Review: A$AP Rocky, Wiz Khalifa and more, Molson Amphitheatre, Toronto, Aug 10 2013

I tell you what: whoever booked the Under The Influence tour was on harder stuff than weed. You won’t find a stranger collection of MCs on a single tour this year, maybe this decade. I imagine the promoter’s short-term memory was so challenged that they forgot who they had booked while they were in the process of running down the confirmations; truth be told, the eclectic mix worked out fine because depending on who you were there to see (or not), there were ample opportunities to duck out to feed your monkey of choice, whether it be smoking, toking, or in my case, swilling a massive $15 Molson Canadian that I actually had to grip with two hands. Read on after the jump to find out which rappers drove me to drink, literally.

Joey Bada$$

Joey Bada$$
Joey Bada$$

Joey Bada$$ was born in 1995, and as you can see from the outfit, he’s an old soul in more senses than just his musical interests. There have been a handful of XXL Freshman class MCs who can evidently rhyme, but you can usually tell from their clothes which of them is going to turn into an obsequious little assclown (*ahem* Kid Cudi *ahem*). Given that Our Pal Joey here is rocking a wardrobe that can be safely described as “grunge fisherman” in public, and his skills are far from in doubt, he’s alright in my book.

Admittedly he might be a smidgen too respectful about his rap elders, given how often he and his swelling group of hype-men borrowed hooks from ’90s rap, from the chorus of M.O.P.’s “Ante Up” to Dre & Snoop’s “Deep Cover” instrumental (briefly blended with KRS One’s “Sound of the Police,” have mercy! *fans self*). I prefer my old-school-jocking with a hint of brattiness a la Odd Future, but there’s definitely room for a rapper who can spit to linger around the golden age references while he charts his own course.

Trinidad James

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Trinidad James couldn’t possibly be further from Joey Bada$$ if he were, well, white. Which is funny because given his over the top hair and general presentation, my first point of reference was Busta Rhymes (who had a very good 1990s if you can recall his pre-Mariah Carey duet days). It’s too bad Trinidad James makes Waka Flocka sound like Charles Darwin. I’m all for having a massive afro, smoking blunts onstage and being down with the kids (oh did you pop a Molly, Trinidad? Are you, uh, turnt up?) but when you can’t even pull off more than a tepid shout-out to the country in your stage name, in Toronto, the week after Caribana, the most likely explanation is that, as Dave Chapelle put it, you have smoked yourself retarded.

B.O.B.

B.O.B.
B.O.B.

I used to like B.O.B., sort of, before he became the B.O.B. whose songs sound like R&B songs in search of a non-generic singer. Back when I saw him play the Spin stage at SXSW in 2008 I think, to about six people, dude was not taking “who the fuck are you” for an answer. Fast forward to his appearance third down the bill in front of a Wiz Khalifa crowd and he’s got that same grind, even if he had a gold album already. He had dancers. He threw free t-shirts. He took a photo from the stage for his Instagram feed. His video screens plugged his twitter. And aside from all the self-promotion and showmanship, to his credit, B.O.B. brought harder rhymes and gullier beats than he might at one of his own shows. Frankly it was hard not to like, even if I still think “Haterz Everywhere” is his best song.

And then, he bum rushed the FRONT of the stage, ran through and crowd-surfed in the seated section, and dove over the barrier back into the GA pit…

B.O.B.
B.O.B.

 

…where this happened.

B.O.B.
B.O.B.

Cheeky bastard, don’t you think? Forget being T.I.’s protege, B.O.B. needs to hook up with his true inspiration: Will Smith.

A$AP Rocky

A$AP Rocky
A$AP Rocky

A$AP Rocky

Exactly one week before this show, I went to see a hardcore punk gig at a grotty little venue just off Bathurst. It was insane, the opening act’s lead singer pushed everyone in the crowd and did a spin kick into this guy with a mohawk, I bought their 7-inch and when I put it on at home it was so loud I thought my needle needed replacing. Little did I know, however, that I would go just as apeshit — and feel the same kind of intense, frontal-lobe-rattling aggression — at a hip-hop show. Such is the brilliance of A$AP Rocky’s set, which was both lyrical and heavy as all fucking get out. That pretty motherfucker had a band, and one who did a pretty solid job of translating those woozy and heavily programmed beats into a live set without compromising the aggression (with the exception of the title track from Long Live A$AP, which they backed with a strangely trip-hoppy melodic vibe that took most of the mean out of the lyrics). It was hard, it was tight, and I actually thought a legit mosh pit was going to break out during “Wild For The Night.” Close.

Wiz Khalifa

Wiz Khalifa
Wiz Khalifa

Wiz Khalifa is another rapper I saw at SXSW a few years back, and whom I was pretty impressed by — he was hungry, he worked the crowd like a pro and his Kush and Orange Juice material went over a lot better than it did on record, which wasn’t so bad in the first place. Then Rolling Papers came out, and was wack with the exception of “Black And Yellow.” Then that record with Snoop Dogg came out (though the word “record” in this case refers to “astonishingly shitty and ill-conceived set of demos that somehow got released”). And somehow Wiz is the headliner over all these other dudes? Frankly I don’t understand it, the guy is a harmless enough MC but if Cypress Hill has to do dubstep and Snoop is now Snoop Lion in order to get noticed, what exactly is Wiz Khalifa’s competitive advantage? I wanted to leave after three minutes but my friend wouldn’t let me, and it only got worse. The secret is out, kids: I drink to forget about sets like that one.

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