It’s one of the longest-standing traditions in hip-hop: When one artist from a crew gets a big break, he or she is supposed to come back to share the spotlight with the rest of the group. In other words, if you can’t make it on your own, just hope you’re standing next to someone who can.
Harlem rapper A$AP Ferg, who performed at the Middle East Downstairs Monday night at the closing US date of the “Turnt x Burnt” tour, owes some of his momentum thus far to A$AP Rocky, last year’s overnight success story, which he duly noted by briefly covering Rocky’s hits “[Expletive] Problems” and “Wild for the Night” during his hourlong set. But judging from the raucous reaction to his sold-out all-ages show, Ferg is doing just fine without him.
Whereas Rocky worked to make his sound palatable for mainstream radio listeners on his album “Long.Live.A$AP.,” Ferg's debut, “Trap Lord,” did the reverse, creating a brooding, menacing atmosphere influenced by Southern trap music and beckoning the uninitiated to follow him down to the underground. And the packed venue was evidence that it worked: Hands shot up in prayer as “Lord” banged out the speakers like a smoked-out church revival, with Ferg preaching from the stage in double-time flow reminiscent of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony.
But of course Ferg was no exception to the rule of helping out the rest of his crew, which meant ample stage time was shared with the other members of A$AP Mob to perform cuts from their mixtape “Lord$ Never Worry.” Squeezed between their more charismatic brothers Rocky and Ferg, there was little room for any of them to make a strong impression, save perhaps for A$AP Nast, who ripped through his ’90s boom-bap-influenced single “Trillmatic.”
And while Ferg’s album shows flashes of a greater depth beneath the surface, the latter part of his live performance relied on the fierce, overpowering knock of singles “Work” and “Shabba,” the latter sparking bouts of crowd surfing and thunderous adulation for the self-appointed Trap Lord, a disciple no longer.Martín Caballero can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @_el_caballero.