A$AP Rocky has never been bashful when it comes to speaking his mind, be it inside or outside the booth. When it came time to bless the world with his sophomore album, A.L.L.A. (At Long Last A.S.A.P), the 26 year old let his art speak loudly by pushing the date back while strategically dropping singles that set the internet and radio on fire. Next came the inevitable digital leak over Memorial Day weekend, followed by the album’s release a week early to all major music outlets.Truth be told, Rocky’s year hasn’t been easy. He lost creative partner and co-A$AP Mob founder Yams to an accidental overdose in January, and broke off his relationship with model Chanel Iman. That suffering seems to have yielded a more introspective Rocky, one that is concerned with the quality of his music rather than the lifestyle it showcases. He’s still the prettiest motherfucker in Harlem (sorry Killa), but A.L.L.A bestows a final product showcasing a wide-eyed musician focused on master craftsmanship over the shimmer and shine of the perpetual turn-up.
A.L.L.A flirts with experimentation throughout. Production from Mark Ronson, Danger Mouse, Kanye, and Clams Casino lends to the expansive sound, but Rocky’s microphone antics take center stage. He’s comfortable switching flows, sometimes mid-song, regardless of the beat behind him. “Everyday” (complete with a tough Rod Stewart sample) and the vicious “Excuse Me” are unmistakable signs that the kid born Rakim Mayers, understands the importance of his craft in the canon of MC culture.
What glows brightest on this release is the sequencing. Plenty of studio time was spent dropping bold cinematic moments into perfect order. Psychedelics may have taken the reins during Rocky’s most ambitious sessions, with tracks like “L.$.D”, and “Pharsyde” as proof. But what’s more satisfying are the glimpses of Rocky flat out spitting venom on “Electric Body”, “Max B”, and “Jukebox Joints” featuring the ever bombastic Kanye West. The album makes sense front to back, even after a cursory first listen.
At its core A.L.L.A is music inspired by women, drugs, and luxurious goods. Nevertheless, jeweled fingers are also pressed firmly to the pulse of urban America in 2015. Rocky understands that life isn’t all bright lights and fast cars. He takes moments throughout the record to contemplate and cherish his work bar for bar, second for second. As if he understands nothing, be it a chart position or a human being, is a permanent fixture on earth.
With A.L.L.A., A$AP Rocky has crafted a careful mess of chaos and emotion, managing to capture the raw energy of hip hop and punk rock done his way. Always Strive And Prosper.