A$AP Ferg delivered a chaotic and dizzying set last night at The Powerstation, writes Hussein Moses.
There’s a long-running joke that rap shows in New Zealand are notorious for falling through. While there’s still some truth to that – Skepta cancelled his tour of the country on the same damn day he won the Mercury Prize last week – it’s clear that things are looking up. Already this year we’ve been blessed with shows from Pusha T, DJ Mustard and Kendrick Lamar (via Auckland City Limits), while mini-festival The Block Party served up something for those of us with a ferocious appetite for the nihilist-tinged rap of the ‘90s.
We can add A$AP Ferg to that list. The Harlem musician’s packed-out performance at the Powerstation last night signalled another run of rap shows in the lead-up to summer, which include Travis Scott, Schoolboy Q, Stormzy and Method Man and Redman.
The concert also marked Ferg’s third solo visit to New Zealand in almost as many years, a fact that wasn’t lost on him whatsoever. “I’mma come back until you motherfuckers are tired of seeing me,” he said early on.
Until then, though, it was “time to go to war”.
Roughly translated, “war” would equate to a dizzying and concise set that touched on highlights from both his debut Trap Lord and his latest album Always Strive and Prosper.
Decked out in a Pulp Fiction tee with the entire Ezekiel 25:17 quote printed on the back of it, he also took a minute to pay tribute to the late A$AP Yams, who died just last year, with a low-key acapella version of Tatted Angel. Then it was onto a quick run of singles, including Let It Bang and the Skrillex-assisted Hungry Ham.
Released back in June, the new record signalled somewhat of a left-turn for the rapper. It’s a restless effort, with a handful of songs barely scratching the three-minute mark, and at times it feels like an attempt to find the same crossover success of his bro-in-arms A$AP Rocky.
But on stage, it was his chaotic and aggressive songs like Uzi Gang and Back Hurt that went down the easiest.
Always Strive and Prosper is littered with big-name guest spots and, as is the case with a lot of rap shows, there’s always some concern that the songs might not translate to a live setting without them. But with the help of fellow Harlem rapper Marty Baller, who backed up Ferg for much of the set, the show didn’t feel hindered or any less worthy of applause.
Much of that comes back to Ferg’s economical approach to everything. The entire set was all over in less than an hour, yet a few dozen fans used the opportunity to jump up on stage for one last go-round. It wouldn’t last long, though. Once the house lights came up, the message was clear: it was time to call it a night.