A$AP Rocky has always been obsessed with being different.
He first captured our attention as a Harlem rapper who had more in common with Krazy Bone than Cam’ron, and was one of the first rappers to work with dubstep phenom Skrillex. He delved into psychedelia on his sophomore album, and touted his latest, last year’s Testing, as “experimental.”
But like most people who primarily define themselves in opposition to the norm, Rocky's dalliances with the left field usually amount to little more than shiny signifiers of flimsy uniqueness. At his Veterans Memorial Coliseum show on Feb. 5, those signifiers manifested as props. During the opening run of Testing highlights, Rocky took out 30 seconds at the end of two songs to first pound some taiko-esque drums, then create a makeshift glitch remix by mashing buttons on an iPad hooked up to the sound system. Other props included three racing coupes suspended from the ceiling, two masked hype men, and above all, women's underwear.
I was starting to believe Rocky's hype men were clandestinely supplying the potpourri of bras and panties that littered the stage, until the break between the final two songs. Rocky repeatedly shouted "Titties!" amid thundering bass thrums, and each exclamation corresponded with another woman in the audience removing her top.
Always able to sell route tropes as daring artistic choices, Rocky made the widespread flashing into a political statement: "This is some Woodstock shit. All they cared about in '69 was psychedelic drugs and titties."
If Rocky was making music back then, he'd be incense-and-pepperminting it up, completely oblivious to the main driving force behind any '60s psych rock worth its salt: the Vietnam War.
Rocky's Portland stop on his Injured Generation tour was fun at times, but in pretending to be anything else, it lost sight of Rocky's strength—looking and sounding cool.