He was raised in Harlem but he raps like he’s from Houston. He dresses like he’s from downtown L.A but his threads are European. It seems as if ASAP Rocky has been running away from boxes the hip-hop industry has in place and has created a sound and style that is so unique, it landed him an unprecedented three million dollar record deal after only six months of his first two videos “Peso” and “Purple Swag” hitting the net. His breakout mixtape Live.Love.ASAP received critical acclaim for its stellar inimitable production and for its unorthodox fusion of swag-rap and trippy hip-hop mixed with an unlikely combination of subject matter. This consisted of smoking purple weed and sipping purple drank, brandishing Berettas and playing dice games in the hood dressed in esoteric European designer wear. After riding out the wave of his mixtape’s success, ASAP had landed in push-backed-album limbo. Slated to be released in July 2012, then September, then October, it was finally released in January 2013 after being leaked a whole month before. LongLiveASAP came out amid much skepticism and to frustrated fans but it did not disappoint. Instead it reveals much more about ASAP Rocky than we ever knew.
ASAP Rocky’s rapid rise from being just another internet underground cat to being labeled as ‘New York’s Prince’ is most definitely not due to his lyricism. His rhymes are materialistic and misogynistic; profound is not a word one would use to describe him. Rather it is his instinct for being able to pick the perfect beat and to malleableize his flow to that particular beat with ease. ASAP Rocky has this amazing ability of going from rapping in a slow-stoned drawl to lightning-speed flow without hesitation. When he laces this rapping style over beautifully produced eclectic ethereal beats exemplified by haunting drums and hazy synths he creates a sound so compelling that the listener doesn’t actually really pay attention to what he’s saying. In “PMW (All I really need)” ASAP typifies this by shifting from a flow reminiscent of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony’s Krayziebone to a dawdling almost-singing one. Schoolboy Q is featured on this track and compliments ASAP very well in terms of cadence, and his verse is as appealingly sleazy as the three requirements men supposedly really need in the title of the track.
So unique is his sound that Hit-Boy morphed his production style and created a beat that matched ASAP with the lead hit single “Goldie”. With its slowed down vocal distortions (that are present in most songs of the album) and the pan flute riffs underlined with an eerie chant, ASAP sounded right at home on it. The album is basically a more polished, grander version of Live.Love.ASAP where ASAP expands his horizons both lyrically and with beat selection. With only two beats coming from long time collaborator Clams Casino, ASAP recruited quite diverse if not unlikely producers such as Skrillex known as the Dubstep King on “Wild For The Night” where ASAP raps unfazed on a complex reggae-inspired laser-screaming beat uncharacteristic of his usual cloud-rap sound. It is in the late tracks of the album where ASAP Rocky moves away from his usual hedonistic themes of sex, drugs and designer wear and reveals rare truths about his upbringing and gets forebodingly personal. On “Phoenix” he raps about suicide and having “no supper in the cupboards” and on the track “Suddenly” which he co-produced himself, ghostly vocals with no drumline provide the backdrop of ASAP’s childhood stories of “having roaches on the wall, roaches on the dresser/ everybody had roaches but our roaches ain’t respect us” and how normal shootouts where innocent children got killed were.
Besides his dexterous cadence and flawless beat selection, ASAP also has a penchant for picking the right features to match him. “1 Train” produced by Hit-Boy features a posse cut of young talented rappers Kendrick Lamar, B.I.G Krit, Yelawolf, Action Bronson and Danny Brown who all spit fiery verses, heads will be arguing who has the best one. The smash hit “F*ckin Problems” clearly made for the mainstream features 2 Chainz, who appropriately raps the weak hook, Drake and Kendrick Lamar. It’s a stupid fun track but it’s one of the weaker cuts of the album. The Clams Casino produced “Hell” has Santigold’s wraith-like voice singing the hook and so gives the track a high replay.
ASAP Rocky is where he is today because of his magnetic personality, arrogant bravado, agile flow and immaculate genre-bending beat selection. His lyrics are not meant to provoke or be profound. Even when he veers into the introspective he says himself that he “no conscious cat, this ain’t no conscious rap”. Long.Live.ASAP is an album full of woozy bangers that you’d enjoy best during a smoke or chilled drinking session. It has a stylish sound aesthetic, pleasing to the ear and it is this that makes Long.Live.ASAP a lovely listen.
Written By: Nomusa Mthethwa (@NomusaMT)