Artist: A$AP Rocky
Album: At. Long. Last. A$AP.
Record Label: RCA
Release Date: 25th May 2015
A$AP Rocky's sophomore full-length is his most wholesome, epic and tragedy-flecked work yet
A$AP Rocky's detractors would be right in saying that 15 or 20 years ago his braggadocia would have struggled to find its feet in hip-hop. They'll also refer to the "shameful" changes in the industry and the influence of fame and commercial power, but at this point to talk about those things without being active is superfluous. A$AP Rocky's entire oeuvre revolves around the modern mainstream hip- hop agenda, and whereas some of his contemporaries fall in and become another mediocre piece of the puzzle, with At. Long. Last. A$AP Rocky has produced a suitably epic piece of work.
Although arrogant and offering little in the way of originality, At. Long. Last. A$AP is his most wholesome work to date. Production wise it's positively cinematic, only once delving into his cloud-rap favouratism of yesteryear ('Fine Whine'). Flow wise he sounds more energetic than ever. On the opener 'Holy Ghost' he barely stops for breath over the dusty, soulful rock-orientated beat. Expecting lyrical versatility and modesty from Rocky is unwise, but on the smooth and dark trap crawl of 'Canal St.' his assertion that "I'm just a kettle from the ghetto with no pot to piss in, so who am I to call it black?" is startlingly poetic.
The prospect of A$AP Rocky singing may still be a strange one, but 'L$D' continues to be one of the most interesting singles in his arsenal. The trippy and reflective yet low-brow ode to drugs and sex points somewhat to the influence of Love's classic opus Forever Changes, a favourite of Rocky's. His collaboration with Schoolboy Q on 'Electric Body' feels absolutely natural, Schoolboy's slightly deranged delivery aiding the track's gutter-level feel. And despite being a largely shallow ode to dogging, 'West Side Highway' is even romantic at times.
There's an undercurrent of tragedy at points on the record too, informed by the recent death of fellow A$AP crew member and de facto leader A$AP Yams. Over the mournful, Eastern-tinged synths of 'Max B' Rocky spits "this the kind of story that should make doves cry, fuck that, this the kind of story that should make thugs cry". 'Pharsyde' is his most sensitive moment to date and finds him almost vulnerable as he asserts "my ears are ringing, my palms are shaking, somebody's momma's heart is aching", and on the A Tribe Called Quest-esque throwback boom-bap of 'Back Home' a sample of A$AP Yams himself rounds the album off in touching style.
Whereas Kendrick Lamar consistently reverts his mainstream success to a more left-field persuasion, A$AP Rocky is almost everything mainstream hip-hop has come to stand for. The thing is that on At. Long. Last. A$AP he's simultaneously created a flashy piece of art as well as proved that in terms of energy and presence he's more favourable than some of the games older stars who still shift millions of units. Though he'll probably never be the most lyrically lauded MC in the industry this wholesome, colourful and entertaining opus is certainly an exciting album for its time.
Key Tracks: 'Pharsyde (ft. Joe Fox)', 'L$D', 'Electric Body (ft. Schoolboy Q)'
For Fans of: Kanye West, Lil Wayne