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A$AP Rocky, Schoolboy Q, Childish Gambino and Reggie Watts | Concert previews

Schoolboy Q and A$AP Rocky are the buzziest acts in hip-hop. But jokesters like Childish Gambino are beating them at the box office.

Photograph: Brock Fetch
A$AP Rocky

Harlem MC A$AP Rocky has tickled the fancy of the Brooklyn hipsterati with his dazed and confused pot-hop. The sedative beats on the 23-year-old’s mix-tape LiveLoveA$AP replace funk with syrupy gunk. He’s hardly an impressive lyricist, focusing instead on blowing thick clouds of smoke.

Rocky pops up on the latest cut from West Coast pal Schoolboy Q, “Hands on the Wheel.” The chorus of his major-label debut offers a blatantly obvious mission statement: “Life for me is just weed and brews.” The L.A. newcomer, part of the Black Hippy collective, weaves more impressive couplets, as his intoxicants don’t seem to retard his tongue quite like they do to A$AP. Both hit the Pitchfork Festival in July.

For all the blog buzz the above have garnered, it’s interesting to note that none is playing rooms the size of Childish Gambino and Reggie Watts. The latter is classified a comedian, but it’s better if we consider him a performance artist, if not an avant-garde MC.  Watts is more funny-looking and funny-sounding than funny-writing. With a wild Afro, ugly sweaters and ill-fitting pants, he is a bizarre hybrid of Tiny Tim, Michael Winslow and Gil Scott-Heron. He may never evoke more than a chuckle, but his musical skills are mesmerizing as he loops and layers his beatboxing and singing.

Gambino is the alias of Community star Donald Glover. His sitcom celebrity might muddle his intentions as a rapper, but the Atlanta-raised actor can spit. Yes, he apes the cadences and intonations of Kanye and Drake, but his writing is clever and embarrassingly confessional. In “That Power,” the closing centerpiece of his official debut, Camp, Glover throws witty, geeky jabs like, “So it’s 400 blows / To these true foe niggas,” then slips into a long, captivating narrative that seeks the root of his sex-hungry, bellicose and conflicted persona. He recalls falling for a more well-to-do girl at summer camp. She toyed with him. He says, “I wish I could say this was a story about how I got on the bus a boy and got off a man, more cynical, hardened and mature and shit. But that’s not true. The truth is I got on the bus a boy. And I never got off the bus. I still haven’t.” Call Glover a joke, but Schoolboy never reaches that depth of immaturity.

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