A$AP Rocky – AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP
When it comes to sophomore albums it’s usually a hit or miss situation, especially in the world of hip hop. A lot of pressure looms over the quality of a sophomore album, if a rappers debut record is a success then the expectations of their follow up is tremendous. The same can also be said if the debut album is a flop as the sophomore creates an opportunity for the artist to make amends which ultimately generates even higher expectations. Over the years we have seen plenty of failed sophomore albums (Raekwon – Immobilarity, Snoop Dogg – Tha Doggfather) however; we have also seen some amazing ones to (Eminem – Marshall Mathers LP, The Fugees – The Score), so where does AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP sit on this long list of sophomore attempts?
It was over two years ago when the world was introduced to LONG.LIVE.A$AP, the chart topping debut album from Rakim Mayers a.k.a. A$AP Rocky. L.L.A was a huge success and generated a number of hits such as Fuckin’ Problems, Goldie and Fashion Killa. Now the Harlem emcee has followed that up with his highly anticipated sophomore album AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP, a solid and forward moving effort that certainly doesn’t succumb to the sophomore slump however; at the same time it does fall just short of satisfying our high expectations.
At first those high expectations seem like they are going to be met after hearing the albums opening track Holy Ghost. With a retro guitar riff sampled from Lucero’s Noon as Dark as Midnight, the track holds a smooth tempo which features a polished flow from Flacko that actually seems to have improved since we last heard him. The smooth tempos continue with Canal St which is easily one of the best tunes on the album. The track is accompanied by a mellow piano beat that combines perfectly with A$AP’s crisp vocals, the beat and hook are actually edited versions from featuring artist Bones own track Dirt. Taking a stab at fake rappers Flacko goes hard on this one claiming he has always been honest and reputable however; some serious questions have to be asked about one line in particular ‘your favourite rappers corpses couldn’t measure my importance’. Is Jodye really stating that his influence and importance is greater than lost legends such as 2pac, Biggie, Big L and Guru? (Not even close!)
Whilst many consider Fine Whine to be one of the best tracks on the album, I believe it’s the first of the one to many boring tracks on here. Featuring Flacko’s trademark psychedelic sound and morphed vocals the song fails to make an impression. I think a bit more of M.I.A could have been helpful, I mean is 16 seconds really enough time to be considered a feature? And as for Future well let’s be honest does anyone really enjoy his annoying style of rapping? I sure as hell don’t.
L$D, Better Things, West Side Highway and M’$ all join Fine Whine in becoming the albums less impressive tracks, you could also throw Electric Body into this category but only once Schoolboy Q enters the picture. If A$AP would have made this a solo track it’d definitely be one of my favourite on the album unfortunately though Schoolboy Q lets it down with his Fred Durst/Yelawolf inspired tone.
That’s enough with the battering though because once you push past these ordinary tracks there is actually some really dope material. Take for instance Excuse Me, this would have to be without a doubt my favourite track on the album. Flacko’s flow on here is absolutely impeccable, running at almost four minutes we get to hear the Harlem native spit pure fire as he lets everyone know that his crew is supposedly running shit now (whilst I love the track I have to disagree with Rocky on that one as I think Pro Era are the leaders in the game right now!). The other highlights of the album go to Max B, Pharsyde and Wavybone, all of these tracks show a lyrically matured Flacko who seems to be at his best. Some of his best lines are delivered on these tracks in particular his dark verse on Pharsyde. Here we see A$AP rap about stumbling across a dead body in Harlem ‘Found his body parts in awkward places, like apartments, basements, garbage, vacant lots, garages, spaces, Harlem’s far too spacious’. Pharsyde is a deep track from a rapper who seems to be lyrically evolving, if there were more tunes like this on the album it would be a close contender for hip hop album of the year.
Everyday which features Miguel and Rod Stewart is probably the most talked about track on the album obviously because of its unlikely pairing. At first listen I was not a fan however; after a number of sittings I have to say the song has definitely grown on me, whilst you could say Rod Stewarts hook which is taken from In a Broken Dream is kind of corny, A$AP makes up for it with yet some more killer flows.
To be perfectly honest this album feels like a guilty pleasure at times because I’m not usually into this style of hip hop however; A$AP does it so well it’s impossible not to like. There are enough quality tracks on here to make A.L.L.A a solid album, as mentioned before a lot of artists have failed with their sophomore attempts however; A$AP fights off the sophomore slump and provides us with a compelling follow up. That being said though there are still one to many yawns on here that stop the album from reaching its full potential. A.L.L.A is definitely one of the better hip hop releases of the year thus far however; it falls short on becoming the best. That title in my opinion belongs to Joey Bada$$ and his debut album B4.DA.$$… but hey that could all change as there is a long list of promising albums still to come before the years end.