Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Live Review - A$AP Rocky - At.Long.Last.A$AP


After what seemed like weeks (possibly actually only two days) of the CD being "out there", we've finally secured a copy, and oh man am I excited. A$AP Rocky isn't my absolute favorite rapper by any stretch, but new music from him is always major, if not just because it's so infrequent. Despite acclaim from critics, hip hop heads, and mainstream audiences, Rocky doesn't go for the mixtape-heavy nearly-continuous release stream of many of his peers. This is only his third project, and, although living up to the first two is a pretty tall order, I have the utmost confidence in his success.

Live.Love.A$AP is basically a flawless album that delivered, on every single track, a sound that was both groundbreaking and refined. In retrospect it was way ahead of its time with Rocky's "flow over everything" school of rapping, an approach that has now become the dominant style (or at least hands down my favorite), manifesting most strongly in Young Thug. Terms like "trillwave" and "cloud rap" have really fallen off in usage in recent used, but everyone still aims for that deep, hazy, ethereal sound we see here.

Then, two years later, we get Long.Live.A$AP, his breakout album. He carefully negotiated the power of mainstream collaboration with his inherent sound and talents to produce a great mix of accessibility and depth. There's homerun bangers like "PMW" and "Fuckin Problems" that basically any hip hop fan could like, next-level versions of his previous style like "Goldie" and "PMW", and even further experimentation in those directions - on tracks like "Pain" and "Phoenix", he's really pushing what one could expect to call "hip hop".

But although there were successes in all of these categories, there was also - unlike his debut - a lot of ones I just wasn't feeling, especially of the third type. Live.Love is a tape where I'd never even think to skip a song, but Long.Live feels like it loses focus and energy at times. It's difficult 'cause I never want Rocky to stop experimenting and pushing his sound, but what I really want most is for his energy, flow, and dynamism to be running underneath every track. Is that what we'll get on ALLA? Idk let's find out!!

A$AP Rocky - At.Long.Last.A$AP
Live Review

1. Holy Ghost
Ay! Hahaha, this intro is pretty interesting, I wonder where it's from. The beat is pretty sweet, nice and smooooth... Rocky on an attitude heavy flow here. "Church is the new club, wine is the new bub, lies is the new drugs" huh hmm. I didn't expect this sort of subject matter from him lol. Good mix of actual substance and hype bragging. Songs criticizing pastors aren't too uncommon though. But damn this is smooth. His flow is just immaculate. "Now we major, huhhh? I got my own relationship with God", damn okay yeah. This sample is pretty nice, can imagine myself "belting it out" on later listens. Tempted to already. The guitar factor is sorta new for Rocky. Very cool. S+

2. Canal St.
Hmmm interesting, very delicate piano, nice kick. Kinda sounds like a Drake beat in a good way. I like the sampling of "hustle" interjected. Rocky on some strong flow experimentation. Wowwww at 1 minute, the way the beat sorta fills out there is sweet. Subject matter is hella real. Yeah see this is exactly what I wanted... the rap energy filling out this sorta thing... Ooh I think this is Bones now. Really good effect, his voice. This is so well done, such a depth of atmosphere. "Fuck pretty, I'm gorgeous", of course. Like this sorta music makes me FEEL COOL despite all evidence to the contrary. I feel "badass", "capable", etc. Just from the depth of atmosphere and realness of the lyrics. I looooooove the bass at the end wow. *

3. Fine Whine
Apparently Future and MIA are on this one, sweet. And Joe Fox, who I guess was singing on track one. Is this him singing now? This love... I think my cup is getting muddy... Damn this is slow and low. Sludgy lean music. Almost passed out in the club music. "She won't get a damn thing from me, she might just get a band-aid from me" damn. I love the little piano insertion here. This love won't last forever... damn is 2015 the year every rapper got depressed? Damnnn MIA!!! "How many fucks am I supposed to give?" big existential question these days. And now Future. They sound pretty good off of each other like this. He went pretty far in on that one with his distant emotional flow. "Pick up your wine glass, with your fine ass"... Clubdespair, possibly best emotionalaesthetic of all time. S

4. L$D
I think this was a single but I didn't listen to it because of spoilers. Title is intriguing of course. Lots of rappers doing psychedelics these days, seems to be leading to some really good music. I love the depth of the beat. Sorta a love song to the drug maybe, Beatles style. Just rapping to this LSD. Rocky's voice is actually really damn good wow. Not many rappers could pull off singing like this. Love Sex Dreams. Haha wow. Like a complete 180 from Pussy Money Weed. haha. Jesus wow I really like this though. On paper I think I wouldn't have guessed I would unless someone added "actually really good!". I like songs that are both very full and complex but still feel like 90% empty space. I love how many times this song has like switched it up on us, and the sparse interjection of classic Rocky elements. Very very cool. Very genre-pushing. Reminds me of something I can't quite think of. **

5. Excuse Me
Wow this has the exact same length as the previous song. Wow. Rocky on a really punctuated but smooth flow, idk how that works, storytelling and bragging but also sorta deprecating. "I could switch up on you niggas and start shitting if I need to". And now back on a singing sorta thing... this is a nice full sound. Holy cow though he's really going pretty far away from rapping at this point lol. Some nice Tupac references, Rocky still holding down the heritage. This whole time he's been thugging. I love the way he can go into a "section" and then flow so smoothly out of it. Man I dunno. This is on paper very close to the sort of stuff I really hate Childish Gambino for doing but there's some difference that makes me like this one. Some quality of depth or intensity. For real though I am hoping we'll get more bangers soon. S

6. JD
JD swag! Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye!! Lol on monday I entered a Smash tournament as all Falco and entered as Lord Pretty Falco Jodye hahaha. This is interesting. The conversational sorta flow is neat, as is the lofish sorta production. I love the way the beat rides back up. Jimmy Dean. Okay that's it. S-

7. Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2 (LPFJ2)
daaaaaaamn yeah I've heard this like twenty times already cause it was a single a long time ago. Rocky on his godflow, beat is immaculate, The sorta flow he does around :50 is amazing, no one else raps like that (not even Young Thug!!), trillest since Pimp C, damn. This so solid, this is just "rap: the song", this is the mode I like best. **

8. Electric Body
Awww yeah Schoolboy Q on this one, they go so well together, PMW is like top 5 ASAP for me. Ohhh yeeeeah I love this flow, this beat is so menacing, so intense. I can foresee myself listening to this like five hundred times and memorizing the whole thing. Haha that interlude. And woww wwow "All I wanna see is green faces, all I want to count green numbers, shit is looking weird like the Matrix" lmao. Singing together on the hook, aw yeah. Hahahaha oh man. Apparently Danger Mouse did some production for this one, it does sound like him, he's great. Q on some crazy stop start flow, sorta punchliney. I want to see him double down at some point and just go tf in tho. He's getting even more naaasty though. All the little Q-isms that get added on his verses is always so good. This outro(?) is pretty neat, smooth, hypnotic... The title drops and stuff. Cool. S+

9. Jukebox Joints
featuring KANYE WEST, what the HELL OMG. Maybe this will be like Slow Jamz, y'know? Rocky on a real soulful flow along with this beat. "I'm tripping off the acid now your ass is looking massive" hahahaha. "I'll be damned if I die sober" damn okay wow. Man the psychedelic qualities of this album can't be overstated, there's a nonstop underlying feeling of "trippiness" that I can't pin down. "Took a whole year off just to learn to make beats", hmm. This is pretty nice, pretty vibey. But man idk. Oooh. A beat switch??? Haha wow. That was sudden. Ohhh maaaaaaan! Sounding pretty triumphant here. "He jacked my style, she jacked me off" hahaa. "Cinderellas under my umbrella" HEY he used this one before, way back on the first tape. "Only one word I'm afraid of is the love word". HAahahaha HERE HE IS. "With friends like you, who needs friends? Sometimes the best advice is no advice", Lmao these lyrics are insane. "I'm a black man with the confidence of a white man, hallelujah", beautiful. S+

10. Max B
Extended lofi recording intro. Now we get a sorta Eastern feel on the beat, can't quite pin it down. Prison song, Max like max security I guess. His flow here is pretty intense, lyrics real and bleak. And then we switch back to the mode of the intro... "And the only thought running through my head - did I fuck it up, did I fuck it up?" wow. "This the sorta story that should make doves cry, fuck that - this the sorta story that'd make thugs cry", and then the "meta" skip line, I like it, I usually like stuff like that. This is... like genuinely pretty effecting... the distance and bleakness and emptiness here... woah. "I'm still too young", wow... and the way he fucks it up at the end lol. *

11. Pharsyde
This is Danger Mouse too, SICK. Really happy to hear him again working with such prominent rappers. And of course this beat is PRETTY SWEET. Got that great Danger Mouse guitar usage like "Paint by Numbers". Rocky on a really amazing flow here, talking real shit about his dissatisfaction with his surrounding. "Gentrification split the nation that I once was raised in", and then a real, intimate, and personal explanation. LSD-introspection. 26 years of living, that's how many fucks I've given. "As I lay me down to sleep I pray to God to let me rest in peace", BLEAK. bleeeeeak. But there's the whole attitude of like... further understanding, further development, etc. It's beautiful in a way too. *

12. Wavybone
Juicy J and UGK! Omg. The triumph in this one is immediately evident. Good progression from the last track. "Getting money is all I do", of course. "I went to France and almost got deported" lol wow but okay that pun on Nice was pretty lame haha. Wow his flow is getting pretty athletic here. That's probably what I'm missing most from old Rocky, that hungry flow, that "something to prove" flow. Awww yisssssss Im feeling TRILL RIP TO PIMP C etc. The "Don't give a fuck about where you're from" etc lines are quintessential Texas flow, the exact sorta thing that Rocky added to himself to level so far up. Juicy J sounding hella smooth here. Hoooly shit around 3:20 when he switches it up, I love that, and then he ends back on the hook so triumphantly. Okay now Bun B on another classic Texas flow, holy damn man I have no words, that verse was perfect Texas, even got the candy paint lines thank you based Bun B. *

13. West Side Highway
This is pretty neat... very vibey... I like the vocal effects he layers... feels g-funky. His flow emerging from this is pretty sweet, "Only thing we got in common is that we want it all". "Girl just wanna have fun till the fun run up". Fauntleroy on his classic shit, works pretty well here. Nice and smooth, riding out into the sunset music. Rapping about wine, of course. "Ride from overseas, but that's basic", of course. Pretty cool overall. S

14. Better Things
Really slow dark deep beat here... Rocky hella lonely it seems. I like the piano, that sort of distorted "understatic" tone. His flow is really active here, this is the sort of dynamism that I want from him. "Fucking each and every Katy Perry for the night", I guess cause of the "kissed a dyke girl and I liked it" sorta joke. Haha. Around 2:00 he switches back to this really slick bouncy flow, this is his godmode I think. Straightforward lyrics about how to hit a blunt. v helpful. thank u. S-

15. M'$
With Wayne, oh wow. Rip Yams :( ahahahahahaha dropping his own version of the You Ain't Got No Yeezy Certified Classic Line, and wow the 2 Chainz sample. I hope this song is all homages and stuff. Wowaowow he's having a lot of fun on this verse. "All I want to do is chill and get faded", "I'm surprised that we made it", good stuff. Talking about Ms, that's MILLIONS. Damn. "And my Youtube account say the same amount". Wayne on 100% Wayne flow. Actually TRYING HARD to RAP WELL, and wow he STILL CAN. "You got beef, I got white", "I got needles and pipes, I got clean I got right", wow. "What do you keep in your safe? I spent that on my watch and I wave it like Mase" Wow man this is like... all-star Wayne mode. Jesus. **

16. Dreams (Interlude)
Now we're moving into the final part of the album... this is a nice dreamy sorta sound... "This is assault with deadly metal", I like the way his flow slowly "wakes up", and now it's evolving to the absolute pinnacle. "When you puff don't pass, just sip". "Police brutality was on my TV screen", bleak. And now we fade back away into dream... S+

17. Everyday
Ah yes, this was another single I listened to a bunch, it's really solid. Got that Rod Stewart sample into the Rod Stewart recreation, I love that effect. This is Rocky on his tryhard multifaceted flow. The one that makes you just wanna BOUNCE that shit. "Only God can judge me, and he don't like ugly" haha take that Atmosphere. Maaaaaaan this album was good and all but why can't he rap like this all the time? Prolly... because it's really really hard to write a verse that good. Hmm... AND OH MAN, the switchup is so good. "This type of shit got em busting out the clip in the middle of the office" is godly. And then how it switches up to a different Rod Stewart sample, I love that. "I got the love birds chirping at the window" has a good flow it to it itself. And the way they slow it down on the outro... very emotionally impacting... where can we go from here? What's the outro gonna be?? **

18. Back Home
With Yams ;___; and MOS DEF!! Cool "rewindy" intro. Cool intense beat. "They throwing mad salt, until I go bath salt", sick. The flow is intense and smooth here, this is, again, what I was hoping for from every song hmm. "If I ain't the greatest, bitch, I'm one of them", pretty intense. Rip Yams... I feel like Rocky's sadness over his death pervades much of this album. And now... total silence... and an even stranger beat emerges. Really atmospheric stormy here thing. And Yams gets the outro... very fitting. *

Okay, that was pretty solid

It moved even further away from "traditional banger" territory than Long.Live.A$AP, with like... psychedelic rock? Blues songs? Soul beats? Lots of singing? All sorts of things that I would have thought would look bad on paper, but actually turned out pretty well. Honestly, I'm pretty disappointed that there isn't many just straight up bangers, songs that have that sheer physical addictiveness that makes you wanna replay them even halfway through the original listen. On that metric, Rocky actually seems to have shifted his focus from flow to meaning to an unprecedented level, and as a result a lot of songs don't have the consistency of energy that just going in as hard as possible would bring.

But in refocusing, Rocky has been able to explore emotional spaces and aesthetics deeper than ever before. There's a lot of really interesting subjects discussed in here... a lot of heavy introspection and cultural vantage points, all of which are expressed expertly through the sound itself. Every song has at least one really fascinating element, which is pretty amazing on an 18 track album. I'm just a little sad that not all of those songs have "Rocky's flow" as one of those elements.

Okay I dunno I'll listen to it a few more times before I say anything more. Definitely a lot to explore on this album.

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