Photo courtesy of Danny Pleckham
INGLEWOOD, CA — If you weren’t at Rolling Loud California, what were you doing? The premier live music experience that puts your favorite playlist on stage went all out at Hollywood Park Grounds at SoFi Stadium, as headliners in Playboi Carti, Future, Travis Scott, Don Toliver, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Wayne and more shut down the coveted hip-hop festival over the weekend (March 3-5).
From Rolling Loud TikTok popping off with Ice Spice’s No. 1 Munch to two OGM hosts leading RL media with live streams, artist interviews and ceaseless content, we took in as many live sets from the industry’s best and brightest at Rolling Loud Cali 2023.
What a difference six months makes for Eem Triplin. The finale for Rolling Loud’s LA stop started with a bang from one of the new wave’s brightest rising stars. When speaking with the “WALKED IN” emcee earlier in the day, Eem’s focused on dropping something “super soon” in the near future.
“Expect new shit. Got a lil project coming out soon. All hot shit,” he said of his long overdue debut mixtape. “Just listen when I drop. It’s up. Imma keep pushing, just wait on it. All hard vibes… something special.”
He took the Levi’s Stage just months after his viral moment at RL — where he joked of having “13 people” coming to catch his set — to the tune of thousands of screaming fans. Eem remained humble when asked about what he expected for his Los Angeles show. “I feel like it’s going to be the same amount of people,” he said. “But we’ll see. I’m excited. Going to play some new shit on stage, can’t wait to turn up with everyone and anyone who’s there.”
The Johnstown, Pennsylvania native rocked out performing songs in “JUST FRIENDS,” “IF I GO,” “WALKED IN” and more — dressed in a card-clad cargo bomber and his signature bandana wrapped around his forehead. “Damn, I got a lot more than 13 people here,” he teased the crowd, even making light of technical difficulties by freestyling a verse about his mother being proud of him at Rolling Loud. Homegrown and humble — and with an album on the way — the future of music is truly in Eem Triplin’s hands.
Next at Levi’s was rap’s coveted “Princess Diana” Ice Spice, which was her first-ever set at Rolling Loud. Raising the blood pressures of many… MANY Spice Cabinet disciples, she turnt up the crowd with her Billboard-topping track “Boy’s A Liar, Pt. 2,” “In Ha Mood” and others. The munches came in full force, with Ice shutting down the main stage with a heartwarming yet heat-inducing performance.
Trippie Redd’s tribute to XXXTENTACION with “F*CK LOVE” was just the start of the A Love Letter To You rapper’s rather impressive setlist. Flexing bona fide hits in “1400 / 999 Freestyle,” “TAKING A WALK,” “TOPANGA,” “THE GRINCH” and more, Redd lit up moshpits at the jam-packed Levi’s Stage — which hosted a majority of superstar acts all throughout Sunday. The Ohio mainstay, who’s been teasing his long-awaited album A Love Letter To You 5, embodies his “GRINCH” energy by playing the classic Christmas tune to lead in the ALLTY4 banger. It was a little bit of everytbung from Trippie’s discography — from slow jams to blitzing heaters — as the 1400 star continues his 2023 tear following his star-studded Mansion Musik.
Lil Uzi Vert is notorious for their iconic Rolling Loud performances, but this year in LA ranks among their best. Performing a slew of new tracks at Levi’s, Uzi addressed the crowd — which seemingly packed in the entire festival (GoPuff was a barren wasteland during this time) — about his forthcoming studio album PINK TAPE.
“I know I make y’all wait a long time for music, and I’m so sorry I thought that shit was cool before, but that shit is lame. I’m putting the finishing touches on ‘PINK TAPE’ and I promise — and I made a lot of promises in my life — but this time I promise,” they said eyeing into the pit, sporting lizard-colored contacts with two different hues, their patented spiked hair and a blood-red leather suit.
Uzi’s visuals consisted of clips from the classic horror film ‘Terrifier 2,’ however, nothing was terrifying from his set. It was all pure joy, with Uzi jumping in the inflatable bounce house behind him during his set. Along with premiering new music, Uzi shut down the stage with songs such as “POP” and other Eternal Atake cuts — which celebrates its three-year anniversary on Monday (March 6). A true highlight of the weekend, missing Lil Uzi Vert at Rolling Loud California was a set you’ll never relive.
When Lil Yachty held tryouts for an all-female band this past January, I wondered what the purpose was for. At Rolling Loud’s GoPuff stage Sunday, that purpose was revealed, as Yachty’s eclectic, experimental album Let’s Start Here not only captured the attention of thousands with a full live band, but continued the psychadelic lore that Yachty ignited with his stretch into the sonic void. “I don’t care if you fuck with me or not, but these bitches fuck with me… open that pit up!”, he exclaimed as the guitar-heavy intro to “IVE OFFICIALLY LOST VISION” rumbled through the speakers and into the spines of concert-goers.
Yachty, covered in face band-aids and a diamond-encrusted jacket, not only wowed with performances of “drive ME crazy,” “the BLACK Seminole” and “the ride,” Boat didn’t neglect the earlier hits that got him to this point of artistic reverence — playing longtime crowd favorites in “Get Dripped,” “Broccoli,” “Minnesota” and “Yacht Club” among others. While the Atlanta native has evolved altogether — traveling outside the confines of rap — his set was packed with trippy visuals that were impossible to look away from, silhouetted in darkness while the only light came from his background. Love him or hate him, Yachty’s live debut of Let’s Start Here was everything that it was meant to be and more.
Getting a glimpse at Travis Scott’s return to a main stage in the States was on the minds of everyone circling the grounds Saturday. With fans taking the weather in consideration, essentially selling out all Rolling Loud hoodies on Day 1, the brisk California air — that felt more like Chicago autumn than spring at SoFi — made crowds feel more alive in the heated pits of every performance. While “Opium Friday” became a marquee headline throughout the festival for those privy to Playboi Carti’s literal show-stopping set, keeping the mojo going with “Cactus Jack Saturday” seemed only right.
Aside from Scott’s performance — taking the Levi’s Stage to perform a few of his greatest hits in “STARGAZING,” “MAMACITA,” “Highest In The Room,” “NO BYSTANDERS” and a premature finale in “ANTIDOTE” — the Cactus Jack head honcho was all fire and brimstone Saturday night, setting off a slew of fireworks and cannons of smoke and flames and ultimately packing in the most fans.
It was an ease back into live performances for Scott, who still is maneuvering the fallout of the Astroworld Fest tragedy in late 2021. Rolling Loud California was a test of the waters for Scott’s forthcoming UTOPIA era. Despite his set being cut short due to 11 p.m. curfew, his long-awaited album was teased yet again on stage. “Everybody in this scream UTOPIA,” Trav shouted into the mic, running back and forth on the raised structure on stage, down the runway and shouting with his rage-inducting energy.
RL founder Tariq Cherif and Matt Zingler went all in on Scott for 2023, slating him as a headliner for their international expansion in Munich, Rotterdam, Portugal and Thailand. Reviving his likeness and propping him for a tried and true comeback, it was evident that the festival wanted to maintain a safe environment for those attending the show — and it went off without a hitch.
Special guests were a dime a dozen, as fellow Houston emcee Don Toliver asserted himself as Cactus Jack Saturday’s co-main bout at the Levi’s Stage, bringing out both Justin Bieber and Kali Uchis for a love-inducing ode to his new album, LOVE SICK. Strutting out in a red velvet jacket and Prada shades — consistent with his LOVE SICK moment — Toliver totally immersed fans in anthems and slow jams alike. Famous for ad-libbing and riffing live cuts, Don T performer “CAN’T SAY,” “HAD ENOUGH,” “WHAT YOU NEED,” “4 Me” and “PRIVATE LANDING” with Bieber — passing him a blunt mid-performance and further illustrating their chemistry on the cut. Toliver just shared four new tracks on the LOVE SICK deluxe, one with Travis Scott in “Embarrassed.” If anything is certain, Toliver’s superstar potential was fully unearthed at Rolling Loud LA.
Among other sets, it was a homecoming for Lil Wayne — bringing out Young Money queen Nicki Minaj for his set at the GoPuff stage. Wowing a crowd of tens-of-thousands, Weezy’s case as rap’s undisputed GOAT became more clear Saturday night. Other performances from Lancey Foux (LIFE IN HELL), Young Nudy (GUMBO), Digital Nas, Aminé and more became a few of our favorites, as we take on the final day of Rolling Loud eyeing Future, Lil Uzi Vert and Trippie Redd.
Opium Friday: The most anticipated opening day for a festival in recent memory. For Rolling Loud, it wasn’t only essential, but seemed to completely reflect the allure and energy of Day 1 concert-goers.
Hoarding Hollywood Park Grounds with black bedazzled boot legs, 2000s-era racer shades and heavy NARCISSIST apparel, it was Destroy Lonely, Ken Carson and Playboi Carti that overran Rolling Loud California at the core of Opium’s dark-hearted aesthetic. While Ken and Lone lit up the GoPuff stage on back-to-back sets, it was Carti that brought forth the most immersive — and immaculate — set of the weekend.
Along with losing your mind in the ravenous pits Playboi Carti breeds, the Opium leader turnt his crowd up to 10 — opening his set with new music presumably off his upcoming album. However, it appears that Carti made the unreleased track right before his show, confirmed by close collaborators F1LTHY and Opiumbaby. F1LTHY is also confirmed to be executive producing the record.
Notoriously known for the performance art he portrays through his Whole Lotta Red show, Carti halted just after three songs due to an unknown, dangerous situation at the front of the barricade. This was far from the first instance of crowd-clamping for the MUSIC emcee, also occurring at his last performance at the festival in New York City as well as Smoker’s Fest in 2022. Carti’s shows have a long history of danger, as RL founder Tariq Cherif went on stage after the Levi’s Stage screens went dark, pleading with fans to “move one step back so we can continue the show.”
“If you want the show to go on, everyone needs to chill. Do not climb on anything, we will shut down the show if you climb on structures,” he announced, as the crowd simmered down and Carti returned about 15 minutes later. The pits were massive, stretching two-to-three car lengths at almost every section of the packed crowd — which definitely raked in the highest attendance of the festival.
Surprisingly, Carti spoke to his fans for the first time in what felt like ages, letting them know “The most important thing is y’all guys safety. I love you guys so much, but I have to leave. I’m so sorry.” He walked to edge of the stage with fireworks bursting above him, shouting “I love you, I love you, I love you” as his set wrapped with a blitzing guitar solo that interpolated around Cash Carti-era favorite “Location.” Fans lost their minds.
Carti’s finale at the Levi’s stage was led in by equally tantalizing performances from Lonely and Carson — with Lone’s double diamond chain visibly glistening in the spotlight. Performing “NOSTYLIST,” “NEVEREVER,” “FAKENGGAS,” “TURNINUP” and his latest single “if looks could kill,” the new wave superstar smiled in between rapping his bars — showcasing his finesse and witty wordplay live in person. Carson followed suit after — stunning the Opium crowd with rage bangers in “I need u,” “FREESTYLE 4,” “Rock N Roll” and more.
It wasn’t all about Opium on Day 1, though, as electric sets from Kodak Black, Ski Mask The Slump God and Chief Keef sent the late slate ablaze. Ski, who paid homage to fallen friends in Juice WRLD and XXXTENTACTION, played songs in their name, as DJ Scheme took to the mic to express the gratitude and love they holds for their fans. “These past few years have been extremely tough on us, we’ve lost a lot of brothers, and if it wasn’t for you all [the fans] we never would’ve made it through those dark times. We love you from the bottom of our hearts.”
Tracks like “Jocelyn Flores,” “LEGENDS” and “Take A Step Back” blared throughout the speakers, as Ski switched up between touching memorials, collaborations and ragers alike — most notably “Florida Water” with Danny Towers, Luh Tyler and SCEHEME. The Florida natives, which included Tariq Cherif, passed out water bottles to the crowd right after finishing the song… How fitting.
Check out Playboi Carti’s headlining set below!