‘Flog Gnaw’ dazzles despite awkward finale

Tyler, the Creator performs from an elevated platform during his headlining set on the first day of Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival. (Matt Garfinkel | Daily Trojan)

Tyler, the Creator’s eighth annual Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival went off this weekend on the Dodger Stadium grounds without a hitch, except for the controversial reveal of the festival’s surprise headliner as Drake. Complete with three separate stages of high-profile musical guests and a multitude of amusement park rides, Flog Gnaw elevated the traditional music festival experience.

Camp Flog Gnaw, which used to be known as the OFWGKTA Carnival, originated at the height of Odd Future, the internet rap collective that spawned not only Tyler, but Frank Ocean, Earl Sweatshirt, The Internet and more. 

Maintaining its roots in Odd Future culture, the festival still features performances each year from nearly every original member of the group. One of the most noteworthy of these was by Mike G, who brought the heat to the Gnaw Stage, even in the 87-degree weather.

“The experience gets bigger and better [every year], the people grow, get more diverse. It’s just great to see every time, especially since the beginning,” Mike told the Daily Trojan.

Despite last year’s move from Exposition Park to the current venue, this year’s festival sold out with three days to spare. With hoards gathered at each stage and long wait times for rides, it would be hard to characterize the event as anything but rowdy.

“This year, similar to last year, [is] definitely a little chaotic because it’s at Dodger Stadium,” said Leila Kashfi, a senior majoring in business administration. “[There is] a lot of running around and it’s not flat, so that already tires you out a lot. Obviously the capacity is so much bigger than it is [at Exposition Park], so it’s overwhelming for sure.”

One of the main attractions of the first day was Tyler, the Creator’s headlining set on the Camp Stage. While he mostly performed songs from “Igor,” he interspersed older cuts like “She” and “Tamale” into his show. Wearing a two-piece suit in a color palette resembling spumoni, Tyler was visually commanding as he performed. Whether he was playing piano or standing motionless and expressionless — as he did for multiple minutes when he first walked out to “Igor’s Theme” — the audience was captivated.

“I wanna thank y’all for coming out tonight,” Tyler told the crowd. “It’s year eight. I built this from the ground up with a great team. I don’t ride nobody’s waves, and I own my shit.”

After an hour onstage, Tyler took a bow and began to exit. Before doing so, he turned around to flash a smile over his shoulder at fans chanting his name.

Day Two was even more eventful than Day One. Jaden Smith made surprise appearances during both Willow Smith’s and Taco’s sets. GoldLink brought out his recent tour partner, Tyler himself, for their collab “U Say” before teasing an upcoming album in the works with fellow DMV rapper Pusha T. Nearly every member of Odd Future could be spotted sitting in front of the barricade of the Gnaw Stage while Earl Sweatshirt performed. YG brought out Tyga, DJ Mustard and a mariachi band for “Go Loko” after bringing Stormi Daniels onstage for an elaborate lead-in to “Fuck Donald Trump.”

“Day Two was so much better,” said Emily Tandy, a freshman majoring in human biology who attended the festival. “The vibe was different, the crowd was different … everyone was super excited for the special guests.”

Since the lineup was announced back in August, fans have speculated about who would headline the festival’s second day since the slot was billed simply as “???.” Rumors swirled that the notoriously elusive Frank Ocean would resurface for a rare performance, given both his close friendship with Tyler and the mystery shrouding the artist. At 10 p.m. Sunday, Tyler took the stage for the grand reveal.

“I’m gonna keep this short and sweet and all,” Tyler said. “Can I bring a couple friends out?”

With that, A$AP Rocky jumped out onstage to “LPFJ2” and lit the audience up with “Praise the Lord.” Afterward, Lil Uzi Vert came on, descending into the crowd to perform “Money Longer” and “Sanguine Paradise.” 

“Can I bring another friend out?” Tyler asked, eliciting cheers from the audience.

Drake’s “Started From the Bottom” began to play overhead and the Canadian superstar took the stage.

“Tyler told me this shit was gonna be crazy,” Drake told the audience. “This is Flog Gnaw, one of one.”

After his second song, Gucci Mane’s “Both,” Drake asked the audience for permission to perform longer than his allotted “two or three songs.” He then played tracks from “Scorpion” and “More Life” before launching into some older material.

“These next two songs I’m about to do, I haven’t done in a very long time,” Drake said. “They’re dedicated to my brother [Tyler] cause he asked me to do them tonight … This right here, by special request, first time in a lot of years,” he said before playing “Feel No Ways” and “Wu-Tang Forever.”

Shortly after, Drake once again checked in with the audience.

“Like I said, I’m here for you tonight,” he said. “If you wanna keep going, I will keep going tonight, what’s up?”

The crowd, still unsure whether or not Tyler would bring out another friend, gave a mixed response. Some fans cheered, while others booed and shouted “No.”

“It’s been love, I love y’all. I go by the name of Drake, thank you for having me,” he said as he left the stage.

Only 20 minutes after it began, the most anticipated act of the weekend was over. Fans became increasingly upset as the house lights came on and security began ushering people toward the exits. The cheers of “We want Frank” that had been erupting sporadically over the past hour — including during Drake’s set — picked up again but fell on deaf ears.

“Thanks for coming, get home safe,” read a message that appeared on the stage screen soon after Drake finished. 

Disgruntled fans began to boo and at least one threw a water bottle on the stage. Although he’s the most commercially successful rapper in the genre’s history, many fans felt Drake’s appearance at Camp Flog Gnaw was unwelcomed because his personal brand is too mainstream, and therefore not in line with that of the festival, which caters to a more specific demographic.

“Having Drake as the headliner is kind of antithetical to everything Odd Future stands for,” said Rahul Manwani, a freshman majoring in animation and digital arts who attended the festival. “Odd Future was a group of misfits and weirdos at the very beginning and each of them has built their career on being extremely unique … It’s a sell-out move.”

But, not everyone felt let down by the surprise performances.

“I wanted Frank to come out but I thought it was a great set,” said James Sinigalliano, a freshman majoring in piano performance who attended the festival. “I thought people booing was kind of disrespectful.”

Regardless of how others received his surprise, Tyler stood by the call to bring out Drake. He took the backlash with a grain of salt and shared a message on Twitter the next morning.

“I thought bringing one of the biggest artist on the fucking planet to a music festival was fire! But flipside, a lil tone deaf knowing the specific crowd it drew,” Tyler tweeted. “Some created a narrative in their head and acted out like assholes when it didn’t come true and I don’t fuck with that.”

Tyler changed his Twitter bio to “embarrassed by fans right now.”

Aside from the final performance, Tyler curated a weekend-long experience tailored specifically to a niche demographic of fans. The festival was successful as a whole and can likely only grow from here.