What happens when two of the most relevant hip-hop artists launch a co-headlining UK arena tour? London turns the f**k up, that’s what.
A$AP Rocky + Wiz KhalifaCity: London
Venue: O2 Arena
After shows in Nottingham, Liverpool and Birmingham, the "16 Day Trip" tour landed at The O2 in Greenwich. Upon entering the venue, a thick waft of cannabis was undeniably in the air – a smoke signal that Wiz Khalifa was in the building.
Onstage, he was shirtless in beige trousers and high-tops, his slim body exhibiting a wealth of tattoos. Mister Cap (as he calls himself) literally breathed life into the show. Bounding up and down, back and forth, using all available space, the native Philadelphian cultivated his own brand of infectious energy. Khalifa is regularly featured in the mainstream press for various aspects of his personal life, so seeing him dominate this support slot live is such an important reminder of why he is who he is.
This night was all about "Taylor Gang", which is not only one of his singles and his record label, but also his crew, fanbase, and the lifestyle movement he promotes: to be free and have fun, quite simply. Khalifa had more than warmed up the audience when he closed with "We Dem Boys" and finally "See You Again", a single from the Furious 7 soundtrack which was written in memory of one of the franchise’s main stars, Paul Walker. The song spent two weeks at number one on the UK Top 40 chart this year and made for an excellent finish.
Before he left, the "Black and Yellow" hit-maker did something incredibly rare to connect with his fans. Instead of speaking to them as a collective only, he called out some of the individuals that he’s noticed throughout his set – in bars and over a beat, of course. Punters in the front row, people wearing particular brands, those with brightly coloured dyed-hair, beautiful women and even security. Confetti cannons went off – green, naturally – and Khalifa commanded the crowd with the chant, “When I say PEACE, you say LOVE." Everyone present and correct was affectionately saturated in that warm and fuzzy feeling.
After he exited, a white curtain went up onstage, separating the fans from the backline preparation for the headlining artist, the critically acclaimed A$AP Rocky.
2015 has been quite a year for the New Yorker. In March he tragically lost best friend and founder/co-owner of A$AP Worldwide, A$AP Yams, to an accidental drug overdose. In May, he released his sophomore record At. Long. Last. A$AP, which debuted at number one on the US Billboard chart and credits A$AP Yams as an executive producer. Where his head’s at right now would be impossible to predict.
As soon as the house lights went out and screams of excitement echoed around the arena, the atmosphere slowly morphed. Wiz’s happy hippy vibe was extinguished and anticipation built as a melange of miscellaneous images flashed up on the white curtain. Soon enough, Rocky’s shadow could be seen. Behind the curtain, he was dressed head to toe in black – black boots, black trousers and a black coat with a hood, which was currently covering his head.
He began with "Dreams", an interlude from his latest record; this created a captivatingly raw ambience in the air. His opaque silhouette stood still, then darted from side to side and he furiously waved his arms, as he spat his rhymes.
Rocky was slowly joined by his band, as required – a guitarist, bassist, drummer, keyboardists and DJ – they played "Canal St" and "Pharsyde" behind the curtain. The audience was teased mercilessly by this, desperate to get a glimpse of the man of the hour.
Rocky then burst into "Multiply" and suddenly, a group of random people descended onto the stage and start throwing shapes wildly behind the curtain - it’s clear that shit was about to get real now. Rocky was then accompanied by no fewer than three hype men, when there was the almighty bellow, “MAKE SOME FUCKIN’ NOISE!” The curtain drops with the beat, as the front rows were sprayed with dry ice – everybody was losing their minds, immersed in purple light. A frenetic and aggressive attitude had been conceived, but it was also an enthusiastic one and there was not a single stationary soul in the room. At the back of the stage, two rectangular screens were stacked, each in between two square screens which display a variety of trippy, luminous neon graphics throughout the performance: lips, jukeboxes, the human nervous system. You know, the usual. Rocky addressed the audience with a smile, his gold grill gleaming.
Confetti seemed to be a theme this evening and after a few songs the cannons went off again and fake dollar bills covered the crowd. Rocky and his clique hollered, "Long live A$AP Yams, long live A$AP Yams, long live A$AP Yams" over and over again, in tribute to their fallen brother and the fans respectfully participate.
Rocky and his hype men then told everyone to get their middle fingers up and encourage the opening of a mosh pit on the venue floor. T-shirts were unceremoniously ripped off and a circular space of ground appears, as bravest heads got ready for total carnage. There was only one possible tune for this impending madness – the Skrillex-produced dance anthem "Wild for the Night". The scenes to follow are akin to the rave scene from Blade – but without the vampires nor blood obviously.
The self-proclaimed Lord Flacko performed an abundance of tracks from his new album, a lot of which was actually written and recorded in London, including "Electric Body", "LSD", "M$", "Excuse Me, and "Everyday", which features a sample from Rod Stewart's 1972 single "In a Broken Dream". Rocky also played fan favourites "Hella Hoes" and "Goldie".
Throughout the gig, Rocky bopped confidently across the stage. He was slick, fresh and just oozed charisma. He ensured that the fans were hydrated by instructing security to throw bottles of water to them and in return, was pelted with water by a fan himself, but he took it in good humour; for she was attractive.
As the show drew to a close, a copious amount of black confetti caked the crowd. Rocky thanked everyone for being in attendance and also apologized for his last UK performance at Wireless festival, this past July. Then, after a basking in several minutes of deafening applause, he and his posse absconded and all that was left was an electrifying buzz that would surely last for days.
He needn’t have apologised, because all was already forgiven. At long last, A$AP Rocky is back on top.