Wednesday 3 June 2015

Review of 'AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP' by A$AP Rocky

New York emcee, A$AP Rocky, has become one of the more prominent names in the trap rap scene largely for his quirky metrosexual fashion sense (remember that time he once wore a skirt) and his banging selection of beats (the main appeal to me). When it comes to his actual rapping ability, there's not much to separate him from others in the game. His flow is adept and he’s a lot less annoying than some of his autotune-warbling contemporaries, but at the end of the day he’s just another dude spitting about money, drugs and bitches (which is fine if you’re not a lyric snob like me).

AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP sees Rocky taking influence from trip hop and ‘old 60s psychedelic shit’. At 18 tracks, it’s not the most concise album in the world, but it does manage to keep up the pace. Arguably, the best tracks are left until last. ‘Better Things’ might just be the prettiest here, swiftly followed by the hardest track ‘M’$’, that’ll make you want to fix your car with hydraulics.  ‘Everyday’ meanwhile features a killer boom-bap beat courtesy of Mark Ronson, plus vocal features from Miguel and – of all people – Rod Stewart (although I’m pretty sure it’s just a sample).

Me whilst listening to 'M'$'

Altogether, the album relies hard on guest performances. There are lots of names to gawp at. Many disappoint – I knew I’d find M.I.A. and Future’s verses annoying, but I expected more from Kanye who spends his bars rhyming the same word with the same word: ‘sometimes the best advice, is no advice, especially when it’s your advice’. Lil Wayne is the only surprise here, laying down a killer verse on ‘M’$’. Like his performance on the recent Tyler album, he proves he can actually ride a beat instead of delivering the slurry nonsense we’re all used to.

I’m yet to research into who exactly Joe Fox is, but he seems to contribute the most guest performances on this record, largely bringing the ‘old 60’s psychedelic shit’ influence. Four tracks feature folksy-sung hooks from him. They feel like something Eminem might do, except without the cheesiness that was all over The Marshall Mathers LP 2. In fact, Joe Fox’s recurring appearances seem to give the album the motif it needs, stopping it from becoming a jumbled mess and giving it all a sense of cohesion.

I Googled 'Joe Fox' and a picture of Tom Hanks came up. I am none the wiser.

The album ends with perhaps the most poignant of all the guests – a spoken section from Rocky’s recently-passed mentor, A$AP Yams. For me this is one of the best tracks here, not because of sentimental value, but because Rocky really seems to be rapping his ass off on it. It’s the only real song where Rocky sounds like he’s pushing his ability, and not simply cruising. Maybe we can expect more of this in the future. For now, the beats are still the clincher.