Day N Night Fest Saw Kendrick Lamar and Chance the Rapper Perform Amongst Rap’s Hottest Young Acts

After last year’s debacle of outrageous traffic jams, reports of a gunman on-site and the subsequent tactical police sweep, Orange County’s Day N Night Fest made some changes this go-around, swapping a one-way-in, one-way-out park for Angel Stadium, providing a safer, more event-worthy space for this, one of the fastest rising hip-hop festivals in the country. Over the past weekend, Sept. 8-10, a plethora of top rappers in the game came to the stadium to perform for thousands of eager Californians.

Trap music is everything right now in the world of hip-hop, which is why La Flame, a.k.a. Travis Scott took on headlining duties for night one. As the increasingly popular MC flew to stage riding an animatronic bird, he hyped the crowd for tracks like “Antidote,” “Goosebumps,” “Mamacita” and his newer track with SZA, “Love Galore.” With pyrotechnics abound, fans were hoping to catch Kodak Black on stage with Scott for their latest collab “Roll in Peace.” This thought, however, was nixed earlier in the day when the former failed to show up for his evening slot on the main stage for unknown reasons. Unfortunately, this doesn’t help booster the Florida rapper’s public image, one that is already tarnished by a number of controversial comments and videos plus numerous legal issues. The space opened up for young up-and-comers like Jay Critch, Young Nudy, THEY., PnB Rock and more. Nineteen-year-old flat-top wearing R&B sensation Khalid played just ahead of Scott on the main stage. He filled in the space with back-up dancers donning cheerleader outfits, all the while performing “Let’s Go,” “Location” and “Young Dumb and Broke” off his breakout “American Teen” debut.

Saturday saw, once again, a bevy of relatively unknown faces to those following mainstream hip-hop including Jay IDK, Taylor Bennett (younger bro to Chance the Rapper), Roy Woods and Sah Babii. Sprinkled throughout the day, however, were names plenty of fans recognized and were eager to catch live. Odd Future native Earl Sweatshirt dropped no new tracks during his set, something fans were hoping for after the LA emcee has been relatively silent since “I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside” LP from 2015. Nevertheless, renditions of “Grief,” “Wind in My Sails” and “Guild” thrilled the crowd. Kodak Black finally made it to stage, though with no attempt to make up for his disappearance on Friday. He stumbled about stage, rambling incoherently, allowing his DJ and back-up tracks to do all the work. Conversely, crowd favorite Playboi Carti, who played Day N Night last year, enthusiastically ran through hits like “dothatshit!” and “wokeuplikethis*” Rising trap star Lil Uzi Vert commanded a devoted crowd with “Money Longer” and cuts from his latest chart-topping LP “Luv is Rage 2.” Post Malone also had one of the best sets of the day with his undoubtedly impressive on-stage prowess on full display. Before closing out with “Congratulations,” he entertained the crowd with his charm, humor musical versatility. Chicago local hero Chance the Rapper dominated the primetime spot on Saturday. His religiously tinged tracks like “Blessings,” “Sunday Candy,” “Ultralight Beam,” “Father Stretch My Hands” and more dominated the set while his breakout album “Acid Rap” didn’t make much of a showing. This was a far cry from what fans have experienced throughout the rest of the festival, which based on Travis Scott and Lil Uzi Vert’s sets alone, were more focused on the modern-day youth lifestyle. Chance delivered a powerful set that, in all honesty, made the twenty-four-year-old seem old compared his counterparts.

All headlining acts for each night embodied separate popular elements of modern day rap. Travis Scott hails to the trap god, Chance praises an undoubtedly spiritual god, while Sunday night’s lead act Kendrick Lamar falls somewhere in the middle, but definitely on top. While the final day saw artists like YG, 21 Savage and Rich the Kid, perform throughout the day, everyone was there to see one person, and one person only. Those who hoped the Compton-bred rapper would take a slightly different approach to his post-“DAMN.” tour, which recently wrapped, were likely disappointed as he essentially performed the same set of which he had over the course of the past year. However, many fans, who weren’t able to fork out the cash for a tour-ticket, were elated to finally be on the same turf as Lamar. “DNA,” “Element,” “Backseat Freestyle,” “Swimming Pools (Drank)” and more lead the fervent crowd into a state of bliss. Lamar’s ability to command the stage is unparalleled. And with only one more date on his schedule (New Orleans’ Voodoo Festival over Halloween Weekend), Day N Night fans may have been one of the last to witness “DAMN” in full form.

Day N Night Fest took place at Angel’s Stadium in Orange County, CA from Sept. 8-10.