A$AP Rocky is late. At any other rap show, this would annoy people who waited hours standing in cramped spaces to see their favorite artist perform. At Citi Field in Queens – the home of the first edition of Rolling Loud in New York, a two-day hip-hop festival held this past weekend (Oct. 12-13) – it becomes a game time decision on how you want to end your night. As flocks of attendees made their way to the Fashion Nova Stage, you can already hear Lil Uzi Vert performing at the nearby Dryp Stage. Rocky fans who secured a spot at the guard rails next to me kept looking back, maybe contemplating giving up their position to rage with Lil Uzi. Wisely, they stay.
About 10 minutes have gone by since Rocky’s scheduled 9:00 p.m. performance, and it’s starting to feel like this is all on purpose, to build a dramatic opening for the Babushka Boi, who finally returns home after a highly-publicized stint in a Swedish jail for allegedly attacking two men outside of a hamburger restaurant in central Stockholm over the summer.
Suddenly, without warning, someone screams “yeahhhh!” in the mic. That same person wearing a red puffy coat runs through center stage, screaming “yeahhhh!” again before returning to the main stage. Backed by a sizeable group wearing white Testing-esque ski masks, the wait is over. Get ready to mosh because Rocky is here.
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For New Yorkers, A$AP Rocky has created plenty of hometown moments in his rap career. Depending on your age, you were probably there when he and the A$AP Mob invaded Santos Party House in 2011 to do a defiant performance of “Pesos.” Or in 2012 when he brought his Long. Live. A$AP Tour to Roseland Ballroom with some help from his good friends ScHoolboy Q and Danny Brown. The inaugural Yams Day, initially held at Terminal 5 in 2016, has become an institution for the Harlem crew, promising a lifetime of homages to the late A$AP Yams by holding one every year, to increasingly bigger crowds and venues.
Rocky at Rolling Loud wasn’t just another Rocky show. It had more significance. Technically, Rocky already had his big U.S. comeback when he hit the stage at Real Street Festival in Anaheim, California on Aug. 11, telling the crowd, “I just want to say what I experienced was so crazy. I’m so happy to be here right now. That was a scary, humbling experience but I’m here right now. God is good.” He was later found guilty by a Swedish court but avoided further jail time.
No, this was different because Rocky came back to where it all began. The imagery of Testing, his latest album released in May of last year, was in full effect – the crash test dummies aesthetic, the smiley faces, the vehicles hanging on the rafters like ceiling fans. After sending his squad to stage dive, Rocky took off the fall appropriate outerwear, dressed in a Rick Owens long sleeve and all-white mid Uptowns, to keep the party going. “Praise the Lord,” “Telephone Calls,” and “Babushka Boi” already had this crowd wanting more turn up.
Rocky was in the zone. He took to the skies, standing on the hood of one of his suspended cars to rap “Gunz N Butter” and “OG Beeper.” As it lowered to the ground, he followed with a freestyle filled with that Pretty Flacko talk: “Look at me, get what you see, envision me/Brazen chains, is he Pusha-T or Mr. T?”
“We in fucking New York City right now,” he said after. “This is the home of the A$AP Mob, are you shitting me?”
Our first special guest: A$AP Ferg.
The pair have one of the best chemistries in hip-hop, shown in their buddy-buddy attitude and how seamlessly they work off one another. No matter how many times you’ve heard “Plain Jane” and “Work,” the songs still go off. When these come on, New York definitely doesn’t know how to be quiet.
“Ferg, you crazy if you think I’ma let you leave. You’re crazy,” Rocky said.
“Welcome home, Flacko!” Ferg replied, continuing with “Floor Seats.”
Ferg gave a special shout to day-one fans who have been with the Mob since their early singles, listing “Peso,” “Purple Swag,” “Get High,” and “Shabba.” Later, after Rocky brought out AWGE affiliates Smooky Margielaa and G4 Boyz, he playfully nodded to having no type after showing off his collection of bras he got from women who threw theirs on stage earlier. It was a tongue-in-cheek lead-in to the second major guest, Swae Lee, who performed “No Type” to the surprise of many. Rocky, who continued to hold his bras with delicate care, likened tonight’s show as a hip-hop Woodstock and he, the rock star.
“I don’t know about y’all, but when it comes to this New York City shit, this shit shaped and changed my whole fucking life,” he said, explaining how much he respects the OGs that came before him.
Born and raised in Harlem, Rocky started off with The Diplomats’ “Dipset Anthem,” with Juelz Santana’s verse causing a ruckus. Rocky wanted to move on to play more legendary New York classics, but his DJ, Lou Banga, threw off the vibe by accidentally playing songs by Bobby Shmurda and Pop Smoke. Modern classics, sure, but Rocky emphasized “legendary New York shit” from Queens.
Our third and final special guest: 50 Cent.
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Fif came out to “What Up Gangsta” with Rocky as his hypeman, rapping lines from the song like he was a youth again. It was two generations from two different boroughs reuniting in Queens, where 50 is actually from. Despite hiccups by the NYPD with preemptive cancellations of performances by Pop Smoke, Casanova, 22Gz, Sheff G and Don Q, this was a positive moment for the city and showed two rap eras can coexist. No rap beefs, no violence. Just good energy to help put the city on the map.
Fif stuck around to run through more hits such as “I Get Money” and “Big Rich Town,” but not after asking the audience if they watched Power. Clever promotion from hip-hop’s savvy businessman.
While the show was supposed to end at 10 p.m., Rocky was down to get lit until past curfew. He called on the A$AP Mob for a brief moment of silence for Yams before getting into “Yamborghini High.” Ferg, A$AP Illz, A$AP Twelvyy, and A$AP Nast all appeared to show love to Eastside Stevie.
“My n***a was a New York vet and at the end of the day, his whole vibe was just making sure everybody ate,” Rocky said. “Yams was a good-hearted n***a, trying to put n***as on…He was a good one. We lost a real one.”
The tribute only made the Mob’s performance of “Yamborghini High” that much more meaningful. Rocky and his crew could’ve left Rolling Loud fans with that. But they had one more thing in store, even after the fireworks went off and lights in the parking lot went on.
Tariq Cherif, one of the co-founders of Rolling Loud, presented Rocky with a Rolling Loud chain. After Sunday’s lineup featuring stars like A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, Lil Tecca, and Young Thug, to give Rocky a chaining day in New York is how you end on a high note. His last song, “Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2,” and it’s opening lyrics couldn’t have been more perfect.
“Who the jiggy nigga with the gold links?”