Material: It would be impossible to talk about the 2021 Once Upon a Time in L.A. festival in any context without talking about the tragedy that brought it to a close. In the evening, as soul legend Al Green wrapped up his set and Snoop Dogg was about to begin, L.A. rapper Drakeo the Ruler was stabbed and killed in an altercation backstage. As a result, the organizers closed down the event (correctly), and attendees drifted out in a daze. It was a horrifying conclusion to a festival that, up to that point, had seen a ton of amazing talent, young and old, dazzle on three stages. The early part of the day naturally saw plenty of up and comers and, at that point, the evening’s horrors were a long way away. Siblings Guapo and Blanco (as they generally go by) of Coyote spit out stories that, as is the tradition with the rap genre, tell of their everyday lives. Their struggles, their successes, and everything in-between. They pull no punches but, simultaneously, the ‘Yotes are super funny.
Musicianship: These guys know what they’re doing. Their rapid-fire, multi-lingual (English and Spanish) hip-hop approach alternates in vibe between chill and aggressive. Both are gifted MCs, and they have a DJ behind them supplying perfectly timed and structured beats. It all clicks together perfectly.
Performance: They also know how to put on a show, and play to their crowd. In the early part of the day at the festival, the numbers were still growing but a healthy audience gathered at the G-Funk Stage to see Coyote, and they bounced all over that stage. It was hard-hitting, fresh and exciting—as the best hip-hop always is.
Summary: Again, the evening’s tragedy means that it’s difficult to look back on the earlier performers with any pleasure. But it’s also true that, at that time in the day, Coyote shone. They are a hip-hop outfit that everyone should be keeping their eyes on, and they were not the only bright spot. Day Sulan, D3, Tayf3rd, Mr. Capone-E, Young Drummer Boy, King Lil G and Snow Tha Product were further highlights of a festival that started so brightly and ended in darkness. At the end of it all, we’re left mourning a young talent at the dawn of a promising career. RIP Drakeo the Ruler.
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Players: Guapo Cortés and Ricky Blanco (vocals)