The notoriously large rap ensemble A$AP Mob gave a roaring performance in the UIC Pavilion, the college’s indoor sports arena, on October 11. The group has garnered million-dollar record deals as well as many devoted fans, but after seeing them live, one can understand why they might scare away some listeners; A$AP Mob’s members frequently employ an intense, aggressive rap style and over-the-top lyrics.
The Mob rose to prominence in popular culture following their viral success with singles by group members A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg. Though already sizeable with 14 “A$AP” moniker-toting members, the Mob frequently collaborates with other big names in rap and hip-hop, such as Wiz Khalifa, Juicy J, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Yachty, and Tyler, the Creator.
As the group is known for producing some of the most popular party songs in recent years, I wasn’t surprised to see that nearly everyone at the concert seemed college-aged, already dancing with a palpable, party-like energy when I entered the spacious arena. I spotted people with A$AP shirts, A$AP hats, and more. As the arena’s lights slowly dimmed, the crowd chanted “ASAP” over and over, although, strangely, it took about 10 more minutes for the Mob to actually arrive onstage. When the stage finally lit up with spotlights, I saw at least six people around me light up marijuana—an act that seemed potentially out of line at a college-owned space, until the A$AP Mob members onstage followed suit, lighting up and passing around a joint of their own.
The group’s magnetism comes in part from the stylized sense of unapologetic rudeness in their lyrics. Early in the show, A$AP Ant performed the group’s 2016 song “London Town,” rapping:
“Everything foreign, vintage Ralph Lauren/ Feel like Jeff Gordon, Switzerland touring/ You H&M sporting, you n****s is boring (goddamn!)/ Got a white bitch on my dick, yeah, she snorting.”
Much like the swaggering talk of affluence and sexuality in their lyrics, the Mob’s performance felt similarly carefree. They roamed the stage with combative anger one moment, then reined in their emotion in the next. The audience was thoroughly worked up, frequently inciting violence among one another inside circular openings (“mosh pits”) amid the crowd. As the rappers on stage musically described their violent and crazy lifestyles, the audience before them was painfully experiencing the same for themselves. The raucous audience even pulled A$AP Twelvyy off the stage at one point, making the rapper disappear from sight until he managed to crawl back up from the ocean of students below.
All in all, the concert was as ridiculously loud as it was invigorating. I would recommend it to anyone with a taste for the heavy, pounding dance music and lyrics on the simpler side of the Mob’s particular brand of rap. In the coming years, the group’s high-profile collaborations with newer rappers might solidify their position in the music world. But regardless of possible future success, A$AP Mob has already helped steer the trajectory of rap in a new direction.