Platinum Blog #14: A$AP Rocky

Album Review: A$AP Rocky | At.Long.Last.A$AP

Finally, an identity. Harlem rapper A$AP Rocky’s debut commercial release, Long.Live.A$AP, was a largely forgettable collection of tired hip hop tropes; beautiful women, clouds of weed, and expensive jewelry were featured extensibly.  While Rocky came away with a few excellent singles (the rumbling “Fuckin’ Problems” and the dub-reggae-inspired Skrillex collaboration “Wild For The Night” being the best of the bunch), it seemed like most other similar artists could’ve rapped the same lyrics over the same beats and received the same results. Consequently, many of the deeper cuts and B-sides of Long.Live.A$AP just seemed uninspired; A$AP Rocky isn’t a master lyricist. After I finished listening to the record, I wondered to myself, “Who is A$AP Rocky?” He failed to carve out his own identity throughout the album. Luckily, with his follow-up, At.Long.Last.A$AP, Rocky has given us a strong, well-produced, cohesive rap album that will be in my rotation throughout the rest of 2015.

In At.Long.Last.A$AP, A$AP Rocky embraces drugs. This isn’t a concept album, but LSD, molly, lean, and other fruitful concoctions appear on nearly every song. Take single “L$D” for example; Rocky insists the title stands for “Love, Sex, Dreams”, but, like, come on. This is 2015 hip hop. “L$D” sees Rocky coo effortlessly over light bass and smooth electric guitars; who knew he could sing this soulfully? This track is one of the standouts of At.Long.Last.A$AP, and perhaps best elicits the feeling of a drug trip.

In fact, the entire album likely mirrors how Rocky imagines music should sound while under the influence of LSD. Aesthetically, it’s extremely unique. We get these hazy, relaxed instrumentals with limited bass and layered strings and guitars, yet Rocky projects his signature double-time anti-syncopation flow over the top. It reminds me of Kanye West, who, better than anyone alive, can make impossible beats rappable. Speaking of Kanye, the song “Jukebox Joints” gives both production credits and a guest verse to Yeezy. Rocky clearly takes a lot of cues from Kanye, combining the themes of wealth and drugs to create what can best be described as “luxury-core”.

This album has an absolutely gargantuan amount of features; artists that appear on this album include M.I.A., Future, Kanye, Mark Ronson, Miguel, Juicy J, Schoolboy Q, and an absolutely fired-up Lil Wayne, sounding better than he has since Tha Carter III. On “M’$”, Tunechi spits an absolute animal of a guest verse, once and for all severing ties with mentor Birdman. While none of the features stack up to Lil Wayne’s, special recognition deserves to go to a confident Schoolboy Q on “Electric Body” and a soulful Miguel on “Everyday”.

This is an album, similar to many great electronica records, that doesn’t require full attention for the listener to receive full enjoyment. It’s extremely relaxing; the musical equivalent of acid. The listener can very easily just space out and groove to the spacious instrumentals and accessible vocals from Rocky. While (aside from “L$D”) there aren’t many moments that blow me away, At.Long.Last.A$AP is a well-crafted commercial hip hop record. Rocky just needs to chill with the mid-song beat switches.

Score: 7/10

Five songs I’m listening to this week

Tame Impala | “Eventually”

Miguel | “Coffee”

Leon Bridges | “River”

Disclosure | “Holding On”

Nao | “Inhale Exhale”

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