“They ask me why I don’t go to church no more, cause church is the new club, and wine is the new bub, and lies is the new drugs, my sister the next stripper, my brother the next victim.” — Holy Ghost
It seems as if the steadily accumulating fame and all of the problems that come with it has finally gotten to A$AP Rocky.
Gone is the baby-faced, jiggy Harlem upstart with the golden (and literally made of gold) smile who couldn’t help but vibrate with positivity in every last interview. A couple years ago, Rocky was just happy to have made it. But the man born Rakim Mayers has no reason to flash golds any longer. His third proper project, At. Long. Last. A$AP, is his darkest one yet — and also his best.
In fact, in a year that has already seen high profile releases by Kendrick Lamar, Drake, Action Bronson, Big Sean, Wale, Earl Sweatshirt, and Ludacris (and we’re not even in June yet), At. Long. Last. A$AP is 2015’s best. This album has straight up classics on it. It infuses genres and layers of diverse, distinctive sounds more effortlessly than any piece of music I’ve heard in a long time.
As seems to be more and more commonplace these days, the lead-up to the release of A.L.L.A crept up on us rather quickly. First, Rocky dropped “Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2 (LPFJ2)” on New Year’s Eve, followed by the devastating news of A$AP Mob founder Steven “A$AP Yams” Rodriguez’ death-by-overdose in January. Then, a few short weeks later, Juicy J tweeted that he would be executive producing the album. The full album title was revealed in a GQ interview last month. Two weeks ago marked the beginning of A$AP’s Instagram invasion, one in which he supposedly lost 100,000 followers while, shall we say, slowly releasing album artwork. The time since has been filled with a combination of official singles, videos, and leaks.
Then, Tuesday morning at midnight, At Long Last… A$AP.
“I guess the new me is just gon’ take some getting used to.” — Excuse Me
If you had any prior doubts in Rocky’s musicality or his ear for fusion, then you probably weren’t listening hard enough in the first place. He’s been combining regional rap influences from all parts of the south and New York for years now, but on this album it’s on a whole different level. His talent for blending sounds undeniably bleeds through each and every record, and it’s really fucking impressive.
Co-executive producers Juicy J and Danger Mouse make their presence known in equal parts, and the end result is a dark, psychedelic journey through Rocky’s world that somehow mixes deep soul, folk, indie, and straight up trap (ghetto trap, not bullshit white people “trap”) to create something wholly A$AP-ian in nature. It sounds like Bun B, Bob Dylan, and Dan Auerbach strolling through Harlem at 3 am, passing around cocaine blunts. I mean, who else but A$AP could feature Kanye West, Future, M.I.A., James Fauntleroy, Yasiin Bey, ScHoolboy Q, UGK, Rod Stewart, Miguel, and Mark Ronson on the same album and have it all make sense?
“I look for ways to say I love you, but I ain’t into making love songs.” — L$D
“… And I can’t face that all I need is right where I belong.” — Pharsyde
The main theme of A.L.L.A seems to be loss: loss of religion (“Holy Ghost”), loss of love (“Jukebox Joints”), loss of friends (“Back Home”), loss of potential (“Max B”). Rocky has gained everything one can ask for in the four years since his debut mixtape, LiveLoveASAP dropped, but he’s lost many of the things that make us human in the process. It’s a classic case of a celebrity’s unwanted fame growing much faster than anticipated. This album finds him in heavy reflection mode as he tries to reconcile the turbulent and rapid balance of gain and loss in his life.
Besides Juicy J, Danger Mouse, and Rocky himself, the star of this show is undoubtedly Joe Fox.
Yeah, I didn’t recognize the name either. Joe Fox appears five times on A.L.L.A, and each song is an album highlight. He has a crazy wavy voice, and his back story is even crazier. Do yourself a favor and click that link, because I still can’t really believe how Rocky and Fox came to meet. Regardless, Fox’s voice acts as a calming, stabilizing factor throughout the often-times chaotic long-player, and every appearance is more than welcome.
“Mood music make me bop slower, trippin’ on how I shifted pop culture.” — Jukebox Joints
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of A.L.L.A is how Rocky manages to show so much growth while staying so true to his original sound. The deep pounding bass of previous A$AP projects remains in tact, he still screws up his voice for especially trill verses, and his trademark flow still rides any and every beat with ease. Tracks like “Canal Street” and the aforementioned “Max B” put on hard for Harlem, while the Juicy J and UGK assist on “Wavybone” and the Lil’ Wayne feature on “M’$” continue his unique brand of southern trap-influenced bangers. Rocky and ScHoolboy Q’s track record remains flawless as well, as “Electric Body” proves that the two are well on their way to going down as one of the best tag teams in hip-hop history.
At. Long. Last. A$AP is an absolutely stellar project. My only complaint is that the last five songs are generally a bit weaker than the previous thirteen, but that may very well change with repeated listens. After all, this is definitely an album with many intricacies that are only to be discovered with time and patience. Rocky put his all into it, and he emerged with a perfect soundtrack for 2015: at once accessible but dark, moody but feel-good. Lots of these songs will slap at parties, lots of them will annihilate car trunks, and lots of them will accompany people with no friends on self-deprecating journeys through boxes of wine.
All in all, A$AP Rocky is still the one dude I give a pass to for replacing all of his “S’s” with dollar signs. At this point, he has more than earned the privilege to do what he wants. That much is clear. The majority of rappers are either too scared to step out of their box (or expand their box), or they should not be given free reign to do so because they would ruin their careers. A$AP Rocky is now three excellent projects into a short career that will last at least another ten years, and that is because he is fearless in executing his vision, and his box is limitless.
I know that A$AP Yams is smiling down from the heavens while bumping this one, and he very well should be. There’s no question in my mind that Rocky made him proud.