After 2015, I can’t help but cite Drake and Future by saying “what a time to be alive.’’ For hip-hop fans who faced a drought of talent since about five years ago, we have finally been repaid with a musical flood of biblical proportions. Within this wave of new music, some rappers drowned, some sailed, and some sipped codeine on a yacht thanks to all their newfound fame. Among all the bars dropped and fire spat this year, one relatively overlooked album emerged as a definitive hit. After a brief hiatus, A$AP Rocky returned with At.Long.Last.A$AP, which demonstrated the greatest artistic maturation of anyone in the game. Previously, I evaluated Rocky’s music based on his features and beats because his lyrics never demonstrated much more than typical swag rap with simple flows about blunts, bitches and bank accounts. Though I am fan of all three of these things, I am a much bigger fan of the musically complex and psychedelic construction of At.Long.Last.A$AP.
In the creation of this album, Rocky avoided tropes many rappers gravitate towards in order to make a commercially successful album. Take “Everyday” as an example. Would any other current rapper feature Rod Stewart on a single? Makes me reminisce about Eminem and Elton John’s collaboration at the 2001 Grammy's (A move Eminem later remarked as “career Russian roulette”). How about combining a British female rapper and the hottest Atlantan of the year on the third track of the album? Because A$AP Rocky did that too.
Every song on this album was created with motivation, passion and an unprecedented amount of imagination from Rocky. Nothing encompasses the themes of the album better than the music video for L$D. I could never have predicted that A$AP Rocky would return to the game in such a revolutionary fashion with this song. The subtleties of the song are enhanced with the unbelievable visual effects and cinematography in the video. The quick excerpt of “Excuse Me” thrown into the video is the cherry on top. In the video, take note of how the camera zooms in and out of Rocky’s head before and after the “Excuse Me” verse. Considering the song’s title and that Rocky appears to be tripping while we zoom into his head the first time, I can conclude that Rocky is telling us a little something about the creative process in his music making. Recognizing this complexity within the video only made me want to peel back more layers within the songs in Rocky’s album.
Though the album does involve many lyrical topics which A$AP Rocky has already been known for, he does expand his horizons, and paints a more personal picture with these songs. His flow has also improved tremendously from his previous works. Some people critique the album by lamenting the fact that there is no equivalent to “Goldie” or “Big Spender” as the iconic hit of the album. While I understand the complaint, I consider each song on the album a complement of the whole piece. Without a doubt, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Each song expresses a different emotion, evokes a different feeling and fits another piece into Rocky’s puzzle. Who needs a huge hit single when you have such a complete, fortified album? I believe the same could be said of Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly. Why commend Kendrick and critique Rocky?
It rests among one of the only albums from this year that is better listened to in the album order. At.Long.Last.A$AP demonstrates talent and creativity I never knew A$AP Rocky was capable of. No longer does Rocky rely on the star power of his features to carry his songs. No longer does Rocky fall victim to archaic song structure. No longer does Rocky lean on beats which lack progression or a facet for live performance. No longer does a song performed solely by Rocky get shoved under the rug. No longer does Rocky blend in with every other swag rapper. At long last, A$AP Rocky has found his own niche in the rap game by using a unique artistic vision to create adventurous music which has no doppelganger.