The Show: The "Long Live A$AP" Tour with A$AP Rocky, A$AP Mob, ScHoolboy Q and Danny Brown
Where: Roseland Ballroom, NYC, September 27
In A Few Words: "I'm putting my sunglasses on."
"Turnt up" is the phrase du jour, the kind of thing people say just because other people are saying it, not because there's no other way to describe a feeling. Last year, similarly, big events were "zoos," then "movies," then (naturally) "zoovies." The world continues to spin and now we as a society are all saying "turnt up." We've come so far.
Last night, at Roseland Ballroom, A$AP Rocky performed for a little over an hour, putting on a show that he hoped would be big and loud and memorable, drawing inspiration from Apocalypse Now, Martin Scorcese, and hip-hop shows of the 1990s. With the feeling that bigger is better, the lights got turnt up. The volume, the schlock and the fog machines got turnt up. Rocky extended the invitation and fifteen of his friends turnt up, and it all turnt out to be way too much. So many artists don't try hard enough; for Rocky, his problem is the opposite.
There are easy solutions: the lights are aggressive and bright, battering the senses as if programmed by Pokemon animators. Most of Rocky's songs are quiet stoner's anthems, with crawling bass and breathy flutes; the type to make cars slalom. As such, they don't really play great under strobes so strong. (A rare exception: the bending, ethereal "Peso" closed out the night, transformed into a free-for-all curtain call. Also, the opening song, so far unreleased, which is manic and violent and perfect.) So, right, cut the lights off. Cut the interludes, where Rocky exits the stage for yet another costume change while his voice explains the A$AP politik over "Purple Haze" and "California Dreamin." (A snippet: "The reason that those flags are upside down are because our world is upside down. We're just trying to be understood.")
With some slight edits, one is left with a strong show, especially when Rocky is joined by all of his A$AP Mob cohorts. In the past, it's been the rule that hip-hop crews were composed of hangers-on and weak links: the St. Lunatics and YMCMB seem like the best examples. With A$AP, the whole is more than any individual. It's an egalitarian experience, where Ferg can outshine Twelvy can outshine Nast can outshine Ant can outshine Rocky can outshine Ferg, with boundless combinations to that effect.
Ferg's Timb-stomper "Work" might have been the best part of the set, followed by Rocky's "Pretty Flacko" or maybe even Twelvy and Nast's verses from "Trilla." Somehow, Ant's "Coke & White Bitches" could be in the conversation, too. (Opening act Danny Brown stumbled out with Kitty Pryde and her blonde friend stuffed under his arms, VIP stickers, and Brown's hands plastered to their breasts.)
The concert experience is a bit like watching "Multiplicity" crossed with the "Mercy" video, all filtered through a codeine-filled Welch's bottle, though that doesn't really convey how much fun it is to watch them all interact. 15 members, all in various stages of military gear, the stage resembling Max's play production in Rushmore. While Rocky sat back and retied his bandanna, Ferg cooked crack with one hand, his other elbow churning butter. At the same time, Nast snapped his neck to the side, Twelvy's teeth gleamed, Ant swung around in a circle, and a background soldier waved his arms like a cat playing with yarn.
At any one time, there is at least one Mob member pretending to fire a gun, pulling back and firing imaginary clip after clip. Trigger pulls and bomb blasts exist like punctuation, the start of a song, the end of another. Bodega Bamz chug-a-lugged out with the Tanboys, and the Flatbush Zombies made noises no human should make, and everyone seemed genuinely happy to just share the spotlight (even as they screamed about death and killing and whatever).
ScHoolboy Q, the best performer of the night on any stage and any night, reemerged to do "Brand New Guy" and "Hands on the Wheel," their chemistry stronger than anything ingested backstage. These guys are the future, and yet it's such a throwback concert, chaotic and overloaded. It's a beautiful mess. Bless it.
Best Songs: ScHoolboy Q's "Sexting," A$AP Ferg's "Work"
Worst Song: A$AP Rocky's "Cockiness (Remix)"
Crowd Noise: Some girls groaning behind me while Rocky said, "It's 2012, almost 2013. Color doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if you white, black, brown, yellow, whatever. Because we all purple people." (I mean, sure, but earlier in the show, Rocky and Ant bantered back and forth over what color of girl they liked—introducing a song about white girls—so clearly it still sort-of matters to them?)
Spotted: A girl with a tattoo of a Glock pistol on her inner thigh; DJs A-Trak and Nick Catchdubs; a seven-year-old with arms crossed; camouflage; forward-facing bandannas; a white guy wearing a Macklemore shirt; girls who knew the words to "Knuck If U Buck."
Additional Thoughts: I could go on and on about how ScHoolboy Q is the best performer out there right now, or about how going to a Rocky show is much like Halloween, but instead I'll just mention that, when "Peso" closed out the show, the kid from The Dark Knight Rises was onstage, yelling the lyrics under an A$AP member's tutelage and it was the weirdest. (Actually, upon leaving the show, my friend and I went to a diner two blocks away where we saw a goat taking a piss on the restaurant wall while two patrons tried to pet it, and THAT was the weirdest. New York!)