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At Rolling Loud California, Travis Scott makes a truncated return to the stage

As comebacks go, it was dark, noisy – and short.

Thirty-seven minutes into Travis Scott’s headlining performance Saturday night at this weekend’s Rolling Loud California festival, his sound cut off abruptly in the middle of his signature song “Sicko Mode.” People close to the main stage (and monitors) could still hear him, as could those watching the festival’s popular live stream. That’s why Scott ended “Sicko Mode” and did a bit of his hit song “Goosebumps” before leaving the stage.

But for most of the tens of thousands at Rolling Loud, which took place on the Hollywood Park lot next to Inglewood’s SoFi Stadium, the 31-year-old rapper known for his raucous sound and boisterous presentation had suddenly become a jumping man. in virtual silence.

“I wish I could do more, but they’re forcing me to go,” Scott said as he left — a way of describing a strict 11 p.m. schedule began his set.

It was a somewhat deflating end to what should have been Scott’s first full concert in the US since his ill-fated Astroworld festival in Houston in late 2021, when a crowd pleaser killed ten people and injured hundreds more. Scott, for whom whipping up the crowd is a critical part of his act but who insists he didn’t know audiences were in trouble at Astroworld, has been named in multiple death lawsuits that led to a congressional investigation into concert promoter Live Nation.

After being shunned by many in the music industry, including reportedly being kicked from Coachella’s 2022 lineup, Scott has slowly made his way back to the A-list status he once enjoyed, though he hasn’t had it easy on himself made: week, a sound engineer at a New York nightclub claimed that Scott assaulted him during a DJ performance and destroyed $12,000 worth of equipment. (Scott’s lawyer called the incident a “misunderstanding” and said he is “confident that Travis will be vindicated once all is said and done.”)

Still, with Rolling Loud – widely known as the world’s largest hip-hop festival, with events in a growing number of cities and countries – Scott has found an enthusiastic partner for his return. This year he has been booked to headline Rolling Loud shows in Portugal, Germany and Thailand; according to Variety, the company paid Scott between $1.6 million and $1.8 million for Saturday’s performance in LA

Held Friday through Sunday in what amounted to SoFi’s parking lot, Rolling Loud California also featured Playboi Carti, Kodak Black, Trippie Redd, Lil Baby, and Tyga, among dozens of other acts; Lil Wayne brought out Nicki Minaj for an unannounced performance on Saturday, while Don Toliver surprised fans during his set with a Justin Bieber cameo. Like all Rolling Loud events, the festival sought to capture the experience of hip-hop as experienced by the youngest fans, those for whom the keywords of the genre are ‘rage’, ‘mosh’ and ‘lit’.

Scott is something of a pioneer in their eyes, releasing his major-label debut eight years ago – an eternity in rap time. (The MC’s most recent LP, “Astroworld,” came out in 2018; lately, he’s been teasing the imminent release of a sequel that will be called “Utopia.”) And here he seemed pleased with his role as king of the pit, even if he stopped inciting the mob to the kind of wild behavior he used to demand.

Travis Scott on Rolling Loud on Saturday.

(Vincent Madero / Rolling Loud)

Dressed in dark clothing and a ball cap, his eyes hidden behind a futuristic-looking mask, Scott shrieked through songs like “Highest in the Room,” “Stargazing,” and “Butterfly Effect,” his heavily processed vocals sliding over throbbing trap beats draped in faint synth textures. The low stage lighting and a hard-working smoke machine gave the show a vaguely apocalyptic feel that was only enhanced by fireworks that occasionally sent columns of fire into the sky.

Short as it was, the performance was effective because it demonstrated the state of a valuable brand unaltered by controversy. But it also reminded you that hip-hop, which has never moved as fast as it does now, evolved in Scott’s absence.

Playboi Carti, 26, whose own set was temporarily halted by Rolling Loud organizers after fans reportedly jumped a barricade, played the headliner’s slot on Friday night, pushing the aggro-rap sound that predominates at Rolling Loud to a sort of gothic nü-metal extreme, screaming almost unintelligibly as an electric guitarist ripped frantic but strangely elegant solos. Compared to Carti’s really freaky performance, Scott’s almost felt old-fashioned.