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Monday, Oct. 15, 2012

A$AP Rocky w/ A$AP Mob @ The Rave

Oct. 12, 2012

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Though born and bred in New York City, A$AP Rocky, breakout star of the much-buzzed-about A$AP Mob crew, shares little of Gotham’s rap conventions, gravitating toward sounds more closely associated with the South, particularly the blunted beats of the codeine-drenched Texas scene, than NYC’s traditional mixture of literate cool and bleak, urban social commentary. Not that that geographical mismatch has stopped him from becoming a hometown favorite, or from capturing a national audience. In fact, the level of excitement he’s been able to generate based on a single solo mixtape, last year’s LiveLoveA$AP, is impressive, and while there’s certainly an element of snowballing hype at work, that attention is more or less justified, making his upcoming debut album one of the most widely anticipated rap records of the year. But while that momentum and promise came through here at the Rave, the full force of his sound did not.

That wasn’t really Rocky’s fault; it was more a product of a variety of factors that conspired to turn a perfectly good rap show into an occasionally frustrating affair. In a live setting, the genre has a tendency to give short shrift to mid-range frequencies, which, when filtered through the Rave’s crummy acoustics and sound mixing, only leaves an overwhelming amount of bass punctuated by shrill bursts of treble. So it was that most vocals were reduced to mumbles under the weight of the buzzing low end, while those ubiquitous, gleefully corny Jamaican horn stabs cut through loud (very loud) and clear. These kinds of problems grow exponentially with more people onstage, a fact thrown into sharp relief here since the headlining slot was split between Rocky himself (with just a wingman to swap rhymes with) and the entire A$AP Mob. This split isn’t surprising, given Rocky’s slim solo catalog, but it made things on the whole feel rather uneven.

When Rocky was given the spotlight, though, the brash, charismatic MC made the most of it, and thankfully, without all those other voices to contend with, the sound guy was able to make the most of those moments too. The group portions of the show weren’t atrocious or anything, just not what they could have been. The A$AP sound, like many distilled from the long legacy of Southern party rap, is nasty enough and raw enough, in a good way, that it would be hard for any but the most inept sound men to kill its appeal completely. Also, thanks to Rocky’s budding fame, the turnout was high and people were excited (and/or stoned, judging by the amount of smoke in the air; this is the man who brought you the hit single/ode to marijuana “Purple Swag,” after all), giving off a lively vibe that A$AP responded to and reciprocated. It may not have sounded all that good, but that didn’t stop the crew, or the audience, from having a good time.