Although a pushback resulted in this album seeing release before it, ASAP Rocky’s second release, LiveLoveA$AP, could be best seen as a rebirth: gangsta rap’s response to Take Care. The concept itself is strange; that what was once the mainstay of hip hop need justify itself in the wake of the Drake movement. Well, time to move past it, So Far Gone happened, and here we are. While the growing dominance of hash tag rap confused many veterans a few years ago, resulting in miscarriages from several legends, the younger generation of G’s better understood the implications. Rather than the ‘if ya can’t beat em, join em’ attitude popularized by Recovery and Lasers, the new guys hungered for a path towards both self-fulfillment and popularity. Guys like Roc Marciano hoped dust and nostalgia would return music to the streets, but it was never to be.
So, where did one go from there? It’s easy to be caught in the glow of a seemingly promising new movement, not yet fully proven (Odd Future, looking at you), but we’re willing to take the risk: ASAP Rocky seems to be the answer. It’s not that everything he brings to the table is ingenious and new, following Drake and OF, Rocky seems to want to be UGK, and the screwed-n-chopped chats grow a tad tiresome. Instead, the strength of this effort extends from its boldness. Blessed by a friendship with current “it” producer Clams Casino, the lush music and ASAP’s carefree, snooty style elevate this effort near the highest platform.
With the year coming to a close, free releases have returned to the forefront. True, new artists find fame with mixtapes every year, but not since Wayne’s peak have they borne such significance. Between this, Section.80, and The Return of 4eva, a holy trinity of sorts has formed. Looking back on 2011, it doesn’t seem too unlikely that these will gradually be seen as the genesis for three great artists. Their ability to entrap the mainstream remains relatively unproven, but whatever happens, it’s certain hip hop fans have discovered new favorites.
Perhaps more so than either K.R.I.T. or Kendrick (although the post-Take Care K.Dot is surely a different animal), however, ASAP certainly has his sights set on widespread success. LiveLoveA$AP plays something like a grime-influenced Ready to Die on acid. Both hipsters and heads are sure to react, which is worth mentioning, considering the underground’s recent seeming focus on the former, rather than the latter. Tracks like opener “Palace” burst with the creative Clams sound, while cuts such as “Trilla” bounce with something nearing a Boom Bap influence, tailor-made for the new school.
As an MC, it’s important to note Rocky’s Harlem roots, growing up in apartments and shelters around Manhattan. So, while southern influences currently dominate much of current hip hop, Rocky places as much importance on the Wu as he does Three 6. The record generally gains strength from its mixed sound, something between the gliding, threatening vibe of Cuban Linx… and the so-smooth-you-could-die nature of Ridin’ Dirty. With Atlanta’s 2Chainz looking to Raekwon for advice, you could say globalization has truly taken over in hip hop.
Curren$y’s brainchild is clearly in the room as well. For an MC that will never rule the mainstream, Spitta certainly has undoubtedly become the biggest – often uncredited – influence in hip hop. From Wiz, to Drake, to this record, every MC in the game wants to capture the lackadaisical porch-music of the Jets, and many tracks reflect this. “Keep It G,” with its jazzy backing, would sound completely at home on Pilot Talk II, and so on.
This isn’t to take away from ASAP. At the end of the day, Spitta encourages worthy MC’s catch fire wherever they can. Rocky certainly has, boasting material far beyond simply Jet Empire standards. While Curren$y’s thick, relaxed flow simply coasts over his beats, Rocky’s clipped NY nature guides the productions found here. Neither is better, both are unique and fantastic. Too much of hip hop today relies on, for lack of a better word, biting. Whereas MCs once looked to one another for aspects they could flip, and make their own, today, many simply prefer to copy and paste the past. By reaching every-damn-where he could, ASAP Rocky both sidesteps this pitfall and becomes one of the year’s most exciting voices. This is his first full length, so to return to the comparisons: if this is Rocky’s K.R.I.T. Wuz Here, just imagine where he’ll go next.