“I take what’s mine, then take some more”
A$AP Rocky looked like a fly dystopian bass fisherman in a red jumpsuit and yellow hooded Prada vest, with a crash-test dummy mask and Bred Jordan 1’s. Taking stage at Place Bell last Friday on a smiley face at the end of a catwalk, Rocky’s voice was unmistakable when he started rattling off his new hits, starting with his Skepta-starring smash “Praise The Lord.”
When Rocky broke in 2011 with the A$AP Mob, he was lauded for his innovative, high fashion wardrobe seen in videos shot on the streets of Harlem. The juxtaposition complimented his rap style that blended pitched-down, Houston-esqe flows with dense, Cam’ron-inspired rhyme schemes. An infallible charisma held him together as someone that was sure to rise out of Harlem and into stadiums. Eight years later, the man, the music and the fashion have evolved, and a new generation of fans has followed. After cracking off the first hits that new supporters were clamoring for, Rocky showed that his live show had grown as well.
An interface was set up between two big drum pads in the shape of toxic waste barrels in the centre of the smiley stage. After finger-drumming the beat for “Distorted Records,” Rocky played the anthemic drum pattern for “A$AP Forever” on the barrels. The stage was adorned with the yellow and white Secchi disk, known as the crash test dummy logo, down to Rocky’s ear monitors. An AI-sounding voice barked commands at the audience and Rocky throughout the set, as if it was some human experimentation, or, TESTING, a concept that manages as a hype tool, but fell a little flat as an overarching theme.
Three cars styled in Mad Max decrepitude hovered, suspended from the ceiling while they were lifted and lowered to the beat. Rocky strapped a harness on and ascended stories high on one in the fleet as he rapped some of the bigger cuts from TESTING on its hood. In the din of the crowd and the haze of copious pyrotechnics, this felt like watching a man live out his dream. That wasn’t the end of Rocky and the apocalypse jalopy. He proceeded to get in the driver’s seat to perform “CALLDROPS,” his slow, melancholic track, while a wide-angle camera shot through the driver’s side window and showed us the feed live on the main screen. Phones lit up the arena as Rocky’s serene notes swayed the audience. This moment made a unique atmosphere in a set that had been rich with production.
The fourth quarter of the show had Rocky solo on stage tearing through some of his older smashes. It’s accepted now, especially in stadium shows, but his use of backing vocal tracks during the verses took some of the edge off of the breakneck flows that set Rocky apart in those days. “Fuckin’ Problems” created a divide in the crowd as I looked around to younger fans that didn’t know the 2012 Drake-featuring banger. It was clear that Rocky has been able to continue to evolve and amass fans for the better part of the decade, and has come a long way from his videos of white girls with grills in the streets of Harlem. Even having eked out of his twenties last October, Rocky showed that he isn’t going anywhere, and is evolving as his peers do. He is, however, going to find it hard to top the floating cars.