“I WANT EVERYONE TO GET THEIR MONEY’S WORTH,” says A$AP Rocky, the self-described “pretty motherfucker from Harlem”. “I want someone to leave here passed out.” Given that the MC’s set lasts just 45 minutes, unconsciousness would take prodigious effort, even with the use of the cough syrup that he mentions in so many tracks that he might as well be sponsored by the Codeine Manufacturers Guild of America. A$AP’s message may be hedonism, but his means of delivering it is briskly efficient.
Discipline has got him this far. Last year, the 23-year-old netted a startling $3m deal off the back of just a handful of online tracks. He’s not the most dextrous or distinctive up-and-comer around, but he’s a smart operator with the kind of knowing, insider swagger that attracts a fervent following. The moment he appears on stage a chant of “A$AP! A$AP!” erupts from the crowd. At most small hip-hop shows you can consider yourself lucky if an MC is less than half an hour late and spends more time rapping than talking, but he’s far too focused to squander that goodwill.
On his debut album Live.Love.A$ap he doesn’t break a sweat, weaving with laidback confidence through warped, disorientating beats. On stage, accompanied by fellow MC A$AP Twelvy, he doubles the energy, turning atmospheric tracks such as ‘Wassup’ and ‘Kissin’ Pink’ into hook-heavy anthems, while an already meaty number like his cover of Chief Keef’s ‘I Don’t Like’ has the bombastic triumphalism of a boxer entering the ring for a Las Vegas prize fight. Every element of the show, including A$AP’s shirtless stage-dive, feels carefully conceived and crisply executed. You’re left feeling entertained, yet craving a little spontaneity — some flash of unplanned showmanship or crackle of raw charisma. But then you don’t get a $3m record deal by leaving things to chance.
© Dorian Lynskey, The Guardian, 7 June 2012