Rap phenoms, football icons, and cryptocurrency connoisseurs converged Saturday night at Academy in Los Angeles for a scene that only Rolling Stone could summon. At the Hollywood nightclub, the big game took a back seat for a few hours at least, and pop culture excellence held center stage.
The party was the latest installment of Rolling Stone Live during Super Bowl Weekend, the first to be hosted in Los Angeles in nearly 30 years. This year’s event saw a headlining performance from teenage Australian heartthrob Kid LAROI coming off his first-ever No. 1 hit. Ahead of his set, Tinashe, Lil Jon, and iann Dior warmed up excited partygoers gathered under the strobe lights, which included everyone from hall-of-fame Rams running back Eric Dickerson to a Cincinnati Bengals fan who put his fandom on full display by dying his torso-length beard with the team’s signature orange and black.
Against this backdrop, presenting partner Coinbase unveiled the creation of an exclusive NFT designed by 12 digital artists in collaboration with Rolling Stone. Coinbase Camp was a hub for the party’s crypto enthusiasts; there, LED screens mounted throughout displayed a selection of the artists’ work, lending the room an electric energy. For several in attendance, viewing the pieces in a packed club pulsing to Kanye West and Too $hort beats felt like a new frontier at the intersection of art and tech.
It was also a new frontier for Kid LAROI. The 18-year-old topped the charts last August with “Stay,” an up-tempo duet with Justin Bieber, and while he’s performed the song at no less than the MTV VMAs, he’s only performed it for an in-person audience a few times after launching his first headlining tour last month. LAROI jumped in excitement when the beat started, shaking his shaggy blonde hair and stomping in black motorcycle boots to reciprocate his crowd’s energy.
Earlier, 22-year-old emo rapper Iann Dior kicked off the party with a set on the MCM-powered outdoor stage as fans sang along from VIP booths that were provided courtesy of Vivid Seats. “It’s gonna be hard,” Dior’s bassist said beforehand, accurately reading the crowd full of catcalling fans. When Dior stepped out, winking in purple silk bell bottoms and tuxedo vest, the front rows swooned. He played four songs from his sophomore album On to Better Things, released last month, and left room for “Mood,” his breakout collaboration with 24kGoldn.
Crunk music luminary Lil Jon followed with a DJ set that played on the percolating crowd’s sense of nostalgia. The former East Side Boyz frontman opened with Dr. Dre classics in dedication to the Super Bowl halftime headliner. He proceeded with a run of ringtone rap hits before shifting gears and instructing his audience to, “Let your inner white girl out right now.” The charge was immediately followed by hits from Vanessa Carlton and Nathasha Bedingfield before he closed down by spinning his own ubiquitous 2000’s crowd favorite “Get Low.”
Tinashe got low herself, with a performance featuring choreography as athletic as any move featured in the big game the following afternoon. The singer served selections spanning her critically-acclaimed catalog, including tracks from her latest album 333 and her Mustard-produced 2014 breakout hit “2 On.” The set properly showcased her vocal talents, dance prowess, and even her rapping on the Songs For You standout “Link Up.”
As if that weren’t enough, DoorDash treated attendees to a pair of surprise food deliveries that kept spirits high deep into the night as legendary DJ Kaskade wrapped up the festivities with an EDM set to remember.