February 9, 2013

Record Reactions: A$AP Rocky – LongLiveA$AP

It’s true — A$AP Rocky isn’t the greatest rapper in the world.

His subject matter, delivery, and vocal style would probably turn off the conscious-rap crowd pretty quickly. What’s more, his boundless energy and confidence might turn off some who believe ego doesn’t have a place in music.

But rap isn’t all about the lyrical acrobatics and intelligent aesthetic that conscious rap showcases. There are more aspects to being a great rapper — charismatic personality, choice in superior beats and production, and the ability to create a general atmosphere that is entertaining and enveloping. In those areas, A$AP is near impeccable.

But at the same time, A$AP Rocky isn’t just another Gucci Mane. He’s more intelligent with his music. He has an ear like none other — well informed, open-minded, and expansive, especially for a mainstream rap star. And as a result, he’s versatile, prolific, and non-discriminating in the music he makes and listens to. The music he creates when he brings those ideas together is a listening experience second to none. It is invigorating, and almost too enjoyable. But this isn’t guilty pleasure music. It’s just fun, good music. He’s got a great hip hop ear, he’s got amazing contacts, and he takes all his influences, friends, favors, and risks all up in a huge stew of hip hop, vibes, good feelings and hard rap.

A$AP’s first mixtape, LiveLoveA$AP, was widely acclaimed for the same things this record should be acclaimed for — wonderful production, a fun ambiance, and passable, entertaining rapping. This record is different — it has a higher budget, and that major label production is an obvious addition to the sound. But in terms of substance and content, this record proudly offers no discontinuation in service.

A$AP’s versatility is his greatest asset. He’s a proficient enough a rapper to appease the conscious and lyrical crowds, but he can also make bass pounding swag-rap music better than almost anyone in the game today. He represents the absolute pinnacle of the potential that exists with collaboration between all sides of music.

And the guest spots on this record drive that point home even more. I really respect A$AP’s open mind — he’s not sequestering himself off in his corner with the other rappers — rather, he’s expanding his horizons, and making better music because of it.

Just listen to “F*ckin’ Problems” and “1 Train” to see how much the presence of some friends helps in terms of the energy and impact of a given song. You will be hard pressed to find another rap record that features Clams Casino, Skrillex, Kendrick Lamar, Santigold, and Drake all in one. Their spots, in addition to others, are one of the most definitive reasons this record is so much fun to listen to.

One of my favorite things about A$AP is how he doesn’t try to be anything he’s not. He may bring friends up to help him where he comes up short, but he doesn’t try to reinvent himself or change anything about the person he is. In a period in rap where conscious rap might be the hottest style, he says it himself in the middle of a rambling spot on “Suddenly”: “Don’t view me as no conscious cat, this ain’t no conscious rap”

At the end of the day, this is an amazingly fun rap record. But it’s more than that. It’s proof that with the right idea, the confidence and the means to carry it out, a whole lot can happen. A$AP Rocky just made a really, really good record by being himself. Is there anything else we can ask of him?

On second thought – A$AP Rocky just might be making his case for being one of the greatest rappers in the world.


Image Credit: ASAP Mob

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