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Monday, January 23
Better than: Emphysema, among many other things.
Monday night’s show was originally Smoke DZA’s: the poster for the Highline Ballroom said so, even. He walked across the stage with hands extended, resplendent in his bubbly yellow Polo parka, a heavyweight champion’s belt slung over his shoulder. It looked too hot to be wearing a ski cap; its wool proved an effective tool in mopping up the sweat that it also produced. He yawled his catchphrase (“Riiiight!”) like some use commas and periods, like others breathe: “Riiiight!” over the piano tinkerings of “Christmas in the Trap”; “Riiiight!” over the rumbling “What’s Goodie?” It filled up empty moments, sometimes as an afterthought, a cough or a hiccup; sometimes he doubled the “Riiiight!” that was playing on the audio track.
It was weird, the New York stop on the “Kushed & Purrp” tour. For a night celebrating mind-warping indulgence, there were few Ziplocs in the building, a scant amount of clouds in the air. (Harlem’s Smoke DZA, a member of the Smoker’s Club, rites love songs about marijuana; SPACEGHOSTPURRP stirs Three 6 Mafia in with his Sprite.) “Why am I the only one smoking?” G.R.A.M.Z., an opening artist, asked the crowd. “They took y’all weed? Fuck.” (I didn’t get patted down, but then again, I didn’t bring any weed in.) When asked what they were drinking, a couple of Coronas went up, maybe three, definitely less than four. The bar seemed pretty empty. “Coronas are cool,” said G.R.A.M.Z.
No matter. Smoke DZA, noticing an annoyed girl in the middle of his set—the last of the night—offered her a roll-up to brighten her mood; one of his underlings brought out a plastic goodie bag of joints. Confusing the assignment, his assistant started passing tightly wound treats out to everyone, causing the crowd to rush forward, hands reaching, grasping, hopeful, please please please, until Smoke realized the problem on his hands and shut the whole operation down. He screamed, “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” It was the equivalent of an intern sending out an email un-BCC’d. The weed carrier was sent to the back of the stage, behind the countless others: the three pretty girls with their shoulders aimed forward, the bleary-eyed gangster swinging a bottle of rose chardonnay, the curvy broad wearing a t-shirt that said “FUCK HIM” in Impact.
The stage looked crowded, and then more bodies packed on. Out of the masses burst an unstoppable conga line of uptown’s newest one-percenters: A$AP Mob, having just signed a record deal with Sony/RCA that is rumored to be worth around $3M (but is probably somewhat lower). A$APs Rocky and Twelvy (the former in a fashion-forward black-and-white button-up, the latter in a white tee) rapped their verses to “4 Loko,” only to then cannonball into the front few rows of people just as Freeway finished up. One body, two body, three body, floor. It was an expert way to work up the crowd, but a terrible way to lifeguard. A whirlpool of A$AP’s members churned through the fans, chanting their own name: “A$AP! A$AP! A$AP!” Smoke DZA politely asked them to come back onstage. The opening synths signaling “What We Do” rang out; Twelvy and Rocky joined Freeway, word for word. It was as if “Fade to Black” had the fans onstage instead of Memphis Bleek. It was the highlight, even if video somehow doesn’t exist at this moment. (An admission of Rocky’s takeover: DZA offered to give Rocky his jacket off his back.)
They had also run out during SPACEGHOSTPURRP’s set, putting to bed the thought that the two camps were beefing. A$AP and friends either jolted or cramped PURRP’s set, interrupting a woozy half-hour of hits from his mixtape, BLVCKLVND RVDIX 66.6. (Things he and his RVIDXR KLVN don’t care for: authority; women’s wants; vowels.) As a performance, it was a throwback to 1994 or 1997 or some time between: he and his friends bobbed like Aaliyah, crouched like Puffy, swung their arms like [enter rapper here]. You are what you eat, and these guys are on a steady diet of mid-90s music videos. (I personally like the chopped-and-screwed riddims of “Pheel Tha Phunk 1994” and “SAND,” an upbeat number that is not suitable for anything but private listening; that’s how he closed his set.)
Critical bias: I raised my hand—thumb out, pinkie extended—in support of #JetLife last night.
Random notebook dump: During SPACEGHOSTPURRP’s set, two of his friends wandered out from the background for an impromptu dance-off (doing Lil’ B’s cooking moves) that somehow left one of them limping.