conclusion of his set he spoke about the rising trajectory of Camp Flog over the years.
“This was an idea in a notebook five years ago,” Tyler said, encouraging his fans to proceed with their dreams no matter the cost. Then he concluded with “Tamale.”
Up next was Lil Wayne.
Let’s take a flashback first: to about eight years ago. I was 12 at the time and Lil Wayne was in the running for greatest rapper alive. Tha Carter III was about to be released. And I was about to fall madly in love with rap music. It happened that my sister was playing the “Lollipop” music video on our living room television right as I walked in for some unremembered reason; from that moment though, I chose hip-hop as the genre I most connected with, the genre of music that signified cultural autonomy from any past connections, the weird shaping of my identity. It’s a story that has now become part of my own personal mythology. So when I saw Lil Wayne’s name on the line-up, I thought it would be pretty damn lame to pass up the opportunity to see him live.
Wayne as a performer is just what you’d expect him to be. He has monumental stage presence and happens to be hilarious, in a scattered way only Wayne could possible achieve. Opening with “John,” he transitioned into “A Milli” and other Carter III classics such as “Mrs. Officer,” until rapping through a string of his mainstream hits and features, even bring out Mack Maine for a rendition of “Every Girl.” Throughout, the crowd either rapped along with enthusiastic energy or stood in awe, the raw connection of nostalgia and hypnotic admiration spiraling through all of us. In one moment, he asked, “Who here likes the Mixtape Weezy,” a question met with cheers and applause. Weezy’s reaction: a smile and a dive into Da Drought 3 deep cut, “Sky is the Limit.”
The best part of Camp Flog was the newly added two-day format. Although last year’s excursion into the festival (my first time, actually) was memorable, the single day time constraints didn’t leave enough time to fully explore all the music carnival had to offer. This year, there was ample time to catch your favorite artists and look around.
Sunday had astounding performances as well, Anderson .Paak a highlight of the night. The California native’s set was dedicated mostly to cuts off his second album, Malibu. Each track played was accompanied by live instrumentation, .Paak even hopping onto the drums mid-set, his voice and the ferocity of his performance piercing the crowd. As he played, surreal collages blurred on overhead. In one frame, I caught glimpses of Cesar Chavez; in another, I saw vintage Hollywood style women bathed in a red glow.
Toward the end of the festival, the TBA scheduled on the line-up turned out to be none other than a reunion of EarlWolf. To the frantic excitement of the crowd, Earl Sweatshirt appeared out the darkness, Tyler the Creator joining him for the Odd Future classics, “Orange Juice” and “Drop.” The crowd became a moving moshpit.
Camp Flog has always been in some way an escape, a technicolor manifestation of the inner workings of Tyler’s brain, a place to retreat from the dark winds conspiring outside the festival. But above all else, it’s a place to have fun.
Some danced, others moshed.
Over the past five years, Camp Flog has transformed into a national pilgrimage for some. When talking to various members of the crowd, I met people from various parts of the country, some from as far as Detroit, who had traveled to Los Angeles just for the neon wonderland.
So if you find yourself at next year’s Camp Flog, consider yourself blessed.
Article by Raymond Pelayo
Photos by Raymond Pelayo & Monica Roldan