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A$AP Mob Mentality - By zruskin - October 30, 2017 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

A$AP Mob Mentality

(Zack Ruskin)

Late into Wednesday night’s A$AP Mob show at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, popular crew member A$AP Rocky issued a plea to the crowd.

Please do not vomit on the pretty girl next to you,” he said, after learning such an incident had just occurred.

That people would be vomiting at 10 p.m. on a Wednesday night was not altogether surprising when you look closer at who actually attended the hip-hop collective’s show.

For one, these kids were young — like, getting an extension on curfew from their parents to borrow the station wagon and see the show young. Clearly, A$AP Mob knows its fan base, because had the show not been all-ages, it’s doubtful 70 percent of the audience would’ve been allowed in. The might have blown off their calculus homework to be there, but they didn’t let the day of the week stop them from doing all the drugs.

The kid ahead of me in the security line was frisked and relieved of an ecstasy pill he’d carefully secured in a piece of tissue. Some people in the seated section above the main floor took the opportunity to smoke not only blunts but tobacco, too, causing the air to sour with the scent of sweat and artificial peach.

So what of the show?

Well, for one, it’s hard to decide where it started. You could say the opening act was a DJ who stood center stage and spoke-rapped along as he played Bay Area favorites like Mac Dre’s “Thizzle Dance” in an effort to ignite the crowd. He stuck around for quite some time, before A$AP Twelvyy came out and performed portions of several tracks. Then the stage went dark for nearly an hour.

When things started back up, there were two convertibles flanking the stage. One served as the DJ booth, and both provided a place for A$AP crew members not in the spotlight — which was essentially everyone but A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg for the vast majority of the evening — to post-up.

Over the course of 80 minutes, the crew dug into group and solo tracks, although it quickly became apparent that getting hyped for certain tracks was largely beside the point. Three separate mosh pits formed on the floor and raged in a tangle of hormone-soaked elbows and body slams with each slap of the bass. In some ways, A$AP Mob’s show was less of a musical performance and more of a communal bloodletting.

A frequent issue with hip-hop performed in large spaces like Bill Graham Civic Auditorium is that the nuances of beats and the specifics of lyrics easily get lost. To be certain, A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg and the rest of the crew can all throw down on a mic. But from the rafters, it was damn near impossible to tell. It isn’t A$AP Mob’s fault that their popularity requires them to book a space of significant size, but there is something to be said for the effort that is put forth in designing a tour that will really allow the music to shine.

One way to go about it is to replicate beats with a live band, as emcees like Kendrick Lamar, Slug from Atmosphere, and Childish Gambino have done. Another is the Kanye West approach, where set pieces, lighting, and story serve as aides in framing the songs as more than a laptop playlist. There is no right way to do hip-hop live, but it is often fairly apparent when it fails to reach its full potential.

For the kids who came to vomit and punch one another, this likely has little bearing on how they’ll remember the evening, but for A$AP Mob — a talented crew with plenty to offer — it stands to reason that they may be setting their own bar a little low.