Because Rakim Mayers, or A$AP Rocky of the heralded A$AP Mob, has one classic mixtape (Live. Love. A$AP) and a landmark studio debut (Long. Live. A$AP) to his name, the buzz around him, his brand and his constituency is tremendous. As a blessing in disguise and although it was tragic, the January passing of one of the Mob’s founders, A$AP Yams, also generated more talk. Next to a small handful of local rivals but strong competition nonetheless, the Harlem-bred A$AP Rocky is bringing back fervent interest in New York rap for a new generation and the old lifers. His sophomore studio album, At. Long. Last. A$AP (A.L.L.A), which is ambitious, meets expectations and then a little more for an overall satisfactory listening experience.
Rocky knocks a few out the park here, but the behind-the-scenes work by him, the producers and the guests should be noted. Executive-produced by Rocky, Yams, alternative New York musician Danger Mouse and Juicy J, A.L.L.A‘s dreamy, atmospheric and at times rocking production comes from a good many: Hector “El Father” Delgado also of Hector & Tito, Jim Jonsin, Kanye West, Da Honorable C.N.O.T.E. and of course Danger Mouse and Lord Flacko (A$AP Rocky’s producer alias). The mellow slowness of rock and soul samples is interrupted, quickly changed and paused in spots, making the character of the proceedings a little… rocky. The artsy guest list with British guitarist Joe Fox at the top contains not one bore. Bones, Future, M.I.A. and Schoolboy Q in the first eight tracks give a good taste of modern hip hop while Kanye West, Juicy J, UGK, James Fauntleroy and Lil Wayne in the middle section provide for divinely classic styles. Bringing together segregated music generations, “Everyday” couples Rod Stewart with Miguel and Mark Ronson, and “Back Home” puts Black Star’s Mos Def next to Acyde and A$AP Yams.
By necessity, A$AP Rocky’s flourishing and well-trained rhyme-mind creates many greatly involved lyrics for A.L.L.A. Redundant but representative of him, the stylish, NY menace again brings out the coke, lean, Glocks, “bands,” jewelry, weed, sex, alcohol and rich fashion with which his new age gangsta music lane is paved. A part time braggart and hustler in more ways than one, Rocky decidedly digs for deeper meaning as well. “Holy Ghost” spotlights the oppressed class at the lower rung of the social ladder, “Pharsyde” addresses depression and other social problems while “Dreams” imagines a world without racism; and only the abnormal romantic in Mayers akin to our times’ young, nontraditional single could make the bluesy rap love ballad “Fine Whine” and the amorous and trippy “L$D.”
Alternative and experimental, lyrical and luscious, At. Long. Last. A$AP has A$AP Rocky time-honoring his unique flavor and challenging himself. Under the threat of extinction, gangsta rap is toned down and given a facial here by one of the East Coast’s hottest young ghetto-rockstars, the Southern sifted New Yorker named after golden age rap god Rakim Allah.