Gunner Stahl, best known for shooting some of hip-hop’s most iconic moments, stepped even further into his niche by curating his first live concert titled Gunner Stahl and Friends. By himself, Stahl has a massive social media following for his 35mm portraits of artists such as Tyler the Creator, Playboi Carti, and Miley Cyrus. It’s clear that Gunner is no stranger to the music industry and anybody that is even half-interested in contemporary rap would want to see his friends perform.
In a gutted grocery store in KoreaTown, a sold-out show began with the clamor of who was performing that night and when Gunner was going to make an appearance without a camera. In the background, an unknown DJ played contemporary rap music with hi-hats and ad-libs galore. Amidst the jokes of the entire show just being him taking a picture of the crowd and leaving, there was genuine curiosity for which artists the photographer had on his line-up. Shortly after, DJ Kenny Beats, most known for producing tracks for the likes of Travis Scott, Rico Nasty, and Ski Mask the Slump God, claimed the stage and caffeinated the crowd. Did I mention there was free redbull? In the heat of the moment, mosh pits opened and bodies flew. But this was only a precursor for what was to come.
Shortly after Kenny Beats wrapped his set, the momentum was on a clear decline. Most moshers were already weary by then, and questions of who was on the surprise line-up re-emerged. No signs of Gunner Stahl until the angelic synths of “Long Time” by Playboi Carti started popping off. Past the smoke and mirrors was Gunner himself and behind him was A$AP Lou and his DJ set. The photographer brought on some of his more lowkey friends. The crowd was hype, but not for long - the most common club hits felt overplayed by then and the opening friends were not recognized by the crowd, including myself. Sensing the decline in energy, Gunner reaffirmed the crowd saying, “Ya’ll please bear with me this is my first show. I got some more friends though.” Stahl was met with loud applause and support as the beat for “Faneto” started playing in the background. A wall of smoke, and Chicago’s own Chief Keef stormed the stage. Chaos ensued.
You ever seen that video of a house party where Faneto is playing and the floor breaks open? That was exactly my fear; it was definitely a possibility with this crowd. Drill Music is truly a different breed. Just after Keef wrapped up with “Love Sosa”, Gunner Stahl asks how the crowd feels about Young Nudy. Chants of “free Young Nudy” erupted. I didn’t get it, because we’ve known he was free. But whatever, Young Nudy took the mic and had the front row reaching for the stage and everyone else fighting for supremacy in the mosh. Still, the climax had not yet been reached and the crowd was waiting for more friends. Gunner rose to the occasion, bringing on the final act of the night: Rae Sremmurd. Opening with “42”, the same song for which Stahl directed his first music video, the crowd was in bliss when Swae Lee and Slim Jxmmy brought unprecedented energy to an old grocery store. For the first time in that store’s history (and many other grocery stores, probably), Slim Jxmmy crowd surfed while Swae Lee carried the vocals for “No Type”. At only 10pm, Rae Sremm’s brief set was ended with disposable cameras raining from the stage. Truly, this was Gunner Stahl’s show. Before the crowd knew it, the lights were off and it was over.
For his first concert, Gunner Stahl demonstrated that he is much more than just a photographer in the music industry- he is a rap mogul that does not even rap.
— Alfred Bordallo, DJ