On Sunday, November 10th, festival goers awaited anxiously for a mystery headliner to perform at Camp Flog Gnaw, a two day festival curated by rapper and fashion designer, Tyler the Creator. Born Tyler Okonma, the musician kept the spot for Sunday’s main act a mystery, question marks filling an empty spot on the lineup, one that boasted some of the industry’s biggest names such as Brockhampton, Solange, and YG.
As the mystery performance grew closer, a sense of anxiety was sensed throughout the crowd in the face of uncertainty. Murmurs of suspicions could be heard amidst ongoing conversations, the name of American singer, Frank Ocean, becoming a prevalent source of suspicion.
The screens surrounding the stage warned crowds to hydrate and take steps back in preparation for the mystery headliner. Chants began to arise, “Frank! Frank! Frank!” as festival goers called for the protean artist to bring them to a transcended emotional state. The lights go on and Tyler the Creator appears, “he’s going to announce Frank!” A woman next to me yelled, my own excitement growing as I squeeze my friends’ arms, smiles protruding from their drug induced faces.
“Can I bring out a few friends?” Tyler asks, which is met with unanimous screams. Instantly American rapper, A$AP Rocky, appears from the left wing of the stage, performing three songs, shortly followed by Lil Uzi Vert, the XO Tour Llif3 rapper, who performs two songs, both of which set the stage with excitement. Tyler appears again, asking the crowd if he can bring out another “friend,” the crowd agrees. The lights grow dim as a figure moves swiftly to the center of the stage. Fire begins to rain from the perimeter as the lights of flames illuminate the face of the long awaited mystery guest.
Canadian rapper, Drake appears. I look towards my friends, their smiles have dissipated.
Small groups of people begin to cheer, contrasting an overwhelming murmur of silence. Drake begins to perform as I feel the weight of disappointment overcome my own hopeful heart. He performs a variety of songs, including “Feel No Ways,” a special request by Tyler the Creator from Drake’s 2016 album Views. Even with the songs lyrics that touch on insecurities within a relationship, the emotional vulnerability does not fulfill what many craved from Frank Ocean’s indelible lyricism.
Two more songs later and Drake is visibly off put by the lack of energy from the audience, looking outwards he begins to speak. “I’m here for you tonight,” he said. “If you wanna keep going, I will keep going tonight. What’s up?” He then paused, waiting for a reaction, he is met with an echo of boos.
“Well, look, it’s been love. I love y’all. I go by the name of Drake. Thank you for having me.” The hour and fifteen minute set was cut short to just 30 as the artist left the stage. The crowd begins to chant again, “Frank! Frank! Frank!” as the venue’s screens light up with “Get home safely.” The festival is over.
After the incident, a myriad of tweets in all caps were shared by Tyler on his Twitter account to more than 8 million followers.
“I THOUGHT BRINGING ONE OF THE BIGGEST ARTIST ON THE ... PLANET TO A MUSIC FESTIVAL WAS FIRE! BUT FLIPSIDE, A LIL TONE DEAF KNOWING THE SPECIFIC CROWD IT DREW,” he wrote. “SOME CREATED A NARRATIVE IN THEIR HEAD AND ACTED OUT ... WHEN IT DIDNT COME TRUE AND I DONT F-CK WITH THAT.”
Anecdotes were also shared.
“OK LAST TWEET, I WAS IN THE FRONT, AND I HEAR "TYLLLERRRR!" AND I LOOK TO MY LEFT, AND THIS GIRL, RED FACE, PUFFY, WATERFALL OF TEARS LOOKED INTO MY SOUL AND SAID, TREMBLING WITH ANGER "...WHAT ..THE ..F-CK!.........IS THIS SHIT!" N--GA I TURNED AWAY SO QUICK SHE WAS PISSED BRO”
Festival goers were upset with the headliner that had been presented to them, the expectations of Frank Ocean crumbling amidst months of rumors and hopes of his performance, one that happens very rarely.
Ocean, the 32 year old artist from New Orleans, has served as one of the industry's leading mysteries. Enigmatic in nature, Ocean’s last live performance was in 2017 at Finland's Flow Festival, yet fans continue to enamor themselves with his recorded music.
Ocean’s long awaited LP, Blonde, was released in August of 2016, a work of art that holds important cultural relevance to budding generations. The album, composed of 17 recorded songs, delves into the multifacted emotions that accompany heartbreak, childhood, and same sex exploration while looking at his Black identity and its function amidst the United States. Ocean has the ability to connect with listeners on an intimate level, his words resonating with the heartache of our own experiences. “I found it romantic, sometimes, editing this project,” Described Ocean in a 2016 Tumblr post. “The whole time I felt as though I was in the presence of a $16m McLaren F1 armed with a disposable camera. My memories are in these pages, places closeby and long ass-numbing flights away.”
Blonde, which has been deemed an “avant garde” album by Rolling Stone Magazine, has become a heralded token of expression for the 21st century. Ocean creates unequalled work that explores afro-futuristic compositions while exploring the world through religion and revolt. In “Skyline To,” Ocean’s digitally altered voice sings the words “Making sweet love, takin' time, 'Til God strikes us,” a reference to religious views of homosexual relations. In “Godspeed” Ocean soulfully sings “I will always love you how I do, let go of a prayer for you,” while the altered tone of piano emanates in the background, portraying the emotions of loss. Ocean is able to take the listener on a journey, one that envelops a sense of intimacy and connectivity, as his words evoke memories of our own experiences. Blonde enabled Ocean, a Grammy-Award winning artist, to be propelled to become one of the most celebrated musicians of the 21st century. It is an album highly sought after to see performed live, an experience desired at 2019’s Camp Flog Gnaw.
In the weeks leading up to the festival, Ocean released two separate singles, his latest songs since 2017. The songs, “DHL,” and “In my Room,” are works that promote a more open relationship with queer expression while expanding an exploration with afrofuturistic producing techniques through rap. His words decorate his life with motorcycles, boys, and sex, the lyrics smearing amidst one another atop of unique, muffled beats. Ocean’s voice feels woozy yet present as the artist plays with repetition and overlapping lyrics creating waves of disorder coincided with clarity as his words become chants. With the artist producing new works just weeks before Camp Flog Gnaw rumors gained a fabricated sense of validity in Ocean’s willingness to headline the festival.
Those wanting Ocean to perform looked even deeper within the song’s lyrics, in particular “DHL.” In the song Ocean states, “look like I'm dressed for a camp 'cause I'm pitchin' a bag like I'm pitchin' a tent.” With direct references to going to “camp,” there were suspicions that Ocean was alluding to his presence as a headliner at Camp Flog Gnaw.
As well as Ocean’s work, his relationship with Tyler the Creator, situates himself at the forefront of contenders for the mystery headliner spot. The two, whose relationship began through Odd Future, a hip hop collective formed in 2009, has gained notoriety amidst the music industry. In a 2013 interview with Complex Magazine, Tyler expressed his support of Ocean’s sexuality, "yeah, I was one of the first people he [came out to]," Tyler told the magazine."I kinda knew [he was gay], because he likes Pop Tarts without frosting on them, so I knew something was weird. But that's my n-gga."
In the years following the interview, Tyler has continued to show support for Ocean and his work. In an interview with Highsnobiety, Tyler discussed his thoughts on Blonde. “It’s weird because I’m friends with him and this album made me so, so, so much of a fanboy,” he said, “I kept complimenting him on certain songs, certain little things that I liked in different songs... I low-key think he started getting annoyed cause I just kept badgering him about how much I liked the album.” With the two as close friends, many believed Tyler would secure Ocean to fill the mystery spot.
The fascination with Frank, with his mystery nature and work that provokes emotion on multifaceted levels, it’s no wonder he was desired to fill the mystery spot. An enamored artist of the 21st century, one that will continue to hold the hearts of many even amidst elusive behavior.
As for Drake, he spoke out about the event just a day after being booed off of stage. The rapper posted on his instagram an image of himself with a caption stating “Plot twist, I just signed a 10 year residency at Camp Flog Gnaw. Sorry kids – see you EVERY SINGLE YEAR 'til you are 30."
Only time will tell if Drake’s jokes will become true, but until then, many will continue to crave to see Frank Ocean and all he’s able to bring through his music.