After an agonizing half-hour wait for Conquest’s headliner, the crowd roared to life when rapper and USC alumna Saweetie sauntered on stage, later accompanied by her partner and fellow rapper Quavo.
Despite a last-minute change of lineup, the hybrid concert, pep rally and carnival held annually the week of USC’s football game against rival UCLA, brought students to McCarthy Quad Thursday night.
Although her set was scheduled to begin at 10 p.m., Saweetie didn’t take the stage until 10:25 p.m. She came out to the title track from her 2018 EP, “High Maintenance.” Everything she wore was royal purple: her fur coat, bell-bottom pants, platform heels, sequin and velvet bra, eye shadow and wide hoop earrings.
Leading up to the main acts, this year’s event broke barriers by showcasing a performance by Angel Dust, a USC drag queen who recently performed at the Queer and Ally Student Assembly’s 10th annual drag show “House of Troy.”
After USC Concerts Committee announced Wednesday that rapper Rico Nasty couldn’t headline this year’s Conquest due to personal reasons, it announced 2016 Annenberg alumna Saweetie would perform instead.
“It was really, really touch-and-go for the last 48 hours, and there was a lot of stress and anxiety,” Concerts Committee codirector Chris Begler said. “But I am nothing but elated with the way [codirector] Leila [Kashfi] and I handled ourselves and most importantly with the way our team handled ourselves.”
Though doors for the event opened at 5 p.m., the opening act Channel Tres, didn’t go on until 8:50 p.m. When he did go on, he sported his signature rolled beanie in light blue with a cardigan that he promptly shed as he launched into his set.
“Yo, my name is Channel Tres, I hail from Compton, California, what’s cracking?” he asked the audience.
Tres did not let technical difficulties hold him back from delivering a solid show. His vocals were quiet for a significant portion of his set, but his groovy, uptempo songs were infectious enough to get the crowd dancing. He was accompanied by two dancers, and together the trio executed choreography to every track.
Tres’s 45-minute set remained engaging throughout by incorporating crowd participation, a visual for his song “Topdown” and a stream-of-consciousness-style freestyle during which he faced away from the audience.
“I thought the set was really dope. It was really unexpected,” said Jaryn Valdry, a sophomore majoring in communication. “I didn’t listen to Channel Tres before I came, but I really like his vibe, and the bounce in his music just made it really fun.”
After the crown chanted Saweetie’s name, DJ Carisma from L.A. radio station Power 106 came on stage for a DJ set that lasted more than half an hour.
“I’m tryna get y’all hype as fuck before I bring my girl Saweetie out here,” Carisma said to the crowd.
“So y’all know I used to go here, right?” Saweetie asked after her first song. “I got my fucking degree, and I got to the motherfucking bag.”
After performing her breakout hit “ICY GRL” and throwing T-shirts with the phrase “Respect the icy punani” on them into the crowd, Saweetie brought out her partner, rapper Quavo of rap trio Migos, for their collab “Tip Toes.”
“Do you mind if I do a couple songs?” Quavo asked over chants of his own name.
Saweetie left the stage while Quavo — whose performance alongside Migos at Springfest 2017 was canceled because of overcrowding — played “Pure Water” and “Bad and Boujee.”
“USC, we love y’all, you know I love y’all,” Quavo said. “I gotta give the stage back to my beautiful lady, the icy girl.”
Saweetie came back onstage to talk about her experience at USC and play her smash single, “My Type.”
“You know, I was in debt,” she said. “That motherfucking loan shit was no joke.”
Toward the end of her set, Saweetie invited three students, including Ariadna Cruz, a junior majoring in NGOs and social change, on stage to dance from the crowd. After the show, the trio took photos with Saweetie and received a silver, Icy-branded necklace.
“I was just overexcited. She’s also from the Bay Area, so having someone who’s from the Bay on stage and someone who is an alum and is of color is so amazing and so exciting,” Cruz said. “I did not think I was going to meet her, so I think meeting her made it a thousand times better.”
Following the dance competition, Saweetie’s set came to a quick close.
“Get your motherfucking good grades. Fuck that bitch Sallie Mae,” she said, referring to the federal loan company.
While some were disappointed by the length of her set, they felt it did not detract from their experience.
“She did her top songs, which everyone loved, everyone screamed for,” said Marlize Duncan, a freshman majoring in journalism. “I don’t mind the dirty shoes that I got from everyone moshing.”
With a Ferris wheel, an esports tournament against UCLA, student group showcases and sponsored booths with giveaways, Conquest strived to bring students more of an experience than just a concert.
Like last year, USC’s Esports Union faced off against UCLA’s esports team in a League of Legends tournament. While last year’s matchup ended in a tie, this year’s saw a 3-2 victory for USC.
Following the recent rise in student deaths, Conquest invited various organizations that provide mental health resources to the event, including the Department of Mental Health and Rise Above the Disorder.
“We’re just out here trying to make sure that people know that it’s OK to reach out for help and to normalize talking about mental health,” said Rise Above the Disorder case manager Crystal Navarro.
For the second consecutive year, Trojan Pride Committee replaced the annual tradition of burning a Bruin bear with an opportunity for students to throw pie tins full of whipped cream at a large print of a Bruin. While last year’s bonfire was canceled out of concerns of unhealthy air quality, this year it was out of respect for those affected by the recent Getty wildfire.
“We were caught off guard with the fires last year, but as a result, this year I came in, and I’m like, ‘We need to have an alternate plan from the start,’” said Trojan Pride member Yuliya Pisman. “We were planning backups from the very beginning, so it was less stressful when we learned that it was canceled.”
Despite the unforeseen circumstances surrounding the event’s planning, Conquest drew an impressive 6,500 students, an increase of approximately 1,500 from last year’s event. According to Kashfi, the event “literally could not have gone better.”
“Concerts Committee is only as strong as the members that make it up, and I think today was a fantastic example of the insane amount of talented individuals we have been lucky to acquire within our club in the last two years,” Begler said.