ASAP Rocky, Schoolboy Q, Danny Brown
October 27, 2012
To finish up the California portion of the “LONGLIVEA$AP” tour, a show was lined up at our favorite Santa Ana spot, the Observatory. It was sold out several weeks in advance, so before we even entered the industrial outlining of the Observatory on Saturday, we knew to expect a crowd ready to pop like a cellar full of uncorked Champagne bottles. All three of the bill's performers — Harlem's ASAP Rocky, Detroit's gap-toothed wordsmith Danny Brown, and LA's grooviest Schoolboy Q — are quickly building bodies of work worth listening to for years to come and have established fanbases large enough to have their own portion of the census. Everything was set up for enough anticipation to get everyone doing Birdman's signature hand-rubbing.
Danny Brown was first up to perform, and emerged looking like the rap game Robert Smith. That is, if Robert Smith had replaced his entire career with a descent into riotous madness aided and abetted by ecstasy, amphetamines, and Hennessy.
Throughout Brown's set, he revealed himself as the clear “lyricist's choice” of his tourmate trio, while keeping the atmosphere at a level heated enough to keep up with his bars. Things only slowed down for a couple moments during “I Will” and “Radio Song.” Otherwise, wildfire-starting cuts like “Black Brad Pitt,” “Witit,” and “Bruiser Brigade” ensured no one would leave the venue with any remaining pent-up aggression.
After Brown closed down shop, Schoolboy Q moved to the front stage. Signature bucket hat placed firmly on his head, he bounced, jumped, and gestured enough to scientifically prove his mid-show rant about begrudgingly losing weight due to his spirited outings on tour.
However, his set did have more of a groove and received a great deal of body-nodding alongside all the propelled bodies and arms-as-weapons spasms. Much of what he performed was from his most recent release Habits and Contradictions, and judging by the faces in the audience, most people had that album memorized.
Q couldn't leave the stage without letting everyone in on a wider look at the TDE picture, though. He led the audience into a yell-a-long of Kendrick Lamar's anthem “ADHD,” and labelmate/collaborator Ab-Soul joined Q to perform a couple verses. On it's own, Q's set was money well spent, but he was sharp enough to know that a California crowd will eat up a more inclusive TDE set just like they would if Snoop Dogg brought out Dr. Dre.
ASAP Rocky and his mob chose a haunting, almost apocalyptic backdrop to come out to. Upside down, grayed out American flags acted as sentinels of the stage, and the environment was dressed up like a war exhibit at a museum.
Alongside Rocky, two militantly dressed up figures with gasmasks on joined him to begin his show. At first, he kept the vibe narcotized with cuts like “Wassup” and “Purple Swag.” It wasn't until he retreated backstage for a moment and gathered the entire ASAP Mob that he really lived up to the name he's made for himself.
After a short interlude, the entire ASAP Mob rushed on stage. It looked as if a nest of spiders had been disturbed, as every member jumped around and took an uneasy formation all over the stage. Trap-rap fight songs such as ASAP Ferg standout “Work” and ASAP Nast's “Black Mane” made it appear as if the 1017 Brick Squad and Lex Luger had seized the stage.
After the ASAP Mob explosion, Schoolboy Q came out for the ASAP Rocky collaborations “Brand New Guy” and “Hands on the Wheel,” concentrating all of the strength of his previous set into that short outing. Needless to say, it felt like the venue was going to collapse on itself.
ASAP Rocky subdued the intensity for the last part of his set, bringing things full-circle back to the motions of the first few songs. Before launching into the finale of “Peso,” he spoke about experiencing racism growing up and wanting to end it, and he gave a small speech centered on unity. It seemed heartfelt, and even if we can't pick out too many messages in ASAP's music, it's refreshing to know he does have more on his mind than, well, “Coke and White Bitches.”
The Crowd: Lots of people under 18 and 21. Lots of people who wear Supreme and Black Scale. Lots of girls with high-waist shorts. Lots of guys with Nikes.
Random Notebook Dump: ASAP Ferg has enough of an on-stage presence to put on a headlining tour of his own. That's going to be one intense show.
Critic's Bias: I have so many mixes and playlists with ASAP Rocky, Danny Brown, and Schoolboy Q on it I've lost track.