Action Bronson w/Flatbush Zombies, Meyhem Lauren, Tanya Morgan
Music Hall of Williamsburg
Thursday, August 23
Better than: Hip-hop actually dying back when Nas called it in 2006.
What was Action Bronson going to do?
Last night, around midnight, the Flatbush Zombies, accompanied by A$AP Rocky, left the Music Hall of Williasmburg stage after whipping the crowd into an orgiastic frenzy of adrenaline. Crowd surfers numbered in the double digits; mosh pits sprang up like sudden whirlpools in a tempest. The energy was so high that the Zombies decided to film an impromptu video. How could Flushing behemoth Action Bronson hope raise the bar?
Well, after Halloween comes Christmas and Bronson played Rap Santa. He threw what looked to be about half a pound of high-grade marijuana, split up into dime bags, into the crowd. He also gave out shoes and steaks. You are not misreading that sentence. Steaks—two, from the rapper’s favorite restaurant, Peter Luger’s, and wrapped up nicely to go—were tossed into the crowd. As you can imagine, the crowd was pleased by these shows of generosity. They nearly lost their collective goddamn minds for good, some in the grand pursuit of weed and others just reacting to the sheer spectacle, a Robin Hood-slash-Henry VII figure committing a crime for the good of the people.
In between the gift-giving, Bronson rapped consecutive cuts from his March mixtape Blue Chips, as well as some highlights from last year’s Dr. Lecter; he occasionally ventured into the crowd to perform from within a pile of bodies. Though he lost his breath and had to stop rapping a few times, smoked a blunt throughout his set, and spit verses backstage for about a couple minutes, it really couldn’t have been much better.
Bronson, the Flatbush Zombies, the A$AP Mob, Meyhem Lauren, and Tanya Morgan put on the kind of show that begs hyperbole, a show that embodied the excitement that has rap stans claiming that New York is once again the center of it all. Rap is breeding here, ladies and gentlemen, birthing original strains of pop-savvy, lyrically heavy, hedonistic tracks. All of last night’s acts are collaborative, hype, creative, and loud, and all are composed of utterly ferocious showmen. And all of them are based right here.
Take Meyhem Lauren, a Bronson acolyte and fellow mammoth, who recently put out a mixtape called Respect the Fly Shit, recorded in a marathon two days in a Texas hotel room. Lauren and his crew came onstage looking like a bunch of linebackers who had just completed a regatta. The man himself was wearing an approximately 5XXL printed shirt emblazoned with pictures of vacationers sailing and rowing boats, and camouflage shorts that went down to his ankles. He, other members of Bronson’s extended rap family (Despot, who was wearing a nautical polo; AG Da Coroner, who was wearing socks with anchors on them) and Sean Price, as well as Heems of Das Racist, commanded the stage with the panache of veterans, taking turns rapping heavy, aggressive verses as the crowd surged.
But the enthusiasm for Lauren and company was nothing compared to the seismic tremors that rocked through them as the Flatbush Zombies took the stage. A man who wore a panda balaclava for the entirety of the show started the crowd surfing in earnest, whipping his body up towards the group with crazed determination and bounding around the stage for about a minute before jumping right back into the morass. The Zombies’ music forms the perfect amalgamation of rap and punk—a crew of wild, skinny, young men, smoking joints, drinking forties on stage, pouring forties on each other, and rapping feverishly in the most debaucherous fashion.
If there was any doubt that last night’s bill was a showcase for a new generation of rap stars, it was silenced by the crowd’s reaction to the appearance of A$AP Rocky. It’s hard to remember that Rocky still isn’t all that well-known (other than to relatively dedicated rap fans) outside of the five boroughs. Here, he’s a prince and he was treated as such when he finally emerged last night, preceded by lesser members of the A$AP Mob, including A$AP Nast and a gentleman in a full flight suit and snowboarding goggles. I’d like to state definitively that the video that Rocky and the Zombies recorded together was for their new collaborative song “Bath Salt,” but the energy in the room at this point was ratcheting off the walls at such a high frequency that it would be impossible for me to know for sure. (We were all freaking out.)
And, as you can well imagine, Bronson tossing (alleged) weed and (definite) steak into the crowd just extended the run. He rapped all the words of his dense, lyrical, stream-of-consciousness songs, lifted women into the air two at a time, and huffed and puffed like he was about to pass out.
During several points last night, the crowd and the performers merged into a single, writhing entity. The crowd flooded the stage while the Zombies raged, and Bronson was completely submerged on the floor for several full songs. It was a fitting image to take away from the Converse Rubber Tracks Accidental Showcase for the Successful Resurrection of New York City Rap. Performers and audience, each as excited as the other to be up on the stage and down on the floor, rapping, listening to rap, and creating a wild experience that no one is likely to forget, even after the adrenaline finally leaves their systems for good.
Critical bias: I’m a passionate person, a big fan of Bronson, and a medium fan of Lauren. But, before tonight, I didn’t care a lick for either the Flatbush Zombies or Tanya Morgan, and they, and the energy of the night, completely won me over.
Overheard: “IS THAT WEED? IS THAT REALLY WEED? IS HE REALLY JUST GOING TO THROW THAT OUT INTO THE CROWD? HOLY SHIT, HE IS THROWING WEED INTO THE CROWD! Isn’t that a felony?”