Upon the release of At.Long.Last.A$AP, A$AP Rocky has still not made a career-defining classic… but he’s knocking on the door.
A.L.L.A is a nod to A$AP’s original form — after bringing in Drake and Skrillex for his debut album, Long.Live.A$AP, Rocky has gone back to the hazy, atmospheric roots that separated him from the overdone sound of other boom-bap New York rappers on his Live.Love.A$AP mixtape.
Like his previous projects, A$AP teams with producer Clams Casino for the bulk of the new album’s production, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t take risks throughout the project. From the dead-air pause in “Max B” to the beat switch in “Everyday,” Rocky never sits too far back in his comfort zone, even when he’s inhabiting the ambient soundscapes that caught our attention in the first place. The album is laced with unpredictability; any aspect of a song is prone to change at any moment.
Still, what makes this Rocky’s best project to date are his massive improvements in the lyrical realm. Rocky has built a reputation on masterfully selecting beats and riding them with pinpoint delivery, without saying anything groundbreaking in the process.
This is not the case with A.L.L.A, as Rocky has plenty to say following a turbulent time since his last studio release, which includes the death of his executive producer and friend, A$AP Yams. Rocky touches on what many 26-year-old artists of his stature experience… drugs, a shady music industry, changing friends. He deals with those issues while trying to be the same wine-drinking, fashion aficionado at heart through it all.
Rocky goes more in-depth on his harrowing Harlem roots then ever before. The chilling finale “Back Home” delves into Rocky’s childhood, reminiscing about dreary Harlem streets: “Past the racism and fake-ism / type of hate that makes you feel worse than a rape victim.” He also showcases a new ability to deliver line after line of well-crafted wordplay, most notably on “Max B.” “They’re pulling out my wis-dom / but I still spit it like my tooth ache me.”
Rocky also delves into what was once uncharted territory for him… religion, and in a less-than-traditional fashion. The opening track “Holy Ghost” wastes no time making (somewhat sarcastic) parallels between himself and an actual god, almost as if to poke fun at the concept of religion in the first place. He calls his “church” to attention in the opening lines. After all but mocking the concept of church, he draws a bold comparison between a church wine and recreational alcohol in a club, as both venues are filled with lies in his view.
Church bells and choir sounds, tell ’em, “quiet down”
Bow your head, the most high’s around cocktails
Guys and gals miss me, ties and gowns happen now
My attire sells, how you tryna sound? Stop it now
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
A.L.L.A. however, is not without its shortcomings — out-of-place features, a haziness that sometimes veers into sleep-inducing, an insistence on singing when there are better people for that job.
But these are all very fixable flaws. With A.L.L.A., Rocky flaunts a higher level of artistry that few reach, especially at such a young age, combining stoic imagery with dense lyricism over his already keen ear for beats. His unique style and personality (who else is rapping about wine and cheese with a straight face?) allow him to stand out in a crowded arena of talented young artists.
Clams Casino helped get A$AP Rocky off the ground. Now a much more developed, well-rounded artist, Rocky can take his name to the next level without being so reliant on production and delivery to hold an audience.
At.Long.Last.A$AP is not a classic album by any means, but it could very well be the prelude to one.
What’s left for Rocky is putting the puzzle pieces together, cutting the fat and delivering a more focused project with even more purpose and poignancy. Going from “good” to “very good” is exponentially easier than becoming one of the greats.
Based on his rate of growth, there’s no reason why Rocky can’t take the genre by the throat with his next project.