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A$AP Rocky – At.Long.Last.A$AP (An Album Review)

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It was a bleak day for some when they awoke to news that A$AP Rocky had done a collaboration with the main instigator of universal drunk-dad-dancing, Rod Stewart. For others, it was a glimpse at Rocky’s versatility as a modern recording artist. Following this was the release of the even more divisive single, ‘L$D,’ which gave further insight into the eclecticism of his new record, and its roots in the psychedelic.

In the lead up to Rocky’s sophomore album release, the buzz surrounding it tended to place a lot of emphasis on its rumoured features, seeing Kanye West and M.I.A in amongst the cacophony of name-drops. Combined, these all-star features and psych-rock influences seemed to indicate the new, stranger direction that the album was going to take.

So it’s understandable that when At.Long.Last.A$AP dropped at the end of last month, the world greeted it with an anxious smile.

A.L.L.A is probably A$AP Rocky’s most ambitious work to date. Where Long.Live.A$AP saw him dip his toes into the mainstream with a pretty dire collection of singles, A.L.L.A sees him adopting a more experimental approach, calling in production from the likes of Danger Mouse and Mark Ronson.

For an album that is saturated with guest features, A$AP Rocky does get the balance right a few times on tracks like ‘Canal St.,’ ‘Wavybone’ and ‘West Side Highway.’ These in particular let both him and his guests anoint the tracks with their own styles, without one artist dominating or overshadowing the other. ‘Jukebox Joints,’ featuring Mr. Kim Kardashian himself, is a warming throwback to the humble, soulful beats of Yeezy’s College Dropout.

But even at that, Kanye’s verse isn’t mind-blowing. And that’s where this album tends to miss the mark. On paper, its features list looks impressive – but the reality leaves you feeling a little short changed. Future and Yasiin Bey deliver blink-and-you’ll-miss-it rhymes, and M.I.A gives us one of the most excruciatingly pointless verses in hip hop history. Newly A$AP’d singer-songwriter Joe Fox, whose vocals appear on at least 5 tracks on A.L.L.A, has a style and tone in his voice that is idiosyncratic to the album’s texture.  Had these features and their contributions been much more methodically curated by Rocky himself, we’d very likely have a much tighter unit of songs.

Instead, we have a lengthy body of work that lacks cohesion; it’s an album that has been conceived from great ideas, but unfortunately, has been executed limply. There are some great standout tracks here where A$AP Rocky’s production choices allow him to stretch and unfurl his steadily improving lyricism – namely on ‘Holy Ghost’ and ‘Pharsyde.’ On others, it’s evident that his collaborations with artists like Juicy J and Schoolboy Q were always meant to be. But A.L.L.A is let down by its over-ambition, and simultaneous lack of direction and order. The good news however is that A$AP Rocky does seem to be on the right track. This album shows Rocky pacing away (only a couple of steps, mind) from his acquired legions of Trill, and making content which revels in taking risks and being different. It shows an artist who has realised that articulated introspection speaks more volumes than “yeah I like to fuck, I got a fuckin’ problem” ever could. And for Flacko, that is a very promising move.

 



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