Rocky and Tyler Tour-- Lowell, MA-- September 19th, 2015
Vince Staples (last 3 songs):
Side B (Dope Song)
Smokin' & Drinkin'
Break It (Go)
Attak (Rustie cover)
Tyler, the Creator (missing a couple of songs):
Keep Da O's
Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2
Hella Hoes (A$AP Mob cover)
Shabba (A$AP Ferg cover)
New A$AP Twelvy Solo Song
Wild for the Night
Jump Around (House of Pain cover)
In the world of modern hip-hop, you seldom see major rappers go on tour together. The reasons as to why this is are unclear and the end to this unfortunate trend doesn't appear to be anywhere in sight. On the rare occasion multiple hip-hop heavy-hitter decide to team up for a tour, you need seize the opportunity because it's a special occurrence that's only becoming more rare as time goes on.
2015's drought of major hip-hop package tours was put to end last month with the announcement of A$AP Rocky and Tyler, the Creator's co-headlining tour fittingly titled "The Rocky and Tyler Tour". The month-long trek, which also features opening acts Danny Brown and Vince Staples, kicked off this past Saturday at the Tsongas Center at UMass Lowell in Lowell, Massachusetts and delivered a highly convincing argument as to why major hip-hop tours need to happen more frequently.
While the night was fantastic on the whole, it got off to a bit of a rough start. The combination of a long line to get into the Tsongas Center and traffic on the way to the venue caused me to miss a majority of Vince Staples' set. Staples has been near the top of my must see list since I heard his Mac Miller-produced mixtape Stolen Youth two years ago and my desire to see him has only increased since the release of his brilliant Def Jam debut Summertime '06 in June, so being forced to miss a majority of his set was really disappointing. Fortunately, the three songs I was able to see were enough to prove that Staples is a great performer. The overpowering beats kind of drowned out the vocals at times, but Staples raps with a ton of passion and his songs pack the same wallop live as they do on record. Staples is the most promising up-and-coming rapper in the game right now and I really hope that I will get the chance to see a proper set from him in the near future.
Danny Brown hit the stage about 15 minutes after Staples wrapped up his set and just like the previous times I've seen him, he absolutely killed it. Brown's tremendous technical ability and precision on the mic and commanding stage presence basically ensures that all of his shows will be great. I was a bit concerned that the crowd wouldn't be as into him as the previous two times I'd seen him (this was the first time I've seen him live where he wasn't headlining), but those concerns proved to be unwarranted, as the crowd exploded into a full-on frenzy as soon as he launched into set opener "Dope Song". Brown was clearly very aware of the type of crowd this tour would attract and loaded the set with the hard-hitting, electronic-influenced trap cuts from his last album Old. The decision for Brown to tailor his set to the young, party-happy fans of the headliners was a stroke of genius that ultimately led to him getting a crowd reception that rivaled Rocky and Tyler's for enthusiasm and intensity. The lone outlier in Brown's in-your-face set was the chilled-out "Grown Up", which was a very pleasant surprise as its a fantastic song that he rarely breaks out live. Brown is one of the standard-bearers for live hip-hop acts and even on a tour that's as loaded with talent as this, he was the clear standout.
Tyler, the Creator was up next. I'm not nearly as into Tyler as I was once was, but since his group Odd Future was the first hip-hop show I attended back in October of 2011, I have a bit of a nostalgic soft spot for his music. Like his music, Tyler's live performances are erratic and batshit insane in the best possible way. Tyler runs around the stage like a crazy person, regularly alters the lyrics to his songs to make stupid jokes and screws around with different vocal deliveries for his own amusement. In most situations it would be extremely annoying to watch an artist drastically deviate from their studio material, but for Tyler, it's a large part of why his shows are so much fun. His setlist was much better than expected, largely because he didn't play any of the weaker cuts from his ambitious, but very disjointed new album Cherry Bomb. The equal attention paid to his aggressive raps ("Deathcamp", "Yonkers", "Domo23") and his more mellow, R&B jams ("Fucking Young/Perfect", "IFHY", "PartyIsn'tOver/Campfire/Bimmer") gave the set a nice balance and showcase the largely overlooked musical diversity that has driven Tyler's last couple of releases. Tyler, the Creator may not be the most skilled rapper or tightest live performer in the game, but he's an incredibly entertaining artist whose lack of pretension and carefree attitude makes him stand out in the crowded modern hip-hop landscape.
A$AP Rocky put an end to the surprisingly quick set changovers of the rest of the night by taking over 30 minutes to set up after Tyler finished up. However, the wait proved to be well worth it as Rocky put on a seriously fantastic show. The first couple of songs ("JD and "Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2") saw Rocky relying a little too heavily on backup from his counterparts in the A$AP Mob and backing tracks, but once he took center stage on "M'$", he was incredibly sharp for the rest of the set. The clear highlight of his set was closing song "Holy Ghost", which was performed largely a capella. Rocky flawlessly hit both verses of the song with no beat and managed to make this already massive song even more immense in a live setting. Rocky is largely praised for his production and ability to craft memorable choruses, but stuff like this proves that he deserves just as much as praise for his abilities on the mic. The only problem with Rocky's set is that he spent way too much of his short set time (he was on stage for approximately 45 minutes) doing songs with the A$AP Mob. The entire mid-portion of the set was dedicated strictly to A$AP Mob tracks. While I am a big fan of Rocky and Ferg,who no longer regularly performs with Rocky due to the success of his solo career, the rest of the A$AP Mob members (Twelvvy, Nast and Ant) just aren't very good and with them getting most of the spotlight on the group tracks, it put a serious damper on the momentum of the set. Because of the abundance of A$AP Mob material in the set, Rocky only ended up playing seven of his own songs (eight if you include his verse from A$AP Ferg's "Shabba"). If Rocky set's was over an hour, I would have far less of a problem with this, but Rocky's choice to spend so much of his short set time on material that's vastly inferior to his solo stuff was frustrating. Aside from the extended A$AP Mob interlude in the middle of the set and lack of "Peso" in the setlist, A$AP Rocky put on a really fun show that vastly exceeded my expectations.
Vince Staples 8/10
Danny Brown 9/10
Tyler, the Creator 7.5/10
A$AP Rocky 8/10
10/29 Rae Sremmurd
11/12 The Weeknd
11/15 Parkway Drive
Both of Tylers/Rockys sets are just ok. Still I wanna see this