In this miniseries, Daily Music Writers reminisce on the best live show they ever saw.
Harlem-bred, Houston-influenced A$AP Mob members A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg performed at Coachella for the first time in 2012 and 2014, respectively. Though separated by two years, their sets followed the releases of their debut, critically acclaimed projects (Live. Love. A$AP and Trap Lord, respectively) and marked the beginning of their reign as rap powerhouses. I was there for both of them.
Can you remember a world with Rocky and no Ferg? I know, it’s hard for me, too. But back in 2011, that was a reality.
I was a junior in high school when I heard “Purple Swag” off his lesser-known mixtape, Deep Purple, for the first time. I didn’t even really like rap music then, but when the heavily Clams Casino-produced Live. Love. A$AP dropped in late 2011, I began to look at the genre differently — as interesting, experimental, exciting and versatile.
I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard the opening three song sequence of “Palace”-“Peso”-“Bass” — Macy Helm’s car, leaving Faith Lutheran High School’s parking lot, on a Friday afternoon. And it was with Macy Helm five months later that I saw Rocky’s Coachella Second Weekend performance.
It was Day 2, a Saturday night, and in the last 24 hours, I’d successfully snuck alcohol onto the campgrounds, refused to call my mom and seen someone smoking out of a crack pipe. This must be what adulthood feels like!!! I thought, despite being only 16 years old — my persuasion powers continue to amaze both my parents and me.
But that Saturday, we’d just left an overwhelmingly aggressive Radiohead set and found ourselves in Rocky’s crowd. As the rapper took the stage, a topless woman grabbed me and tried to get on my shoulders. I don’t think I’d ever felt more alive — terrified, but alive.
I mark that memory as the moment I started really loving rap music; I date that day as the birth of my current musical tastes. I can’t even really tell you who came on stage that night (probably the whole A$AP crew) or what songs were performed, just that his set was ground zero for my current interests.
By Friday of Coachella 2014’s Weekend Two, my affinity for rap music had further developed and A$AP Ferg’s debut mixtape-turned-album Trap Lord had already been out for over seven months.
If you looked up “A$AP” on Spotify, Ferg popped up before Rocky. Despite this, the rapper was given a 3:40 set time, one unusually early for the sizable crowd he was likely to bring. At least that’s what my three friends and I, who’d gone into the festival earlier than normal to see him, thought. We were correct in assuming the crowd would be huge. Huge and absolutely insane. I must say, I don’t think you can appreciate the art that is Trap Lord until you see your friend punching someone in the face as it’s being played live.
The album is nothing if not aggressive and abrasive, and sometimes that fails to translate when just blaring through a pair of headphones. Of course, “Work REMIX” had been on loop in everyone’s headphones since its release. But lesser played tracks, like “Dump Dump,” with its “I fucked your bitch, n***a / I fucked your bitch” hook, and “F**ck Out My Face,” which essentially just repeats its title for the majority of the track, were not as well-received out of context. The necessary context, if you’re wondering, is in the middle of a mosh pit, with Ferg inches away performing it.
Also, there is literal video footage of my friends and me at this performance, recorded by a kid right behind me, unbeknownst to us until later. Feel free to watch, but I won’t tell you what I was wearing or what color my hair was at the time.