Backbeat: ASAP Rocky Hits Irving Plaza Like a Fist, Leaves Crowd Buzzing
Backbeat: ASAP Rocky Hits Irving Plaza Like a Fist, Leaves Crowd Buzzing

RCA Records' ASAP Rocky was just a few songs into his headlining set at New York's The Fillmore at Irving Plaza on Wednesday night when he asked the sold-out crowd if it wanted an encore.

"Y'all were trill for "Pretty Flacko,"" Rocky said, referring to his recently released song, ­ the night's set opener, ­ while pacing the stage dressed in all black and with a Black Scale 'Funeral' snapback baseball cap twisted to the back. The lights were purple and dim and on the floor in front of the stage swam a sea of fans of all stripes, at least one woman surfing above it all on a set of shoulders. "You want to hear it again?"

Some in the crowd yelled, others milled about, and a least a few industry vets in the back cracked jokes about an upstart artist offering an encore so early in a set.

"Nah," Rocky said from the stage. "If you want to hear that "Pretty Flacko" again, ya'll are going to have to get louder than that!"

ASAP Rocky performs at Irving Plaza in New York. (Photo: Vincent Picone)

The hometown crowd, live and engaged all night, played ball, and as the woozy first notes to "Pretty Flacko," ­ a Spaceghostpurp-produced record that could double as a warning of the zombie apocalypse ­ blared through the speakers and projections of two large rotating skulls danced on black screens hung over the stage, ASAP and members of his ASAP Worldwide Crew dashed about yelling, "Hands up! Hands up!" Seconds later 1017 Brick Squad/Warner Bros.' Waka Flocka Flame emerged from the wings, all camo jacket and dread-swinging flurry, and the packed, pulsing Irving Plaza exploded.

See All Our Backbeats Here

Waka Flocka's surprise appearance was the quadruple exclamation point on a night that screamed that the New York hip hop scene is ready to champion the Harlem-bred ASAP Rocky (and his ASAP Worldwide Crew) as its leader of the new, new school. Despite the severe distortion that plagued almost every song in ASAP's set, which ran close to an hour long and featured appearances by Rap-A-Lot's Bun B and Top Dawg Entertainment's Schoolboy Q in addition to Waka Flocka, the general consensus among those in attendance was that Wednesday night ASAP Rocky, who signed to RCA through Bryan Leach's Polo Grounds Music in October after only releasing a handful of songs (though a handful that included New York's summer anthem, 'Peso'), stepped confidently into the spotlight and claimed it as his own.

Rap-A-Lot artist and former UGK member Bun B performs as a special guest alongside ASAP Rocky. (Photo: Vincent Picone)

For the New York hip hop community, the show was an event. Among those in attendance, Grammy-Award winning rapper Eve ( Interscope), Ebro Darden (VP of Programming, Emmis-New York), legendary hip hop A&R Dante Ross (Warner Bros.), Sirius Shade 45 Music Director Rob 'Reef' Tewlow, VP of A&R at RCA Mr. Morgan, RapRadar cofounder and RESPECT. Magazine
Editor-in-Chief Elliott Wilson
, XXL Magazine's Executive Editor Jayson Rodriguez and Editor-At-Large Shaheem Reid, Rob Markman of MTV Rap Fix, VIBE Magazine Deputy Editor John Kennedy, Complex Magazine Editor Joe La Puma, and MTV News' Steven Roberts. MTV's VP of Talent Whitney Benta, New York Times music critic Jon Caramanica, and S.O.B.'s Director of Marketing and Publicity Kozza Babumba, were all also at the show, as was Phillp T. Annand, founder of Madbury Club and manager of upstart opening act Flatbush Zombies.

On a night widely seen as a massive win for Rocky and the whole ASAP Worldwide Crew, the night's one low point was the severely distorted sound, which some attributed to the venue and others pegged to the quality of the original tracks, the bulk of which were produced well before Rocky landed his deal. As one veteran producer quipped when others suggested that Polo/RCA do something to clean up the tracks so they remain crisp over club systems, 'You can't pour syrup on dog shit and call it French toast.'

ASAP Rocky performs at Irving Plaza in New York. (Photo: Vincent Picone)

In addition to Flatbush Zombies, opening acts included G-Eazy and Fool's Gold Records' Danny Brown. In a nod to news of the tragic death of Soul Train founder and host Don Cornelius, which had rocked the hip hop and R&B communities throughout the day, vintage 'Soul Train' clips played above the stage during breaks between sets.

'Soul Train' Creator Don Cornelius Dead in Apparent Suicide

Just hours before the show, ASAP Rocky made his debut on BET's 106 & Park. He is currently in the middle of an 11-date ASAP Mob tour and will soon join Drake on the road when the Young Money/Cash Money/Universal artist begins his Club Paradise tour on Valentine's Day at Miami's Bank United Center. Rocky and Kendrick Lamar will join Drake in support. A commercial release of ASAP Rocky's LIVE.LOVE.ASAP mixtape has rumored to be in the works, but no date has been set. The ASAP Mob mixtape is said
to be dropping this month.