A$AP Rocky, Schoolboy Q, Danny Brown
Wednesday, October 10
The pungent smell of weed smoke and Black & Milds wafted down the stairs as I waited in line for my tickets to the LongLiveA$AP tour at the Egyptian Room at Old National Centre. It was a night of post-racial celebration and generational kinship under the guise of military imagery, odes to marijuana and good ol' fashioned hip-hop hedonism. In the words of A$AP himself "It's two thousand twelve, two thousand thirteen. Race doesn't matter. We're not black or white, but we're all purple."
I missed the bulk of opener Danny Brown's short set but luckily caught the last few songs dealing mostly with ingesting various prescription pills and smoking "blunt after blunt after blunt after blunt." Like the rest of the performers on the LongLiveA$AP tour, Brown is an artist who simply couldn't have existed in the hip-hop sphere ten years ago. He pounced around in skinny jeans and a long, slim-fitting V-neck and an asymmetrical haircut, and delivered rhymes like a strangled B-Real after raiding his grandmother's medicine cabinet -- a nasal yap hinting at a special brand of insanity. Brown seems to be a descendent in a long line of hip-hop weirdos -- Kool Keith immediately comes to mind -- and his presence set a precedent for the night i.e. it was a show that refused to fully submit to hip-hop's traditionally heteronormative values.
Schoolboy Q followed Brown and by comparison seemed ludicrously normal. He arrived on the stage in a hoodie and sunglasses, muscling through a spirited set peppered with personal anecdotes about his personal struggles and love affair with marijuana. Green smoke plumes scattered through the air during his set (and frankly, pretty much the whole night) rendering the stage's smoke machines redundant. Q is a dynamic performer though - seeming sensitive, tough and personable simultaneously. His amped set prepared the crowd for the bizarre spectacle that was A$AP Rocky.
As the interim music played on full blast, a giant banner depicting soldiers raising an upside down American flag on Iwo Jima against a beating red sun was unveiled. The DJ table was clothed in camouflage mesh and two upside down American flags flanked the stage. After a spoken-word intro complete with helicopter and gunshot sounds, A$AP arrived on the stage donned in all black and wrapped in the stars and stripes. His set was marked by hits from his debut mixtape LiveLoveA$AP, the somewhat underwhelming appearance of the A$AP Mob and a few more spoken word interludes, including an especially haunting one that paired a washed out recording of The Mamas and the Papas "California Dreaming" with graphic war sounds. It was almost a theatrical production - one that used a war aesthetic to symbolize what he called a "struggle against being misunderstood."
A$AP Rocky seems like he lives inside the pop culture zeitgeist. He's a Harlem native whose sound seems more rooted in futurism and hazy, mid-tempo Houston hip-hop than anything found in New York. He preached a post-racial message that resounded with the diverse crowd. Amidst a financial recession and global anxiety, he told the crowd that, much like him, we could do whatever we wanted to. And that night, it all seemed possible.