This weekend's two-day FYF Fest in Los Angeles was just one of the many music festivals going down this summer across the nation and with a genre-spanning lineup that included headliners Kendrick Lamar and LCD Soundsystem and early acts like Blood Orange and Boogie, it was hard to leave unsatisfied and these five performances (among many) are exactly what we needed:
Rae Sremmurd are rap's rock stars. Unpredictable and infectious energy; uncooperative and cocky over catchy crossover beats; raw and ready to rage (and rave). "Start A Party" was less their opener than it was a promise. An inflatable shark bounced through the crowd long before the brother duo of Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmi ordered its concertgoers to throw whatever they had in their hands up in the air. If you got doused with an unidentifiable liquid, consider that a blessing. They certainly would. "No Flex Zone," "Come Get Her," "Up Donald Trump," "Throw Some Mo," and "Look Alive" got girls on top of shoulders and moshing alongside dudes in such a way that Rae could revel in. And there was no questioning their confidence considering the title of their closer and the song the crowd chanted most for: "Black Beatle."
For some feel-good inspiration.
Neon lights, disco balls, and large tropical leaves decorated Kamaiyah's set, a perfect backdrop to the laid-back nostalgic ‘90s flow of the West Coast queen. She was playfully brash on the taunting "Niggas" (_"He said that he wanna be my boyfriend / But he can’t tie me down / 'Cause I don't really wanna be his girlfriend / At least not right now") and endearingly relatable before "How Does It Feel" when she told the crowd "I been broke all my life!" And when we all—the crowd demographic was uncategorical by the way and only further proved her viral reach—chanted "How does it feel to be rich?!," it felt like we wished it for Kamaiyah as much as we did for ourselves.
For pure, unblinking fascination.
Grimes' bodypack got entangled her shirt, she had no sampler or pedal, the volume got stuck, her big screen broke. And we knew all this because she kept us updated with refreshing transparency the entire time. (Even before performing the dubsteppy "Go," she admitted to always forgetting the set list and prior to "World Princess Part II," she willingly gave the disclaimer: "This is the hardest song to sing; sorry if I sound like shit.") But back to the technical sound difficulties. Ever a consummate embodiment of "the show must go on," she confirmed with someone off-stage "It's fucked?" (yup.), confidently decided "Okay, I can just do it live; I know it by heart" and double-checked with the audience "Is this audible out there?" before blindly launching into tracks like "Flesh Without Blood" and "Venus Fly." Backed by dancers who spun both ribbons and three-pronged swords, Grimes bounced between keyboards, guitar and percussion with ease (at one point, mindlessly twirling a drumstick while talking to the audience); moved stiffly, awkwardly and erratically like a robot in between lyrics; and wavered her vocal delivery between that of a K-pop star and a screamo bandleader for a set that would leave us all awestruck for its entirety.
For staying woke.
A cardigan and khakis aren’t what we’re accustomed to associating with the kind of impassioned social commentary that Vince Staples makes in his music (nor is it what you'd rock in nearly 90-degree weather), but that's what made him enthralling to watch. That and the large-screen visuals he chose to pair with each track: glowing lightning strikes for "Hands Up," military-uniformed legs marching in unison for the ominous "War Ready," vintage Madonna footage behind the staggering tongue-twister-like spiel he makes on "Prima Donna," and apropo Ghost scenes for the dance bounce of "Ghost." And when he asked the crowd to put their hands up for the policemen and -women "doing a stellar job across the world," you questioned whether or not he was being serious or sarcastic until he launched into "Oh You Scared": "Two kids and mo' bills, food stamps and dope deals, hood life with no frills / But still they swear they feel you and never been close to near you / Once who preach 'protect and serve' the main ones trying to kill you."
For the classics.
Footage of Ron Artest's on-court brawls, NASA's blast-offs, and Ronald and Nancy Reagan projected before the crowd during the eerie twisted synths of Kendrick Lamar's "untitled 07 | levitate" and jazzy composition of "Institutionalized," but still nothing got the crowd quite as hyphy as "Backseat Freestyle." (There's something to be said about "All my life I want money and power / Respect my mind or die from lead shower / I pray my dick get big as the Eiffel Tower / So I can fuck the world for seventy two hours" making a fan out of even Taylor Swift.) An unfortunate nod to Prince was made during "Swimming Pools (Drank)" and the request to make "some noise for ScHoolboy Q" after K.Dot performed his "Collard Greens" guest verse only made us realize how much we missed the surprise presence of the TDE member, but Isaiah Rashad made a cameo for "Free Lunch," the two men bouncing and crouching in sync, and reminded us it's now another affiliate's turn to pop. Video of Monica Lewinsky and Pam Grier's breasts (circa "Coffy") served as the visual counterpart to "These Walls" and "untitled 2," two things the crowd never seemed to tire of seeing, which was about as little as we got sick of repeatedly snarling "Ya bish…" on "Money Trees." Which is to say never.
Relive Kanye West's headlining set at last year's FYF Fest.