“We came to turn the motherfuckin’ world upside down,”A$AP Rocky’s voice drawled mischievously across a dim stage that was decorated like a minimalist guerilla jungle fort. Two upside-down, black and white American flags flanked the stage, and a backdrop depicted the soldiers at Iwo Jima raising another flipped flag. Rocky rushed the stage after the epic intro, face covered like a train robber, shoulders draped with a flag. “We only have one mission… conquer!” He met with an already won-over crowd, uniformly chanting “ASAP” as the first beat of his LongLiveA$AP tour dropped at Lupo’s in Providence, Rhode Island.
Rocky calls himself “that pretty motherfucker,” and he’s brimming with as much amiable charisma as braggadocio. H has a $3 million record deal, an insurgent single on the radio, and he just spat bars on a remix of a Rihanna’s “Cockiness.” When he performed that song with her on the MTV VMA’s, he snuck a smooch on the neck and a pinch of the booty. He has been cagey with the details of his debut, casually delaying the release twice – now it’s promised by Halloween. Despite the name of the tour, Rocky’s set didn’t feature much new material, but A$AP Mob’s Lords Never Worry mixtape is only three weeks old. Rocky also picked smart tourmates in like-minded rapper bros Schoolboy Q and Danny Brown. They’re three very different artists, but all identify as outsiders: Danny’s the don’t-give-a-fuck weirdo from Detroit, Q’s the sensitive guy on independent L.A. label Top Dawg Entertainment, and Rocky fancies himself a “misunderstood” high fashionista of New York’s Uptown scene. Together they made a trifecta of high octane, new school hip-hop.
Opener Danny Brown’s “Bruiser Brigade” and “Blunt After Blunt” were anthems for the swath of young boys in the pit, ready to rage. The asymmetrically styled, teeth-grinding Detroiter mostly played from XXX, but spiked his set with recently released, harebrained tracks like “The Black Brad Pitt.” Brown’s signature is his unabashed, spastic flow that blurts out like an effect of many competing drugs. He was whimsical onstage, pausing mid-song to puff on a blunt from the crowd, and repeatedly flicking out his long, pointed tongue through a chipped smile. He ended set highlight “I Will” a cappella to clearly articulate every sloppy detail of his enthusiastic, graphic ode to going down.
Schoolboy Q’s records are more serious: dark, reflective, and emotional – full of woozy, nervous space. His live set was not. He sustained the energy from Danny Brown, shouting and throwing his body into the rhymes. He’s the most versatile rapper on the bill, but he traded much of his music’s subtle and sad beauty for frenzied energy. Early in his set, Q asked the crowd seriously, “If you don’t know anything you can know what? That I got some motherfucking weed!” The beat for “iBETiGOTSUMWEED” drove the crowd nuts, resulting in the night’s densest exhalation of pot smoke with Q surfing the crowd.
All three rappers had hands up all night, and many of these hands were white, as Q pointed out. “I have a lot of white people at my shows and shit,” he joshed. “Every time I perform ‘Blessed’ they be scared to say ‘blessed my n***a…’ like, we’re at a hip hop concert, it’s 2012. We abuse the word, you know what I’m saying? I’m giving y’all a pass right now so let’s go.” And the crowd went, singing loudly to Q’s collab with Black Hippy bud Kendrick Lamar. “All right, don’t say that shit no more,” Q added afterwards. “I don’t want to be responsible.”
Later, Rocky weighed in on fan demographics with a lighthearted, blissy hippy bent. “We all one people,” he said. “Color doesn’t matter. We’re purple people, man.” Rocky and the Mob were on their best behavior, full of peace and positivity, despite their militaristic aesthetic. A$AP had a few violent incidents earlier this year and sports a reputation for wild moshing, but they put on a good, clean show. The group mostly raps about having a good time anyway: chronic, cough syrup, and girls. There was one minor scuffle in the crowd, and Rocky was quick to break it up: “Bruh! Bruh! Keep the peace! We came here for the love.” Rocky and the Mob just seemed thrilled to be at the packed show.
Rocky kicked off the A$AP set solo, blazing through mixtape favorites “Wassup,” “Purple Swag,” and “Purple Kisses.” Emerging to Jimi Hendrix’s “Purple Haze,” A$AP Ferg, Twelvy, Nast, and Ant ran through some Lords Never Worry material. Rocky has long been committed to boosting his homeboys, and he happily shared the stage, waving an American flag while the camo-clad Mobsters rapped. The crew cheekily sang “Coke and White Bitches.” Ferg, the next Mob member “on deck” for a solo album, had the most fully realized solo performance with his cut “Work.” But Rocky was always the chief spectacle. Dressed all in white, he commanded the stage with a swagger reminiscent of young Jagger – a lady killer so confident in his mannish exuberance that he’s unafraid to challenge fashion and pout his pretty, feminine good looks.
Schoolboy Q returned to the stage for his joints with Rocky, “Brand New Guy” and “Hands On The Wheel.” Then Rocky rapped his “Cockiness” verse, followed by his undeniable, Hit-Boy produced banger, “Goldie.” A$AP Rocky is clearly indebted to the codeine-warped “trill” sound of the Houston rap scene, but he considers himself and his crew thoroughly NYC, repping Harlem hard all night. He proudly closed the show with “Pe$o,” the video for which prominently features the group rolling deep in their neighborhood. Rocky’s parting words were, again, full of optimism and gratefulness. “It’s all about strivin’ and positivity,” he said. “Stay positive. Knowledge is power.”