“I just want to say, what I experienced was crazy. I’m so happy to be here right now, y’all don’t even understand. That was a scary, humbling experience, but I’m here right now. God is good,” A$AP Rocky said in the middle of his performance to a packed-out crowd at 92.3’s inaugural Real Street Festival on Sunday night (Aug. 12), finally addressing his nearly-five week stint in a Swedish prison.
After weeks of alarming headlines and international support from the music community, politicians and fans alike, the gig in Anaheim, California, marked Rocky’s first post-incarceration concert appearance. At the end of the two days of stacked artist lineups, festival-goers swarmed to the front of a white-sheet covered stage far ahead of the headlining rapper’s scheduled set time, anxiously awaiting his arrival while showing their support by yelling out a compilation of phrases including “Free Flacko!”, “Fuck Sweden!,” and “ASAP, ASAP.”
Finally the lights dimmed, and Rocky appeared, spitting 30-second-long snippets of, “A$AP Forever” and “Gunz N Butter” in silhouette behind the giant sheet, building an even deeper anticipation from the roaring crowd. As the multi-platinum selling MC exclaimed “New shit!” before launching into an unreleased Juicy J-collaboration, the curtain dropped, revealing Rocky and a crew of over 30 male dancers -- all dressed in gray ski masks that resembled crash-test dummy costumes -- the TESTING album logo sprinkling their headgear and outfits. Multiple vintage cars — later used as risers by Flacko and his performers — with custom “TESTING” and “Injured Generation” decals covered the otherwise smokey stage.
Rocky rapped and bounced through several records, climbing on the cars' roofs and eventually shedding his mask. He paused to encourage mayhem just before the Playboi Carti and Tyler, The Creator-assisted “Telephone Calls,” yelling, “Man, I wish Carti was here, I wish Tyler was here, open up the f***ing mosh pit. I know this is a radio show, but I wanna see a f***ing mosh pit.”
A few tracks later -- following a full version of TESTING’s lead "Praise the Lord" -- Rocky still hadn’t mentioned his legal troubles, though he threw the crowd a curveball by bringing Tyler to the stage after all. The Honda Center festival grounds erupted with surprise and excitement as a sweater vest-clad Tyler emerged front and center, diving into the duo’s 2017 “Who Dat Boy.” Rocky and Tyler fed off each other's energy, moshing across the stage as fans animatedly screamed “Who that is!” along with them.
The mosh pit up front thrived as the song concluded and Tyler shouted “Rocky is home!,” segueing into Rocky asking the audience to calm down for a “sentimental moment." At that point he finally addressed his prison experience, expressing his gratitude for freedom and his love for all who prayed for him. He reflected, “Hip-hop never looked so strong together, we’re a big, strong community,” before urging the crowd to “get back to it” and requesting Tyler play something off Igor, pushing the Odd Future founder into a hyped rendition of "EARFQUAKE."
“Fuck You, Tyler!” Rocky then playfully bantered while Tyler exited the stage. Maintaining Tyler's momentum, the guest appearances continued, with A$AP Ferg introduced a touching anecdote. "When I was in Sweden, I would listen to the radio, and I would hear my brother Ferg’s song, I wanna hear that song now!” Rocky demanded as Ferg graced the stage for his new single and a blend of collaborative, fan-favorite works including “Work,” “Plain Jane,” “No Limit,” and more.
Ferg expressed his joy at having his bother back in the states, as Rocky continued grinning throughout his set, the diamonds in his teeth visible from far into the crowd. After Ferg took off, Rocky once again called for a mosh pit, instructing attendees, “Open that b***h up!” and warning “girls with freshly painted toenails” and “punk a** boys” to move aside. His masked stagemates then hopped into the center of the crowd to make space for the havoc, as a several-minute-long “mosh pit tutorial” played on the big screens.
Soon after, the New York-born rapper paid his respects to the West Coast by welcoming YG to the stage for "Big Bank" and "Go Loko," dancing and occasionally rapping along to the tracks despite not being featured on either. Just before his final songs, Rocky thanked his supporters once more, opening up about his legal issues, “I’m so happy to be here. I know y’all was praying for me, I’m not guilty ’n shit, but I’ll need y’all to keep praying for me. I get the verdict on Wednesday, hopefully I don’t go back to jail,” he continued, clarifying, “I got nothing against Swedish people. When I was locked up, it was Swedish people protesting outside the jails for me, standing up for me."
Par for the course for any A$AP concert, “Yamborghini High” was the closing track, for which Rocky was joined by Nast, Ferg, and other entourage members to pay respects to their late friend and A$AP founder, A$AP Yams. Fireworks exploded as the stage glowed in infrared light, filling with dozens of jumping, exhilarated A$AP affiliates who embraced one another at the end of the track. Just as concertgoers began to loosen up the throng to file out of the venue, Rocky requested they conclude the night with “Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2," reengaging fans for a “Lord, Pretty, Flacko, Jodye” chant, which served as the soundtrack for the newly-freed artists walk off.