When Yams and Bari first launched A$AP Mob more than a decade ago, their vision expanded well beyond the boundaries of rap: Together, the duo recruited a diverse collective of creative-types and took critical early steps to broadcast their Harlem-gone-Hollywood style. Both imagery and aesthetic were vital to the Mob’s branding from the start, with fashion adding an extra vehicle through which music could be marketed. From this tradition stemmed popular hits, buzzy streetwear labels and short films, projects that often feel disconnected creatively, yet are united by their now-famous mantra.
But what exactly is the A$AP mantra, if not solely a promotional prop? It was once natural to view the group as a tight-knit fraternity, its members a #rare blend of neighborhood connections who, for obvious reasons, found it mutually beneficial to link and build beneath a common alias. Since Yams’s heartbreaking passing in 2015, though, unity among its members has felt opportunistic: It’s difficult to imagine Rocky — the Mob’s staple A-list celebrity, who models for Dior and has dated a Jenner — hanging out with his old pals when business isn’t involved. Plus, the addition of an out-of-towner — Atlanta’s Playboi Carti — best known for revitalizing East Coast hip-hop is rather diluting of its ethos.
Amid this mild identity crisis, A$AP Mob has released a new crew tape — Cozy Tapes Vol. 2: Too Cozy — and launched a North American tour. Both ventures aim to satisfy (or at least quiet) fans’ hunger for new music from Rocky, who has not released a solo album in almost three years. Yet, despite the rapper’s natural role as the traveling circus’s ringmaster, he is not its exclusive headliner: The Too Cozy Tour exists to bring lesser-watched members of A$AP — such as Twelvyy, who also released a solo album in #Awgest (read: August) — into fully packed theaters nationwide.
It’s in this vein that A$AP Mob arrived at Detroit’s Masonic Temple on Fri., Sept. 29th, luring a flood of mostly college and late-high-school-aged kids downtown for a full night of hip-hop-inspired mosh pits. By 8:00 p.m., the general admission pit’s crowd was already spilling over its brims, its tightly-packed (and mostly intoxicated) attendees screaming along as recent hits like “Bodak Yellow” and “XO Tour Llif3” helped pass the time.
Once A$AP Nast emerged on stage, the show was underway. Despite lacking depth in his discography, Nast is a profound technical rapper true to the spirit of New York, and his performances of boom-bap tracks “Nasty’s World” and “Trillmatic” allowed him to prove so. He was followed promptly by A$AP Twelvyy, who — coming off the heels of his long-overdue debut LP, 12 — used his time to perform gritty solo cuts that wouldn’t otherwise fit into the night’s turnt-up setlist.
After opening with “Periodic Table,” Twelvyy warned Detroiters to “put (their) guns up,” then dove into ammunition-themed anthem “Strapped,” which was followed by “Ea$t$ideGho$t.” Before rapping the latter, he proudly announced that the Mob has been visiting the city since its inaugural touring effort — the Long Live A$AP Tour — in 2013, a notion that morbidly dated their joint shenanigans, at least slightly. He then closed with the inspiring “LYBB (Last Year Being Broke),” earning consistent feedback during its choruses, and departed from the stage, only to return shortly thereafter.
When A$AP Mob finally stormed the stage as a troop, walking out to epilepsy-inducing flashes and the explosive “Yamborghini High,” it was Rocky who stood front and center, briefly by his lonesome, with an Off-White belt dangling in his trail, holding up paint-splattered jeans. In the background were two Lamborghini vehicles, parked and converted into luxury DJ booths, plus a parade of his cohorts, acknowledging of their sidekick statuses.
Though the songs performed across the next hour came mostly from the group’s joint projects (“Telephone Calls” and “Crazy Brazy” off the first Cozy Tapes; “Blowin’ Minds,” “Black Card” and many more from the second), Rocky managed to maintain the spotlight throughout, acting as a master of ceremonies. Before “Please Shut Up,” he set the tone by asking the crowd: “How many people got that boss or parent that y’all just want to smack the shit out of?” Then, backtracking only slightly, added: “But they got this thing called the law… So, if you don’t wanna go to jail, you can calmly, politely ask that person…”
“Please shut up!” the crowd gleefully roared in response.
“Bahamas” received a similarly enticing introduction, with Rocky probing fans to open up mosh pits through teases like, “Y’all niggas ain’t ever been to a A$AP Mob concert?” It was followed by Twelvyy’s “Hop Out,” then a brief ode to Ferg, who skipped Detroit despite being an otherwise regular part of the tour.
Even when sharing the spotlight, though, Rocky remained in total control, earning the night’s most emphatic reactions during his a cappella lead-ins to songs such as “Multiply” and “Feel So Good.” Appropriately, “Get That Bag” — which features all members of A$AP Mob — was one of the night’s final songs. However, as if the show simply could not end without a total acknowledgement of Rocky’s core status, it was followed by a raucous solo cut of his.
“We are not letting this nigga A$AP Rocky leave this stage. He’s too hot!” said someone, it barely matters who. Sure enough, Rocky swiftly returned for a final verse, one which everyone was expected to know.
“Who the jiggy nigga with the gold links?”
Who else but Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye, the leader — and still the primary selling point — of the entire A$AP Mob?