#CampFlogGnaw, Day 2: Kali Uchis, Anderson .Paak, Rae Sremmurd, and Erykah Badu
Soul from the ’60s and space with trap-pop on deck.
With Day 1 wrapped, the fifth annual Camp Flog Gnaw continued over the weekend as a welcomed amusement park-and-music mashup at Los Angeles’ Exposition Park. Amid the oversized slides, flying chair swings, a Chinese Take-Out stand courtesy of Action Bronson, and a surprise EarlWolf reunion, the highlights were both personal and aplenty. Here’s some of what you missed:
Kali Uchis serving up her trademark attitude and allure.
With her tattoos and thick lip liner, Kali Uchis may look every bit a pin-up street princess, but she still uses phrases like “Sheesh!” (said exasperatedly after singing “Sabor A Mi” a cappella to what she perceived as lackluster claps) and “Don’t smoke too much!” (which she cautioned like a parent to the crowd before exiting the stage) while performing her borrowed but approved variants of soul, be they ‘60s, shoegaze, or Latin-inspired. Looking like Selena but sounding like Amy, she delivered the retro harmonies of “What They Say” with as much comfort and conviction as her cover of Elvis Crespo’s “Suavemente,” but never let the audience off the hook, threatening—intimidatingly despite it being in the meekest of tones—to finish her set early (“You’re acting like I already left the stage; I’m gonna need a little more!”) and playfully challenging her “day ones” to join her but under one condition: “If you come on stage and don’t know the words, it’ll be very embarrassing and awkward.” The reggae-driven “Ridin Round” served as her closer with lyric “Now his face is looking kinda flustered / He didn’t know that I was my own hustler” proving to be a fan-favorite and Uchis serving as evidence that you can still be a badass, even if dressed like a baby doll.
Anderson .Paak’s hype being well-deserved.
If Camp Flog Gnaw concertgoers hadn’t already caught the wave that is Anderson .Paak, he made sure to not let them leave as non-believers. Committed to no half-assing, the raspy-voiced rapper-singer-multi-instrumentalist’s frenetic and contagious energy could be heard in the funk of the rubbery bass line-driven “Come Down,” the plucky but downtempo churning of “Milk N’ Honey,” and the lo-fi key chords that carry “The Season,” or when you tried to keep an eye on him as he moved from behind the drums on “Carry Me” to behind the strings of a guitar on the feel-good “Put Me Thru” before returning to the drums of snap-groove “Heart Don’t Stand a Chance.” But we were no more under his hypnotic control than when we as a crowd, rhythmically crouched, on his order and inch-by-inch to the ground only to rise to the the uplifiting words of “Lite Weight”: “There’s no reason to be afraid.”
Rae Sremmurd casting their inescapable black magic.
They’re as cocky, unpredictable, and entertaining as we’ve seen many a rapper be and their signature sound (Mike Will Made It-sourced) isn’t hard to come by but, simply put, Rae Sremmurd do what others just attempt, the best. And weirder. With an energy that walks the line of near-maniacal, their crossover success as rap-rockstar purveyors of trap-pop was no more evident than when they opened their set with the unrelated Chainsmokers’ cheesy EDM hit, “Closer.” Entering to the cinematic horns of the 20th Century Fox theme song, there’s a tangible joy in everything they do, from the muscle emoji that flashed during “No Flex Zone” to their request for the crowd to remain still during a concert-wide, “Black Beatles”-soundtracked Mannequin Challenge. But like kids who couldn’t keep the effects of a sugar rush contained, we were all too busy trying to film the moment ourselves to freeze long enough to abide—which was a surprising discovery considering that when you looked out into the night, with attendees sitting in trees to get a view of the duo or forming circles for moshing or engaging in the most hyphy and spastic dance battles, whether it was to “Start A Party,” “Over Here,” “Look Alive,” or “No Type,” we all looked like hypnotized zombies under their spell.
Erykah Badu remaining Queen of Everything.
Erykah can be late to her set. Erykah can say “Keep in mind that I’m an artist and I’m sensitive about my shit” like she’s about to segue into the always-awaited “Tyrone” and then…not. And Erykah can rock face-spanning jewelry through her nostrils to keep you wincing whenever her hands come within an inch of it just to keep you on your toes. Because after 20 years in the industry, Erykah is still neo-psychedelic-soul queen. Her asking if she can take us back to 1997 felt more like a rhetorical pleasantry since no one is going to deny an extended version of “Otherside of the Game” with bongo-backed ad libs. The repetition of “It’s Gonna Be Alright’s” titular phrase felt like an antique spiritual, and even moreso coupled with Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright.” And her heavily-adorned fingers were briefly the focus when she took to a drum pad for “Love of My Life” before the galloping beat of “Gone Baby, Don’t Be Long.” But the moments we lived for, aside from her satiating and edited delivery of “Tyrone”—in this version, her lover could contact his friend via message in a bottle, telepathy, or morse code—was her demanding that we stay “smart, strategic, and woke” in light of recent political developments. And when Badu talks, we listen.