Fool’s Gold Records sprung into the limelight pretty much as soon as it was created thanks to the tremendous credentials of its head honcho, DJ A-Trak. With his trademark leather jacket and flat-billed pork pie hat, he’s the personification of his label’s style and mission statement. The idea behind Fool’s Gold is to blur the edges of the worlds of hip hop and electronic music to ring in some kind of global urban music utopia.
That is where Fool’s Gold Day Off comes in. It’s a free party in Los Angeles, thrown during the day and featuring live music. The comparisons to Mad Decent’s block parties are inevitable because, truthfully, they’re kind of similar. Mad Decent’s event outgrew its britches this year and became a pay-to-go party, but Day Off is still free for now. It was situated in the large alley between the Shrine Expo Hall and the adjacent parking lot that HARD used to call home until they decided that the Los Angeles State Park was a better venue for their shenanigans. Bigger, certainly. But better? Dubious.
I showed up to Fool’s Gold Day Off fashionably late and stupidly missed my most anticipated act of the day, gLAdiator. I dig their take on the trap genre. It’s not that they’re especially innovative or that they’re elevating the genre to unknown heights of artistic expression — they just make banging tracks in their own style. They’re good at what they do, and I’m sad I missed them.
In reflection, I am at least. At the time, though, I was less bothered. Thanks in large part to the Four Loko I had shared briefly before entering, there was not a lot of stuff that was going to bother me at all. A sane person would’ve chosen to drink, literally, almost anything else, but I figured this would be one of those events that people describe as “so LA,” and thus a gigantic can of margarita-flavored toxic booze seemed appropriate.
Even at three 0’clock, the crowd was very much on my wavelength. High-waisted shorts and crop tops, beanies, dudes in Mishka shirts and Jordans and lokes…so LA. The vibe was good. I only saw one fight, which seemed like it was handled pretty quickly. Generally the fear with big, free events like this is that a group of really rowdy people can incite a really negative crowd mentality quickly. I think the large police presence you face right before entering the event helped tamper that here. Also, the concert space was fairly large, so there was never a feeling of claustrophobia even at the front. Also, weed. Weed helped.
The first set I really got to catch was Nick Catchdubs and the rest of the HBK Gang. That includes IAMSU!, who I got a chance to speak with earlier this year. Their performance went off without a hitch, though there was a severe lack of yanking on stage. The crowd was feeling it. Everyone collectively lost their shit when they played “Function.” Can’t blame them either; the song is a banger.
After a short DJ interlude, the rap returned with Freddie Gibbs, who came on stage pretty pissed off. Apparently some dude out in the crowd threw a water bottle at him earlier. Which to me sounded kinda funny, but seemed progressively less so when Gibbs threatened not to perform. He called out the random asshole in the crowd for a bit and eventually went on to perform in good spirits.
Honestly, I was really impressed by his set. Freddie has actually been around for a minute, but his music has always flown under the radar for me. It shouldn’t have. Yeah, he professes still living like a dope dealer, but his rapping is technical. This is the kind of hip hop that you have to actually listen to in order to appreciate the work that went into making it. No lazy hooks. No corny similes. Just bar after bar.
As Freddie finished, night set in. The fury of Four Lokos was wearing off on me, but the crowd didn’t seem to be fazed. Next up was Los Angeles rap legend DJ Quik. Long time hip-hop heads should be familiar with that name as DJ Quik is responsible for many of the West Coast hip-hop anthems that surfaced in the late-eighties and early-nineties. It’s worth noting that it’s 2013 right now. He’s been in “the game” for over 25 years. That is the definition of OG status.
Quik’s set was like a throwback to an earlier time. I was first introduced to a lot of that music when I was young, so my perception of it is tinted. Maybe the nineties were just better. Either way, the cats in the lokes and flannel loved it. So LA.
After nostalgia wore off, it was time for Kill the Noise. Which meant that it was time to party.
In case anyone was still wondering, Los Angeles loves dubstep and trap. Mixing both of them together is like the sonic equivalent to an Adios. The people loved it. Kill the Noise stayed steady smoking behind the decks, dropping drop after drop. It was just fun. The Fool’s Gold mascot also made its way out into the public for the first time. I guess Mad Decent has their theatrics, why can’t Fool’s Gold have theirs?
A-Trak kept the groove going, steering the sound more toward dance music than the HARD-esque style of Kill the Noise. The one thing that’s easy to forget about both of these guys is that they’re really good DJs. Not just producers. A-Trak, of course, broke into the scene on the strength of his turntable skills, but Kill the Noise has been at this for longer than a lot of people think. Before mixing trap and dubstep, he did DnB as a frequent collaborator with the trio Evol Intent. All of the group’s members have gone on to become huge producers in their own rights (Bro Safari? Treasure Fingers? Computer Club? Any of these ring a bell?).
Finishing the night out was rapper Danny Brown. He is…unmistakable. The wild hair. The missing tooth. That voice. It’s all so characteristic, and it’s impossible not to feel the energy he gives off. This was easily the best possible way to end the night.
So how did Fool’s Gold Day Off compare to Mad Decent’s Block Party? Well, the crowd might be the same, but the energy is different. Mad Decent’s show was much rowdier, but also had more stuff in a smaller space. At the end of the day, Fool’s Gold catered to a more hip-hop centered crowd than the Mad Decent Block Party did, but the reality is they were still really similar. Count me in next year for both.