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No Gnaw Friends: Drake Got Booed Off Stage Because of Who He’s Not

The crowd at Tyler, the Creator’s festival was expecting Frank Ocean as the event’s secret headliner. They got one of the biggest stars in the world instead, and it wasn’t enough.

Getty Images/Ringer illustration

The 2019 Camp Flog Gnaw festival was building toward a special performance on the main stage Sunday evening by a “secret headliner,” who turned out to be Drake. As closers go, event creator Tyler, the Creator could’ve done a lot worse than to trot out one of the world’s most culturally relevant rappers, who could then rip through a selection from his bottomless trove of hits and send carnival-goers home dizzy and content. And so soon after the “FUCK DRAKE” set-design “fiasco” that overshadowed Pusha-T’s appearance at last year’s festival. What a wonderful treat for the kids! They’d never expect it!

Unfortunately, the kids, who did not expect it, also did not like it. Like, in the slightest.

(And yes, the blood-curdling scream of this guy that for some reason really, deeply, passionately believed he’d be seeing Frank Ocean last night has already been laid over “Self Control,” because sometimes, for brief moments, the internet is utopian.)

By most accounts, if not for the chorus of boos that eventually stopped the set short at nine songs, it would have been a pretty good Drake show. This is because Drake is, well, a pretty good performer. He’s like a combination of a bottom-card TNA wrestler, the guy from How to Train Your Dragon, and like, the most animated of those Monmouth squad players who grab our attention every March with elaborate bench celebrations. What I mean is that he is good money in front of a gigantic audience. He’ll skip through the pyrotechnics in his Jordans and shukukuku track pants, maybe make an awestruck fan’s life by inviting them onstage, and then close on some affecting note of unity, like any self-respecting mega-pop star would.

Sunday night was much sadder, or hilarious, depending upon your personal enjoyment of either Drake or Drake schadenfreude. Just after “Wu-Tang Forever,” he more or less asked the crowd if it was chill for him to stick around. Even after Drake began his set, fans were still impatient for Frank Ocean, who was never teased as a performer, has performed once at Flog Gnaw in the event’s eight-year history, and is probably in New York somewhere planning his next PrEP+ party. “Like I said, I’m here for you tonight, if you want to keep going, I will keep going tonight,” Drake said. “What’s up? If you want to keep going, I will keep going tonight.”

The response was a resounding and full-throated fuck all that and you. Drake exited the stage shortly after.

If you were to drop in on this clip cold, your reaction might fall somewhere between “DRAAAAAAKE??!” and “this is some extremely through-the-looking-glass shit.” And it is! Imagine booing during “Wu-Tang Forever”! Imagine being so dissatisfied with a surprise Drake performance as to ruin it!

The explanation, in the end, is pretty boring and simple. If you drop a “secret headliner” into the lineup for an Odd Future–affiliated festival, especially one taking place during a year in which Frank Ocean is actually releasing music, whether or not there is any corroborating information at all, people will assume he’s showing up. His success and significance as an artist are built on his fans’ unyielding anticipation that he might do something, maybe. And when he doesn’t, that anticipation tends to balloon and explode onto the nearest person.

On Sunday night, that nearest person was Drake. On Monday, Tyler let off a string of tweets addressing the incident, expressing disappointment that he never got to hear “Hotline Bling,” which is his “fucking shit.” He also said that the behavior he saw on display at his festival was a lot like “mob mentality or cancel culture in real life,” casting Drake as a sort of martyr to … the warped artist-fan relationship in the modern era?

Tyler is sort of right—the crowd was behaving like a bunch of dickheads, and while the situation is more than just a little funny, Drake didn’t deserve to be on the receiving end of psychotic mob chants. But Tyler, buddy, Drake has a $220 million private jet.

An earlier version of this piece misstated the number of years Camp Flog Gnaw has been in operation; it is eight years, not five. The piece also incorrectly said that Frank Ocean has never appeared at the festival; he has once.