In an era where rappers are quick to release mixtape after mixtape to continuously please a fan base with an incredibly short attention span, it took A$AP Rocky two years to drop a follow up to his highly successful major label debut, Long.Live.A$AP. During that time Rocky has been involved in acting, fashion designing, modeling, as well as attempting to compose an instrumental album and release a 2nd album from his crew, A$AP Mob. Both albums were scrapped and Rocky concentrated his efforts on his next solo album, At.Long.Last.A$AP. Rocky had previously announced his desire to refine his sound a bit and show more influence from a variety of genres that have inspired him through out the years, such as psychedelic rock and trip hop. This sound is brought together with a hand picked assortment of executive producers: Danger Mouse, known as half of Gnarls Barkley and his production for The Black Keys and Gorillaz; Juicy J, ratchet superstar extraordinaire; his close friend, mentor, and co-founder of A$AP Mob, the late A$AP Yams, and himself. Most of the album focuses on Rocky’s rags-to-riches story, his drug addiction as a way to cope with situations, and his desire to grow above it all.
If there is one thing that Rocky knows best it is how to start off an album. His intro tracks always seem to be one of the brighter spots on each project and this track continues the tradition. The most surprising guest artist on this album is Joe Fox, who was a street musician that tried to sell Rocky a CD of his on a street corner in London. Rocky took him under his wing and went on to be featured on 5 tracks on this album, including it’s first track. Danger Mouse and DJ Khalil provide production on Holy Ghost, which encompasses a good mix of the musical influences that were previously talked about. Over a psych guitar loop, Rocky acknowledging religion and a desire to do the right thing, while at the same time denouncing the church as hypocrites “Holy smokes, I think my pastor was the only folk/ To own the Rollie, Ghost and Rolls Royce with no Holy Ghost.”
Rocky returns to his street roots on Canal St, a haunting beat which was taken from “Dirt” by Bones, a lesser known artist who is also featured on the track’s hook. The instrumental suits Rocky perfectly as he effortlessly weaves his flow through the track. A few tracks later, on one of A.L.L.A‘s best tracks, he once again uses an older track from a lesser known rapper. Excuse Me is produced by Vulkan The Krusader, a long time friend of A$AP Mob, who’s original track Vizzer dropped in 2012. Rocky’s ear for beats has rarely failed him and once again he digs up a rarely known song to fit his style and adds a great track to a solid album. L$D seems to be a song that has the A$AP fan base divided, and in my opinion, it is one of the stand out tracks on the album. Rocky’s ode to acid pretty much sums up how he wanted to combine multiple genres on one song. With a melodic backdrop provided by Jim Jonsin, Hector Delgado and Finatik N Zac; Rocky croons about his love for women and LSD, making it the only song on his catalog in which he sings through out an entire track and I think it sounds great.
The album has around 15 guest vocals, but rather than rely on these guest appearances as a selling point for the album, they mostly serve as a compliment for their individual tracks. Both M.I.A. & Future guest star on the Fine Whine and neither take away the focus of it’s screwed & chopped production, instead the percussion is altered when they come in and it completes an already solid track. The same can be said with each of Joe Fox’s appearances, specially on bangers like Max B and Pharsyde; his filtered, almost drowned out vocals, are a great addition and a welcome change in sound in contrast to the hard hitting production. Juicy J adds a feature verse and a touch of production to Wavybone, Juicy flips the same Syl Johnson sample that was featured on Raekwon’s classic Heaven & Hell, yet adds his own southern percussion to it. The track also features UGK, including a verse from the late Pimp C, who sounds eerily right at home, one would never think this would be done posthumously based on how good he fits on the track. Lil Wayne also guest stars on M’$, which was one of the original tracks Rocky had leaked in anticipation of this album. For the album version, Rocky cut out his second verse to make way for one of the only Wayne verses I’ve liked in years.
When it comes to these guest verses, my only beef resides with the two I expected the most from. Schoolboy Q delivers a lackluster verse with played out metaphors on Electric Body. Besides his verse, his delivery is full of energy as always so thankfully it doesn’t drag down the track which should be playing in clubs soon, Rocky holds down the track with a precise flow that’s bound to make the crowd bounce. The Kanye West produced Jukebox Joints is another highlight of the album, even though Kanye’s verse was practically phoned in, it’s not something that will kill a track as strong as this. The first collaboration between ‘Ye and A$AP results in a soulful track mildly reminiscent of Kanye’s Bound 2 production style, the beat switch halfway through provides a welcome change on the near 6 minute track.
The album concludes with 2 of it’s best tracks. The closest thing the A.L.L.A. has to a radio single is Everyday, which features Miguel splitting time with a Rod Stewart sample on the hook. In it Rocky nearly sums up the album by reprising the same spiritual struggle he rapped about on Holy Ghost, in addition to the struggles and temptations of fame, and his acknowledgement that he’s currently in a better place. The album’s closing track is Back Home with Yasiin Bey (AKA Mos Def), produced by DDot Omen & Thelonius Martin. This might be Rocky’s strongest lyrical track on this record, With a near machine gun flow, Rocky raps “Father, Lord forgive me as I load up the semi/ Roll through the city, that chose to resent me/ Hold it, don’t load it, reload it/ On plenty, any foe or a popo/ That ever voted against me, dissed me/ Pissed me off, then tried to hold it against me.” The album concludes with a posthumous shit talking outro by Yams in which he makes it clear A$AP Mob isn’t going nowhere.
A.L.L.A. didn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, but Rocky tweaked it enough to make it steer in his favor. He managed to craft an album that is superior to his previous album and mixtape in both quality and variety, without ever abandoning his root sound. He incorporated some his influences while still keeping a combination of NY & Southern rap as a core. The result is not groundbreaking, but it is very enjoyable and a great addition to his catalog. Listen to it below on Spotify and tell us what you think.