A$AP Rocky often displays even through loss, it’s best to celebrate the victories. January 18, 2015 was a huge blow to the Hip-Hop community following the death of Steven Rodriguez, better known by most as ‘A$AP Yams’. Living up to the age of 26, Yams managed to achieve much in a quarter of his life that many in the industry took twice his lifetime to do. His comedic and insightful commentary on Hip-Hop parlayed him to create a business that would help propel a young 23-year-old at the time Rakim Mayers into the rap wave. A Harlemnite with a penchant for the Houston rap novelty and everything trill, A$AP Rocky exploded into the rap scene in 2011 with the singles “Purple Swag” and “Peso”, making way for him to take over with the immaculate Live.Love.A$AP mixtape. Yams saw something special in the potential of Rocky and throughout his rise was with him side-by-side, being Bobby “The Brain” Heenah to Rocky’s Rick Rude.
Now A$AP Yams is no longer on Earth physically, but his spirit still exudes through the Mob and Rocky uses his latest album to lament and celebrate the life of his fallen compatriot. At.Long.Last.A$AP is the follow-up for Rocky’s 2013 studio debut, Long.Live.A$AP , and easily a vast improvement from his inconsistent predecessor. Forgoing the pop aesthetics of Long.Live, he ventures into the psychedelic atmosphere that John Lennon and Jim Morrison would be proud of. Much of the production is handled by Danger Mouse and Hector Delgado, offering a woozy backdrop of drawn-out guitar riffs and assorted strings that complement the nonchalant voice of Rocky’s delivery. It shines best on the early stand out “Canal St.” with the beat slowly building under the elastic flow (I’m just a kettle from the ghetto with no pot to piss in/So who am I to call it black?).
For a major label sophomore album, it does little to push singles for radio as the album focuses more on what outsider appeal that which got him here. Aside from the party-ready “Lord Pretty Flacko Joyde 2” and “M’$”, most of the songs are required to listen to sonically. It has always been one of Rocky’s strengths in his aesthetic, going against the grain and finding what sticks. Fortunately for him, much of it works out with the undeniable chemistry of producers he associates with, though it would’ve been nice to hear him and Clams Casino create some more magic together. He instead proceeds to experiment with his sound, songwriting, and singing voice once more.
The best example of that is the Jim Jonsin aided “L$D (Love, Sex, Dreams)”, a spacey ballad that masquerades as a love song. It is his most challenging song to date and a home run in execution, which is something he could further explore down the line. The experiments spill out towards the features as well, managing to pair up M.I.A. and Future on “Fine Whine”, Rod Stewart, Mark Ronson, and Miguel for “Everyday”, and digging up a posthumous Pimp C verse on the southern legends gathering “Wavybone”. Yet, despite the star-studded guests which even includes Lil Wayne (“M’$”), Kanye West (“Jukebox Joints”), and Mos Def (“Back Home”), the show-stealer happens to be a relative unknown in Joe Fox.
Fox, who appears on a quarter of the album tracks, was discovered by Rocky in London bumming demo tapes and playing songs on the city sidewalks. Now seemingly the protégé, Fox becomes a breakout star who fitted perfectly into the musical direction Rocky was going for on A.L.L.A. He holds his own with the weightlessness of his voice bolstering songs like “Pharsyde” and “Jukebox Joints”, serving as his proper introduction to the public.
When looking at the career trajectory of A$AP Rocky, even when he becomes more revealing with each year he still comes off as enigmatic through his lack of personal shedding in his music. At.Long.Last.A$AP attempts to change that in the midst of loss, relationship turmoil, and a sense of self-growth. There was a time where many thought he wouldn’t make music again and just focus on running a fashion line, but Rocky shows that it is sometimes worth being fashionably late.