IN PHOTOS

Rolling Loud unleashes raw rap, rhythmic R&B performances

The world’s largest hip-hop and rap festival took over Los Angeles for an incredible four-day bender.

Photos by JORDAN RENVILLE
Words by JASON PHAM

Stampedes of music fans from across the globe crowded the Hollywood Park Grounds in Los Angeles this past weekend to celebrate the world’s largest hip-hop and rap festival, Rolling Loud. For the first time in the festival’s history, Rolling Loud incorporated a four-day lineup — featuring a special Thursday night performance from ¥$.

As the venue gates swung open at 5 p.m. Thursday, attendees marched from the parking lot into the festival grounds, donning decked-out ski masks and boxy Yeezy tees that fed into an androgynous aesthetic throughout the evening. Abandoned cans and street vendors selling clear fanny packs created an informal trail for the massive crowds of fans trying to navigate toward the entrance. Once inside, attendees sprinted and quickly flooded the center stage awaiting ¥$’s start time at 8 p.m.


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¥$ — composed of Ye and Ty Dolla $ign — was originally a delayed addition to the Rolling Loud lineup, but secured a solo performance day and showcased their collaboration album “VULTURES 1.” Despite ¥$ starting 30 minutes late and predominantly relying on pre-recorded vocals, fans were consistently moshing and thrashing among each other — quickly setting the tone for a recklessly fun atmosphere that thrived throughout the weekend.

From fan favorites including “CARNIVAL” and “FUK SUMN” to older hits from Ye like “Can’t Tell Me Nothing,” attendees sang along with the lyrics as the smell of sweet smoke spewed from the crowd. ¥$ also incorporated many surprise guests into their set, including North West, YG, Freddie Gibbs and Quavo.

On the second day of the festival, the earthy aroma and mosh pits continued but pink hair and fishnet stockings replaced the gender-neutral Yeezy aesthetics. Rolling Loud’s second day welcomed a range of artists such as Nicki Minaj, Sexyy Red, Lil Tecca, Rae Sremmurd and more. In honor of “Pink Friday 2,” Minaj’s latest album, most attendees dressed head-to-toe in pink outfits and glitter accessories in anticipation of her headliner performance.

As fans traveled between sets, endless food stands and trucks outlined the paths between the three different stages at the venue. From birria ramen to hot chicken, Rolling Loud served a variety of hearty meals at competitive festival meal prices.

Drink and marijuana stalls almost mirrored the food stands in quantity, with bars right next to stages for fan convenience and a large “Rolling Station” that included a seating area and a STIIIZY pop-up shop amongst other booths.

Once the sun started setting, the cheers from the crowd only grew and began to live up to the festival’s name. Lil Tecca drew in a passionate audience at the Gopuff Stage, performing a variety of old and new hits such as “LOT OF ME” and “HVN ON EARTH.” From Lil Tecca’s electric stage presence to the flame special effects, fans thrashed carelessly at his music and moshed throughout his set.

Nicki Minaj, the main headliner for Friday, drew in an immensely larger crowd with attendees squished with no wiggle room — leaving some individuals fainting or requiring medical attention. Among the bright waves of pink hues in the crowd, fans pushed each other and stood restlessly awaiting Minaj’s much-anticipated arrival.

Despite her 40-minute delayed start time, Minaj delivered a powerful performance featuring multiple set designs and outfit changes that gagged the audience. From singing new hits such as “FTCU” and “Barbie Dangerous” to old classics like “Super Bass,” the rap queen showcased a wide range of her discography that captured every era of Nicki Minaj that fans wanted to see live.

Saturday, the third day of Rolling Loud, brought Post Malone, Summer Walker, Flo Milli and Big Sean to the stage — curating a more varied set of pop and R&B music genres compared to the prior lineups of the weekend. The bright hues of pink seemingly disappeared as attendees opted for darker, streetwear-inspired outfits featuring cargo pants, bandannas and designer graphic tees.

From carnival rides to DJ booths, the festival provided endless activities for fans waiting in between sets, which proved continuously popular throughout the weekend. As long lines wrapped around the Ferris wheel, the sun quickly disappeared and carnival LED lights illuminated the venue for a colorful yet dreamy experience.

Premiering on the Gopuff Stage at 7:30 pm, Flo Milli took the crowd by storm for a hyped and passionate performance that included viral songs such as “Never Lose Me” and “Conceited.”

Immediately following Milli’s fast raps and ground-shaking beats, Summer Walker delivered slow yet sensual R&B rhythms that quickly enchanted the audience with feelings of lovesickness and infatuation. From hit tracks such as “Playing Games” to newer releases like “Throw It Away,” the crowd swayed from side to side, hypnotized by Walker’s melodic voice.

Contrasting Flo Milli and Summer Walker’s sets, Post Malone featured a larger pop influence by performing mainstream songs such as “Congratulations” with surprise guest Quavo and “I Like You (A Happier Song).” Despite Saturday night having the coldest temperatures of the weekend, fans thrashed against each other and cheered passionately for the artist at the Ethika Stage.

“I hope everybody is staying warm,” said Malone before performing another classic hit “Better Now.” “If you got a best friend, hold them tight tonight, or a new friend, just make sure you keep giving out hugs and be super fucking sweet.”

Sunday, the fourth and final day of Rolling Loud, showcased primarily rap performances including Chief Keef, Ski Mask the Slump God, Don Toliver and Future X Metro Boomin. The festival’s close landed on St. Patrick’s Day, and sporadic spots of green filled the crowd alongside the consistent streetwear aesthetics of the weekend.

Throughout each artist’s set, moshpits grew to extreme extents as fans commemorate their last day on festival grounds. Starting with Ski Mask the Slump God’s catchy rhymes and thundering beats at the Ethika Stage, fans slammed into one another and formed mosh pits during almost every song. From thrown water bottles to sweaty bodies, the crowd was filled with pure happiness and moisture.

The damp yet vibrant energy carried onto Don Toliver’s set, as fans created intensely larger mosh pits to popular songs such as “Bandit” and “Private Landing” with surprise performances by Travis Scott and Kodak Black.

The high energy levels continued to surge through the crowd and peaked one last time during Future X Metro Boomin’s performance, the final closing set of the Rolling Loud weekend. The duo delved into its collaborative discographies and performed solo pieces for an explosive experience on a fire-lit stage.

After fans moshed to songs such as “Superhero (Heroes & Villains)” and “Too Many Nights,” Future and Metro Boomin wrapped up their set by teasing the upcoming release of two new collaboration albums, leaving attendees satisfied yet craving for a taste of the unreleased music.

As the smell of burnt blunts started to disappear and crowds dispersed into the parking lot, the countless Rolling Loud merchandise on backs and crushed cans signaled a fulfilling weekend that left attendees with memories lasting until the festival returns to L.A. next March.

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