A$AP Rocky doesn’t have the message that Kendrick Lamar has. He doesn’t have the pop sensibility of Drake or the grandiose vision of Kanye. What’s so great about A$AP Rocky?
For Rocky, cool is more than a slick way with words, cocky delivery, and emphasis on style. It’s knowing how to say “I don’t give a fuck” and sound like you mean it. It’s identifying niche qualities from different worlds and combining them into something new. It’s making it to the top of the rap game and then swerving left with a trippy ass album inspired by drugs, sex, and rock ‘n’ roll.
On his debut album, 2013’s Long.Live.A$AP, it felt like Rocky was trying to prove that he could be a mainstream star. Songs like “Wild For The Night,” “Fuckin’ Problems,” and “Fashion Killa” all sounded like Rocky was ignoring his own gut reactions in order to make something with more potential mass appeal. Despite that compromise, it was still a good album. “Goldie,” “PMW,” and “1Train” were all strong Rocky songs, and with over 500,000 copies sold, Rocky entered the upper echelon of rap.
On At.Long.Last.A$AP, Rocky’s not trying to prove anything. There are no clear crossover records, with the possible exception of the awesomely random Rod Stewart, Miguel, and Mark Ronson-featuring “Everyday.” Rocky has already proven that he can fit in with radio regulars like Sam Smith and Selena, but this album avoids all that. Instead, he invites an obscure London street musician (Joe Fox), a lo-fi internet favorite from L.A. (Bones), and the elusive Mos Def for an exploration into psychedelic influences and left-field hip-hop.
Look, I understand the complaints about A$AP Rocky being all style and no substance, but let’s be real: there are enough conscious rappers to go around, and there’s a reason why most of them aren’t popular. Music is more than a message—it’s feeling, expression, and mood. These are things Rocky is a master of, and they are things that make him, as an artist, far more interesting than a technically sound rapper who has a political agenda and a way with words.
And of course, it would be negligent to not acknowledge A$AP Yams. One of the great musical minds of our generation, Yams was a curator of the highest caliber. He merged street and internet culture in ways that yielded something completely new and modern, and it’s ignorant to even talk about the A$AP aesthetic without mentioning Yams. It’s without a doubt that Yams’ tastes and ear played an essential role in making A.L.L.A the best album of 2015, so far. RIP Yams. Long live A$AP.—Confusion
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