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Nicki Minaj Brings Gag City to Los Angeles, PartyNextDoor Delivers the Hits and More From Rolling Loud 2024

After Kanye and Ty Dolla $ign’s non-performative headlining performance for Rolling Loud on Thursday (March 14), the hip-hop festival officially opened its doors Friday night for its first full day. Nicki Minaj gave an exhilarating headlining slot on March 15, taking the stage for an almost-hour set that brought Gag City to Hollywood Park.

Minaj, who is currently on her Pink Friday 2 World Tour, logged her sole L.A. show on the trek at Rolling Loud. It was impassioned, slick and chockful of hits, condensing her arena-sized show into a tight hourlong performance.

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She took the stage at 9:40 p.m., welcoming the swelling crowd to Gag City, and kept banter to a minimum—she only addressed the audience once or twice—but let the parade of songs speak for themselves, adding choreography and outfit changes that served as a reminder of why she’s etched her spot in the hip-hop hall of fame. For anyone in attendance, it was likely beyond that: Minaj showed once again that she’s a premier pop star to be reckoned with, and displays no signs of rust since her debut album arrived in 2010.

Barbz who have been keeping tabs on the setlists across her recently launched tour would clock several omissions, but her curtailed set played like a greatest hits mixed with standouts from her most recent release. She emerged at the top of a flight of stairs to “I’m the Best,” running into “Barbie Dangerous” and “FTCU.” Flames shot up behind her for “Beep Beep” and a brief snippet of “Beez in the Trap” before a costume change that led to “Chun-Li” and “Ruby Red da Sleeze.” She hasn’t forgotten her roots—standouts included “Super Bass,” “Roman’s Revenge” and her iconic verse from Kanye West’s “Monster” (of course, West “headlined” the night before her, though a recent difference of opinion on releasing their collab “New Body” for West’s “Vultures” probably precluded any surprise West appearance).

Fans who haven’t paid attention to her recent performances may have been shocked that she lodged “Starships,” one of the most pop-leaning songs in her discography, in the setlist. After all, she has included it regularly on the Pink Friday 2 tour. But during a New Year’s Eve performance in Miami, she shut down the DJ who queued up the RedOne-produced song, claiming she didn’t perform it anymore. Her instincts may be wrong on that one. It was one of the set highlights—fierce, sharp and a bright callback to the EDM-pop of the 2010s. The crowd teetered and undulated like the ground during an earthquake; for any hesitations she’s had about it, “Starships” has a queen-sized spot in fans’ hearts. It was a victory slide into her finale, “Everybody,” that concertgoers were singing on the way out.

Before Gag City became the sole destination of the evening, PartyNextDoor — also known as Jahron Anthony Brathwaite, the first artist signed to Drake’s OVO Sound label — touted the biggest crowd of the night, bringing a nostalgic display of his greatest hits for all the R&B enthusiasts in the crowd. Since the Canadian singer only recently started to perform more consistently, fueled by the incoming release of his fourth studio LP, there was a palpable urgency for fans who showed up to this set and Party more than delivered. Backed by a team of background dancers and a three-piece band, the singer-songwriter lived up to the hype with a seamless setlist that included “Come and See Me,” “Persian Rugs,” “Break From Toronto,” “Sex on the Beach,” and even a sultry cover of “Work” by Rihanna, a song he co-wrote.

PartyNextDoor on the GoPuff stage for Rolling Loud in Inglewood, Calif. on March 15, 2024. (Cred: Jordan K Knight)

Early eye-popping sets from hot hip-hop acts including Sexyy Red and Jeleel! demanded festival-goers arrive earlier than later since the admission lines got more unbearable later in the evening. At one point, general admission shut down in the hour before Minaj was set to take the stage. Some attendees were seen scaling the fences mere feet away from security, who ignored it. But inside, Rolling Loud was a well-oiled machine.

Sexyy Red hits the Ethika Stage for Rolling Loud in Inglewood, Calif. on March 15, 2024. (Cred: Daniela Alaviie)

YG and Tyga’s joint set was a fun favorite for West Coasters with a love for 2010-2014 hip-hop: “The Motto,” “Rack City,” “Faded,” and “Toot It & Boot It,” plus covers of hot songs from local rappers like Ambjaay’s “Uno,” set the tone for the night. YG also brought out special guest Saweetie for a flirty performance of “Richtivities.”

YG and Saweetie share the Ethika stage at Rolling Loud in Inglewood, Calif. on March 15, 2024. (Cred: Mickey Pierre-Louis)

The only thing that was an obvious miss in this lineup was the loss of música Mexicana hitmaker Junior H, who along with Natanael Cano, had been invited as special guests but were removed in the days leading up to the festival. Jimmy Humilde, CEO of both artists’ Rancho Humilde label, had voiced his frustration at Rolling Loud on social media, claiming that the festival had canceled on them with little notice. He also claimed Rolling Loud was “racist” for using his artists for sales and then forcibly removing them from the lineup. The festival issued a statement to Rolling Stone, and later blasted it on social media, to assert that the two artists were cut from the lineup because Cano had issues with his visa and Junior breached his radius contract — a clause that protects the festival from artists doing multiple shows to not compete for ticket sales. Humilde has denied these claims and the festival has no further comment.

Instead, the genre was represented by 17-year-old Chino Pacas, who gave his all to a high-energy performance that featured the premiere of an unreleased song with Gabito Ballesteros.

Chino Pacas on the GoPuff stage at Rolling Loud in Inglewood, Calif. on March 15, 2024. (Cred: Ava Lamb)

Outside of the action on stage, much of the Park’s concrete lots were scattered with sponsored booths and endless activities from Karaoke to a skateboard park. Power 106 opted to play Latin and easily digestible hip-hop hits while other DJs entertained traveling crowds with occasional merch giveaways and lively trap beats. One of the most enjoyable parts of the festival was also witnessing the way attendees were dressed — Nicki stans were easily identifiable, traveling around in hordes of hot and neon pink.

The Rolling Loud Festival will run through March 17 with performances from headliners Post Malone, Metro Boomin and Future still to come.

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