Five minutes before ASAP Rocky’s headlining set was supposed to begin at ComplexCon 2021, a group of people rushed into the middle of the crowd. For a few moments, there was confusion as the group made their way through the audience, before ultimately forming a circle around 100 feet from the stage. Then, out of nowhere, Rocky popped up from the middle of the circle and started performing “Grim Freestyle.”
Wearing a Black Scale Funeral snapback hat, a red AWGE flannel, and a white tee, he pulled an American flag over his shoulders and rapped in the middle of an arena full of people at Long Beach Convention Center. As he thrashed around in the middle of a chaotic crowd, dressed in throwback threads, you couldn’t help but think of those wild performances he used to do in smaller New York clubs back when he first broke through with Live. Love. ASAP a decade ago. It was a fitting beginning to a night that acted as a walk down memory lane for Rocky, who was there to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of his iconic debut mixtape.
“If you grew up on this shit, we’re about to have a motherfucking good time,” he said at the top of the show. “We’re going down memory lane. Let’s go through this album.”
Working down the tracklist of the beloved mixtape, which was recently made available on DSPs for the first time, Rocky started at the top with “Palace,” “Peso,” “Bass,” “Wassup,” “Brand New Guy,” and “Purple Swag,” stopping between songs to reminisce on his early days running around New York City with the ASAP Mob. Putting a new twist on otherwise faithful renditions of the songs, he brought out a saxophone player for an outro at the end of “Purple Swag,” before members of the Mob joined him onstage for “Trilla.”
When ASAP Ferg came out for “Kissin’ Pink,” the two reminisced on their early days together. Ferg brought up their first tour with Drake, then got sentimental with Rocky. “I wanted to be a fashion designer, and you were like, ‘Yo, bro, we should do this rapping shit,’” he recalled. “And you told my mom, ‘Yo, I promise I’m going to make your son a millionaire and all that shit.’ And she looked at you crazy.”
Rocky responded, “She kicked me out the house,” and Ferg laughed, “She said, ‘Who is this weird-ass n***a with a perm in his hair’” Then Ferg got sincere and told Rocky, “This n***a stayed true and we fucking built an empire. I appreciate you and I just want to say I love and admire you.” The two shared a hug, then Rocky shouted out his Houston influences and launched into “Houston Old Head.”
Rocky faithfully stuck to the original tracklist of Live. Love. ASAP throughout the night—with one exception. Sensing that energy levels had dipped during “Acid Drip,” he called an audible and played a newer song: his 2018 Skepta collab, “Praise The Lord (Da Shine).” The break for new songs was a short one, though, because he immediately went back to Live. Love. ASAP and played “Leaf” next.
“It feels like yesterday that we were just coming out and shit,” he said a few moments later. “I remember, with these ASAP n***as, feeling like we were ready to change shit for the better. Ten years later, to see all my n***as eating, all my n***as doing well, everybody prospering, just to see the world inspired by the hunger and shit like that… You got me going down memory lane. Some of these songs I ain’t do since 2011 and shit, so this shit is kind of crazy and surreal for me.”
One thing that’s changed since those early 2011 performances was a member of the audience on Sunday night: Rihanna. She stood next to the stage throughout the performance and cheered on Rocky, who she’s been dating throughout 2021.
Before the second-to-last song, “Demons,” Rocky addressed the tragedy at Travis Scott’s Astroworld Festival this weekend, where eight fans died. “My prayers go out to everybody who lost their lives in Texas the other day, going to Astroworld Fest,” he said. “My heart goes out to that guy, and everybody who lost their lives. Condolences. I hope everybody gets home safe tonight.”
Rocky finished the set in style, standing on a pillar that raised about 25 feet in the air as he performed the mixtape closer, “Sandman.” Then, as he literally came back down to earth, he let out one final “A-fucking-SAP,” and the house lights turned on.
With that, ComplexCon 2021 ended on a perfect note.