While most upcoming New York rappers from today’s scene focus on paying homage to the greats of the East Coast that came before them, sampling boom bap classics of the golden age, Harlem would bring forth a new but familiar sound in 2011 that would make listeners double back, but in a very good way. On Halloween 2011, Harlem rapper A$AP Rocky released his first mixtape titled Live.Love.A$AP, a tape that drew its inspirations oddly enough from the “trill” Southern hip hop scene, with its chopped and screwed flow, mid and low tempo beats, and slowed and drawn out rhythm for the pace of Rocky’s rhyming. The artist who alternatively deemed himself “That Pretty Muthaf***a” mostly used the tape to establish his skill and give his crew, the A$AP Mob, some shine as well, especially with production by A$AP Ty Beats on tracks like “Peso” and “Purple Swag: Part 2” and the features on tracks like “Trilla” feauturing A$AP Nast and A$AP Twelvy and “Kissin’ Pink” featuring A$AP Ferg. The tape showcases Rocky’s life as a New York street kid, who smokes a lot of weed and dips into the Southern rap culture pass time of syrup sipping but still has a strong hunger for his claim to fame; making it very fun and light in nature but still ambitious. With the quick and sweeping success and popularity that the tape gained, Rocky was well on his way to big stardom in preparation for his first studio album. However, if you thought you were going to get the exact same thing with the album that you did with the tape, you were sorely mistaken. When A$AP released Long.Live.A$AP in early 2013, he would prove himself to be not just a Southern style rapper from New York, but that he could reach the masses if he wanted to; and he wanted to. The new sound from the artist on the album is a fusion between the woozy and screwed flow that put him on the map to start with more hazy yet melodic sounds, that created the unique aesthetic that blanketed the album’s sound and feel. Though “Goldie” was a single from the album long before its release, it was one of the more commercial releases from the album. The second major release titled like that of the album Long.Live.A$AP gave the perfect snapshot for the sound of the project as a whole, and A$AP’s metaphorical proclamation of his stance in the rap game, with featured lyrics where he says “who said, you can’t live forever lied, of course, I’m living for forever I, forever I, live long…”, which basically let listeners, fans, haters, and anyone else in the world who cares know that he has already prepared his throne. The themes of the album include mostly those of success, growth and reflection on past life, with tints of acceptable and well-deserved boisterous and ambient lyrics and tracks such as “F***in Problems” featuring Drake, Kendrick Lamar and 2 Chainz, where the rapper showcases his lavish and cushy lifestyle and his ability to make a chart-topping hit, now making him diverse in all aspects. Also with ”Suddenly” where he reminiscences on his rise from the bottom, with lyrics such as “I swear this famou sh-t just happened overnight, for sure these hos was so uptight but now they so polite”, exemplifying his quick rise to fame and a noticeable change in those around him because of it. Probably the most stand out tracks on the album are the cypher track titled “1Train”, produced by Hit-Boy and featuring bar for bar hardcore verses over a looped hard-hitting beat that scream New York scene from Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Danny Brown, Yelawolf, Action Bronson and Big K.R.I.T. and dubstep fusion track “Wild For the Night”, a hype and exhilarating song which features production from Skrillex and really illustrates the range of sound development and appeal that Rocky has obtained in such a short amount of time in the industry. Other features on the album include TDE’s Schoolboy Q, who also featured on the mixtape, Santigold, OverDoz, A$AP Ferg, Gunplay and surprisingly Florence Welch of Florence and The Machine. There are not too many territories that the album does not cover sound wise in today’s popular media and it can be said that the album is an innovative take on the direction of hip hop moving to become less boxed in and more multi-dimensional in the future. I chose this album as my number four pick because A$AP’s sounds and style mesmerized me ever since he first came on to the scene and he continues to grow and innovate at an exponential rate because of his need to be fresh and exciting and most of all, continuously break down boundaries in music.
Best Song: “1Train” ft. Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson, and Big K.R.I.T./ “LVL”
Best Production: “Wild for the Night” ft. Skrillex/ Long.Live.A$AP