Photos by Mary Tio
Did you know that Flog Gnaw spelled backward is Golf Wang? Were you also aware that the brand Golf Wang originated from the iconic 2007 alternative hip-hop collective Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All, commonly abbreviated as OFWGKTA? This realization certainly blew my mind, especially when you consider that some of the core members of the collective include popular artists like Mike G., Left Brain, Tyler, the Creator, Domo Genesis, Frank Ocean, Syd, Earl Sweatshirt, among many others who have graced the stages and walked the pavement over the course of the weekend. It’s no wonder why the Camp Flog Gnaw Carnival experience has a unique flair compared to other SoCal festivals. Not only is the lineup stacked with musical legends, but there is also an element of community shared among the artists. It’s a weekend for reuniting with old friends, sharing spaces of creativity, and showing love.
For lyricist, DJ, and Chopstar artist Mike G., community is precisely what draws him back. Whether it’s the nostalgic feel from his early Odd Future days or his ambition to connect with his audience through his songs, Camp Flog Gnaw is a time for celebrating artistic growth. He found his way into making music after feeling inspired by a production class he took at Crenshaw High School, nudging him to explore chop and screw music. This became his form of self-expression, ultimately catching the interest of Tyler and leading to Mike G.’s addition to Odd Future. Over the years, this group of creative and expressive friends has toured the world, worked on compilation projects, and supported one another in each of their personal endeavors.
It’s an incredibly special opportunity for me to be here today at Camp Flog Gnaw to speak with Mike G. about all things music and personal growth.
Mary: Welcome to UCLA Radio! My name is Mary Tio and today I am joined by…
Mike G. : Mike G.!
Mary: We’re so excited to have you here today. How’s the start to your Camp Flog Gnaw weekend going?
Mike G. : It’s been cool. We skirted into the parking lot, then ran straight for Left Brain’s set and made it right on time.
Mary: That’s perfect timing! We also checked out his set for a bit, and it was really fun. You’ve been making music since high school, starting off with rapping on mixtapes, which over time led you to meeting Left Brain. He ultimately introduced you to the cult rap collective Odd Future. How has your creative process evolved since those beginning days?
Mike G. : Honestly, for the most part, it’s stayed the same. Ideas and transitions come to me, and really the only main difference is I have all the time to create now. That’s what has been my main focus now—just to create and live.
Mary: Now that you have all the time you want to focus on your art, what does living mean to you?
Mike G. : It’s really drawing inspiration. You know, waking up when the universe allots, having the freedom to designate time to whatever I’m drawing inspiration from. If I feel like I need to sit there for six hours and listen to some other artists like Paris Texas or whoever, I can justify it mentally.
Mary: When you’re in that creative headspace, do you prefer your process being solo or more collaborative?
Mike G. : I mean, it definitely goes hand in hand, and both of them have their pros and cons. Drawing inspiration is involuntary, so if somebody says something that might spark up an idea, even if it’s subconscious stuff, a collaborative effort is always appreciated, especially when it’s in the moment. Even when I’m in the studio, a moment could happen, and that can turn into a song—it’s occurrences like that that lead to organic music-making.
Mary: That’s rad. I noticed when listening to your music, there’s a consistent effort to establish a connection between you and your audience. In what ways do you try to go beyond songs to connect with your fans?
Mike G. : The music videos and cover art are important, even down to the finer details like the images I include. I feel that everything sends a message, and it can really craft intention or direction. I think everything is all-inclusive.
Mary: I respect that. Your career in music has expanded over the last decade. Is there a significant moment within your career that has influenced your artistic direction?
Mike G. : I can’t say there’s a specific moment; it’s been more like gradual growth over time. Especially when you’re trying out new sounds, I have always been appreciative of the moment and trusted myself. It’s really about becoming more comfortable with experimentation, which drives changing and adjusting.”
Mary: At UCLA, we have our own body of young aspiring artists, which you once were. What insights do you have to share that helped keep you motivated to stick to music when you were in that position?
Mike G. : For me, failure was one of those things. I just couldn’t accept anything other than wanting to do what I wanted to do, no matter what it looked like. Fortunately, this is how it looks now. Sticking with what you are confident in, what you believe in, regardless of whether it ends up being wrong or right later. Embracing how you feel at that moment can be the driving force that propels you over the edge to reach what no one else has yet.
Mary: Thank you, that’s really inspirational. Now for one of my favorite questions to ask: What sets are you looking forward to?
Mary: *giggles* All amazing performers; that’s exciting! How does it feel being back at Camp Flog Gnaw and sharing this weekend with artists that you share a deep connection with outside of performing?
Mike G. : The similar mindstate, timing, and longevity of how everyone knows each other is so crazy. Especially at this point, if you see them at the Grammys or a show in a random city, we’re all friends since we all know each other from coming up in the same small towns.
Mary: Sounds like you have a strong community.
Mike G.: Yes, I definitely do. I’m happy to be a part of your community.
Mary: You’re always welcome in the UCLA Radio community. We appreciate you giving us your time and sharing your thoughts and feelings with us.
Mike G. : Definitely. UCLA Radio is high up on my list.
Mary: We’re honored.
The compliment made me feel honored, and as a young journalist, sharing the experiences of such a highly successful artist with a community of readers who have their own aspirations means the world to me.
Mike G. is a revolutionary figure, and his creativity extends beyond his discography. Be sure to check out his stylish retail line, Stealth Fighter, for new drip, and follow him on Instagram (@gomikeg) for announcements of new releases that you’ll surely want to add to your playlist!