A$AP Rocky and Tyler, the Creator are an odd pairing, right? On one hand, you have Rocky, who is an influential rapper from Harlem with a personal style that can only be described as “jiggy.” On the other, you have Tyler, who broke into the scene with a brand of shock rap that evolved as Odd Future’s movement took over the Internet. Together, they offer two vastly different takes on hip hop, but yet two things are the focus: art and creativity. “We ain’t about the mainstream s**t,” Rocky defiantly announced during Tuesday night’s stop at the Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
Actually, if you look at the entire line-up as a whole, none of these acts are really considered mainstream. With the exception of Rocky’s minor breakthrough on the Billboard Hot 100 with singles off A.L.L.A., Vince Staples, Danny Brown and Tyler fit in with a sub-genre of hip hop where the motivation is rarely about getting a hot single. In the case of Vince and Danny, who warmed up the sold-out crowd of mostly teenagers (but grown folk were there too), their music is liked because of what it represents to listeners who don’t necessarily want to turn up to Drake and Future all the time. Vince, who nicknamed himself the “Child of Hell” this evening, ran through thunderous cuts of Summertime ’06 while Danny zeroed in on tracks from Old. These two projects, considered flops in the music industry because of their low first-week sales numbers, still brought out insane amounts of energy, proving that album sales are a small fraction as long as the music is good.
There were some awkward wait times in between act changes, mostly due to the stage set-ups for each headliner. “Do you like my bears? It was so last minute. I’m f**king horrible with set design,” Tyler said later on that night, referring to his chest of toys. “F**k it, it's still turned up.” This was true. Big wooden blocks that spelled out “GOLF” were used as props for Tyler to hop on to perform. When the brass horns came on for “Sam Is Dead,” Tyler was up there marching along and pantomiming a boy playing a trumpet. When it was a sadder tone, like “IFHY,” he sat with his legs-crossed looking gloomy. When it was time to get some chaos in here, he directed the crowd to get down low like a seasoned performer. The glittery beat of “The Brown Stains of Darkeese Latifah Pt. 6-12 (Remix)” led to the bass drop, where everyone jumped up and raged.
While the Golf Wang weirdo kept it short and sweet, Pretty Flacko knew that the hometown crowd wanted something special. Rocky opened up his performance by thanking everyone on the tour and praising each individual’s talents. He played a big chunk of A.L.L.A. but went back to classics from his catalogue like “Goldie” and “Shabba Ranks.” A$AP Yams was honored through his own currency that was rained onto fans during “M$.” D.C. newcomer Yung Gleesh came out to do his epic dance for “Lord Flacko Jodye II.” Vince returned to perform “Señorita,” which was the perfect big bro-little bro moment, with Rocky shouted him out afterwards and vice-versa. The whole mob was in the building (sans A$AP Ferg), and it was as electrifying as you’d expect with quick-hitters from A$AP Twelvy and A$AP Nast sprinkled in. Rocky rarely hits the stage solo and, along with an LED background broken up to three different levels that projected colorful videos, the whole experience felt pretty underground and punk rock.
The final minutes of the Rocky and Tyler Tour summed up the amount of appreciation they have of everyone supporting them. “I love all you motherf**kers,” Flacko said, perched at the top of the massive structure after the chants of "A$AP" settled. He commented on the fact that the diverse crowd of all ethnicities was a beautiful sight, a message that would be a theme throughout the show. Who cares what you look like as long as you were here to have fun?
It goes without saying, but Rocky, just like Tyler, has shown that even novelty acts can cement themselves in the lineage of hip hop royalty.
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(Photos: Taylor Hill/Getty Images)