Watching the Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival climb from low-key music showcase to A-list festival can be tear-jerking. After all, Tyler, the Creator reminded the hordes of attendees at this year’s festival of his underdog tale during his set. “They told me I couldn’t throw a block party for the OF store on Fairfax” he said. “It started with an idea…” The maturation of Tyler, the Creator is an odyssey manifested through his five-album discography that has pulled in and inspired a generation of hip-hop fans for nearly a decade. Where would the Brockhamptons, the Kevin Abstracts, Lil’ Yachtys, and Lil’ Uzi Verts be without Tyler’s imprint? From counter-culture revolutionary to the blossoming bumblebee personality he brands himself as, Tyler continues to be the creative genius who has branched out to all areas of art and entertainment: film scoring, clothing, songwriting, festival curating, etc. For Tyler stans like me, we are proud that our boy has evolved into the colossal musical icon he is today— and that’s why this year’s Camp Flog Gnaw Festival is so significant. We are one year removed from the release of Flower Boy, an album now regarded as a classic and a gateway for Tyler newbies. We are three years removed from Cherry Bomb, an album that is seldom discussed but pollinated the orchestral, dreamy sound that Tyler has championed in Flower Boy. Tyler has finally reached the zenith of his career and the world is his garden. In the history of the Camp Flog Gnaw Festival, this is arguably the best curated lineup. The headlines that were made during this year’s festival were attention-grabbing and click-baity but elevated the carnival to higher altitude. Booking blockbuster talent including Kids See Ghosts, ASAP Rocky, Brockhampton, Billie Eilish, Lauryn Hill, and Rex Orange County, Camp Flog’s varsity-stacked lineup attracted the most attention it has ever received.
It would take forever to recollect and detail each set I stood through so here’s the Sparknotes version: for me, the hardest set of the weekend was Brockhampton, that is, before the LA Fire Department postponed the set and pissed off the 50,000+ crowd of fans. My heart sank when Matt Champion’s mic was cut not even a breath into GUMMY and the erupting mosh pits my friend Ray started began to simmer down. After 20 minutes of waiting, we hiked back over to the Camp Stage for the final performance of the festival, Kids See Ghosts. For me, this was the first time I would see Ye and Cudi live and the hype didn’t disappoint. The floating glass shell that the duo performed in spoke the gravity of this performance. As time winded down and the synths of Ye’s Father Stretch My Hands cued in, the clamor of the crowd was electric and everyone pushed in closer to the stage like it was Black Friday. After combing through their self-titled LP, Ye and Cudi did the unexpected. Time warped back to 2009 and I’m at my desk doing my Algebra 2 homework when the toms from “Welcome to Heartbreak” chimed in. I had goosebumps. I felt like my 16 year old self finally got his chance to see the two artists he’s always wanted to see. The two artists who were tenants in my Zune HD during my teenage years. When “Welcome to Heartbreak” ended, I turned over to my brother and friends and said “damn, it would be cool if they played para-“
BUH- BUH- BUH- BUH- BUH…
My mind lost it. Ye was going to play my favorite song off my favorite album. “Paranoid” is a song that, if released in 2018, would be a hit. It’s a beautiful marriage of R&B and Synthpop that explores Ye’s psychosis and his commentary on heartbreak and ex-lovers. I unapologetically screamed the hook while every else looked like they were trying to remember which song this was. This was the best fan service I had ever received, and I felt like Ye knew I was out there spiritually in that sea of fans. When the night ended, I felt complete. In a year of lowlights and bullshit, this was the escapism I needed. In fact, those whom I went with felt the same way.
It’s exciting to see where Camp Flog goes from here. The traction from this year’s festival can only mean big things next year. With Tyler due for an album in 2019, I am looking forward to what sounds he’ll pursue and the direction he will take the world of Golf Wang. The multiverse of creativity that he has boasted throughout this decade has reshaped the landscape of hip-hop culture and fostered the musical identities of our current generation of rap artists and producers. If y’all have a chance to get out to next year’s Camp Flog, it’ll be worth your while. I mean, shit, I paid $400 for my pass on resale.
Photos by Raymond Pelayo.