Meditating with Lil Yachty at FlashFest 2023


Emma Van Winkle

Lil Yachty gives some love to the Kent State crowd as he performs at FlashFest April 6, 2023.

Grace Davies, Staff Reporter

Even three hours before doors were set to open, dozens of people crowded the MACC stairs, hoping to get the best seats at this year’s FlashFest. The line began taking participants at 2 p.m., and by 4:30 p.m., the line stretched to the doors of the Student Center Hub and under the building’s awning.

Kent State students enjoy watching the performers of FlashFest April 6, 2023. FlashFest had performances by Kent’s own DJ Smillz, along with Kash Doll and Lil Yachty. (Emma Van Winkle)

The lineup included Kent’s own DJ Smillz, rapper Kash Doll and headliner Lil Yachty.

Andrew Powell, a freshman business management major, was toward the front of the line for his first FlashFest and said he was somehow not cold despite the intense winds and cloudy weather. Powell was most excited for Kash Doll, as it was his first time seeing her live.

“Huge fan,” he said. “She grew up in my hometown.”

CJ Brothers, a freshman exploratory major, was toward the end of the line, only then waiting for 15 minutes. It was also his first FlashFest, but he was most excited for Lil Yachty.

“I have seen him before,” he said. “At Rolling Loud [festival] Miami last summer. I was in the middle, it was a big mosh pit [and] a big crowd but it was fun.”

Once 6:10 p.m. hit, people (some clad in “Little Boat” shirts) began rushing toward the barricade but were quickly instructed to sit down by the security guards. The crowd gradually grew, swelling further onto the floor.

DJ Smillz hypes up the crowd of FlashFest April 6, 2023. (Emma Van Winkle)

DJ Smillz came out an hour later and the floor completely blew up with the crowd jumping up and down. From the get-go, he did not let the energy slow down once, occasionally dropping the vocals out of certain tracks so the audience could sing (or scream) the words and fill the room.

“We got greatness in the building,” Smillz said during a pause in his set to acknowledge the student athletes, both present or absent.

Smillz also dedicated a few tracks to “munchies” and “hot girls” and concluded his set with a couple of questions pointed at Kent’s rival, Akron, as well as another MAC opponent, Bowling Green.

“What the hell is a Zip? What’s a Falcon to a Golden Flash? Akron, that’s that shit I don’t like.”

These questions hung in the air as the crew began to set up for Kash Doll. The pit was getting too crushed to the point of being told to step back by police. Smillz wandered around, greeting those at the barricade before heading up to the balconies; he even swapped shirts with a student for a piece of his merch in the left-hand balcony.

It was hazy and calm until the energy quickly bounced back up once Kash Doll’s DJ, Angel Baby, came back out to hype the crowd up. She encouraged the crowd to put their cellphone lights in the air to highlight Kash Doll as she strolled onto the stage.

Doll energized the crowd as she bounced into her hit “Here I Go.”

If DJ Smillz got the energy hyped up, Doll kept it at a soaring party level, strolling and commanding the stage while the barricade screamed along to songs like “Run Me My Money” while videos to the songs played behind the strobing lights.

“Now I wanna see a little bit of twerking,” Doll said, making the crowd reach a fever pitch level before going into “ON THE FLO.”

Doll pulled two fans out of the barricade to let them rap along, motivating them and the crowd to cheer with the students.

Kash Doll shows off her dance moves during her opening performance for Lil Yachty during FlashFest April 6, 2023. (Emma Van Winkle)

After concluding with “Heavy,” Doll exited the stage but walked out through the security pit to take photos with fans at the barricade.

Lil Yachty’s band, two singers, a bassist, guitarist, keyboardist and drummer, all set up while the crowd petered down to conserve their energy. They began to chant “Yachty! Yachty!” while the lighting began to readjust.

The lights transitioned to blue, then to darkness, causing countless screams and cheers. The screen played a video of a Max Fleisher-esque owl, animated by hand discussing artistic evolutions and the artistic process before glitching into a 2000s 3-D computer owl.

Yachty then took the stage to rapturous cheers and violent jumping.

I was fully expecting the party atmosphere to be continuing, but Yachty surprised me by opening with “the BLACK Seminole,” a decidedly rocky yet mellower cut that soothed the crowd into a communal focus on the music. This set the tone for the first part of Yachty’s set.

Lil Yachty was the main performer of FlashFest April 6, 2023. (Emma Van Winkle)

Yachty went into other similarly serene and musically complex songs (his background singers were phenomenal as was his entirely femme-presenting band) which showed his growth as an artist throughout his career. Songs like “running out of Time” and “paint THE sky” show intensely heartfelt sentimentality and blew me away.

The crowd had died down by this point, a lot of people swaying around to the newer, unfamiliar music. It was hypnotically amazing.

Yachty took a minuscule break while a video of Bob Ross played on the screen, his band leaving the stage for him to do solo work.

“Y’all still with me?” He asked at some point, the crowd essentially swaying to the music. To pump the crowd back up, Yachty quickly busted into some of his older hit songs like “Minnesota” and “Broccoli,” making the crowd form a circle pit and get the energy to the level of the openers.

These were the songs I knew but there was something about it that made me feel bad for Yachty; he blew me away with all of this newer material that had a gospel choir meets Pink Floyd playing in the ruins of Pompeii sound with so much heart put into it. Despite this, the crowd physically responded the most to this older and most popular material.

In the end, Yachty let the crowd know that he “loved every single one of you right now” and knew that the crowd wanted to hear both sides of his discography, putting everything into his performance and leaving his heart out on the stage once the music stopped.

Grace Davies is a Staff Reporter. Contact her at [email protected].