Concert review: A$AP Rocky at Town Ballroom
blog by Ben Kirst • January 27, 2012 @ 1:13am
Writing about a hip-hop show can be a little like trying to talk about a Jackson Pollock painting. There’s a lot of interesting stuff going on with no place to really start.
During the course of A$AP Rocky’s performance at Town Ballroom on Thursday night, there were up to a dozen people on stage at any time. Songs started and ended quickly. Rocky’s DJ, J. Scott, spun vocal tracks that Rocky would shout over, often cutting out to catch his breath, dive in the crowd or bounce energetically to another corner of the stage. Rocky smoked weed offered by the audience. He drank part of a 40, and then handed it off to a kid in the front row. He proclaimed his love for Buffalo again and again. The whole thing was done in about 40 minutes.
If you were used to watching bands grind though 90-minute shows, then Rocky’s performance was a little jarring—a deconstructed mess that just seemed to happen. As Buffalo MC Mic Excel noted afterwards, “It wasn’t really a show, it was aerobics.”
As far as aerobics go, though, it was pretty amazing. The show felt like an event. Rocky—who announced that he now wants to be known as Flacko, a new identity he introduced in the recent track / video “Pretty Flacko”—is on the cusp of stardom, the recent recipient of a $3 million deal from RCA and one of the opening acts on Drake’s Club Paradise tour.
In the course of just a few months, the Harlem native has advanced from obscurity to become a darling of the music press. Rocky’s deft musical integration of the Houston chopped-and-screwed method with a hard New York edge is deliriously addictive, and his subject matter—purple drank, weed, women, money and clothes—is certainly as populist as anything put out by his Southern counterparts but has a sort of joyous, hedonistic edge that other, more nihilistic artists lack.
And it makes you want to dance. Rocky bounced onstage Thursday night in an all-black outfit, including a VSVP hoodie and Ric Owens boots, opening with buoyant version of “Brand New Guy” (not easy for a song that revolves around a sizzurp-slow chorus) from his sensational mixtape LiveLoveA$AP.
“I swear,” Rocky said, “I love all you motherf#$%ers.”
Rocky then tore threw “Wassup” and moved into a reconstructed version of “Purple Swag,” the online hit that helped escalate him into the national spotlight. He dove into the crowd. He abruptly ended the song by declaring “F&$k swag,” and exhorted the crowd to pass him weed (successfully). Rocky shouted a chopped version of “Bass,” then gave a shout-out to “...the girl who tried to steal my hat” when he crowd-dove. Losing his breath but continuing to catapult himself across the stage, Rocky whipped off versions of “Get Lit,” “Trilla” and “Pretty Flacko” before wrapping up his set with a condensed version of “Peso.”
Many in the audience—which seemed to have a median age of about 19—made the rookie mistake of clearing out early, because moments later, Rocky returned to a half-capacity crowd and ripped into a reprise of “Peso,” this time diving onto the floor at stage right, then stage left, then in the very center of the audience before he properly ended the show.
Was it a great performance? In terms of sheer technical ability, not really. Was it entertaining? Absolutely. Was it interesting to share the room with a 23-year-old kid who may be the next hip-hop sensation? Again, absolutely. It will be interesting to see how Rocky evolves, how the early rush of fame and fortune shape his personality and his music, and whether this Buffalo show will be a soon-forgotten footnote in local music history or if this will become one of those concerts that—in five years—everyone claims to have attended. We’re rooting for you, Flacko.
Photo from ASAP Rocky / Facebook.