Return of the Gorgeous
Long.Live.A$AP was a perfect debut for A$AP Rocky. It might’ve been rough around the edges, but it served as an accurate introduction to the Harlem rapper. Coming in with killer beats and a smooth flow, A$AP Rocky was the fashionista with a sharp tongue. Sophomore albums are a bit trickier. There’s a push and pull between an artist’s need to innovate and grow while maintaining a sense of familiarity — the ties that give the artist their initial appeal. A$AP Rocky named his sophomore album At.Long.Last.A$AP as an homage to Allah, a nod for his lord status. At.Long.Last.A$AP tries to find a happy medium, delivering both familiar anthems and some new direction, in an effort to put Rocky on that god status.
This duality can be seen before the album release with the singles promoted. “Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2” offers an over-the-top club anthem, catchy chorus and aggressive beats squeezing for the same spotlight. It’s trademark A$AP ocky material. The more recent single “L$D” takes a new path, a glimpse into the mellow side of A$AP Rocky. The many collaborations with newcomer Joe Fox and the psychedelic influences that shape the sound and content keep Rocky sounding fresh. They also do much to bolster the rapper’s occasional stumbles on At.Long.Last.A$AP
Rocky has never been the best lyricist, and it would be silly to enjoy an A$AP Rocky release only for the lyrical content, but there’s definitely a few head-scratchers that make it onto A.L.L.A. “Past the racism and fake-ism / Type of hate that make you feel worse than a rape victim,” from “Back Home” takes the cake for perhaps being out of line. However, it’s not just poor rhymes that diminish the album’s appeal. There’s a lack of subtlety or layers in Rocky’s description and experience with drugs, sex and fame. Even the infectious “L$D” demonstrates an inability or unwillingness to create depth.
Fortunately, a stellar production lineup led by Danger Mouse and a compelling set of features ranging from M.I.A. to Rod Stewart come together to create a solid body of work. Rocky still has a ways to go in terms of his lyrics, but there’s no doubt he has an infectious flow and an ear for good music. While A.L.L.A. might not be the biblical revelation Rocky was going for, it’s a step in the right direction.