Usually, a good indication of whether a rap album or mixtape is quality is checking how many fire emojis show up when typing the album’s or artist’s name on Twitter. And when At.Long.Last.A$AP had its early release May 26 (originally scheduled for Tuesday), A$AP Rocky’s sophomore studio album set Twitter ablaze.
The album’s black-and-white cover depicts Rocky hiding his mouth behind ring-filled fingers. Listeners should note the purple tattoo superimposed under his right eye and the cross under his left. The two tattoos are a tribute to the late A$AP Yams, the founder of A$AP Mob and Rocky’s close friend and mentor, who passed away Jan. 18.
When Rocky dropped “Multiply” in October as a diss song addressed to various clothing brands and “Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2” in January, his fiery tracks gave fans a lot to look forward to in anticipation of his second album. These tracks featured hard-hitting and direct lyrics, delivered with Rocky’s smooth flow. They demonstrated that, in terms of his rapping, Rocky hadn’t lost a step.
Yam’s death happened while the album was being produced, and as a result, Rocky’s music has departed from what fans are used to hearing. In an interview with Complex Magazine, Rocky cited psychedelic music as a way of helping him heal after Yam’s death. Indeed, psychedelic elements can be heard throughout At.Long.Last.A$AP.
Rocky didn’t just straight up spit bars: There is a heavy psychedelic influence in many of his new tracks, highlighted by the slow guitar riffs in “L$D”; the extensive use of Rocky’s signature low voice rapped over a slow, dissonant beat in “Fine Whine”; and the repetition of the broken chords in “Better Things” when Rocky says, “Sit back and relax one time.” It’s as if Rocky is taking listeners on a trip.
Although At.Long.Last.A$AP takes a rather unexpected approach, the unexpected shouldn’t come as a total surprise to fans of the experimental rapper — Rocky is, after all, open to trying new things. In the past, Rocky has drawn from genres such as Southern rap and dubstep. For the Harlem-raised rapper, exploring new realms isn’t really that new at all.
Although the music has changed, one thing that Rocky has always done well — and continues to excel at — are songs that feature guest artists.
Rocky doesn’t let guest artists dominate. Rocky and his featured artists don’t vie for power on any given track. Instead, he allows them to contribute their personal styles to tracks that embody a certain collaborative fusion.
In “Fine Whine,” Future sings in his “Turn on the Lights” voice about two of his favorite things: women and codeine. Kanye West puts up a verse about how girls didn’t use to like him in “Jukebox Joint.” Lil Wayne delivers a flurry of punchlines and still spends a line throwing a shot at Birdman in “M’$” when he says, “I love my YM / Ain’t no more CM” (a reference to a feud involving the Young Money and Cash Money record labels). In “Electric Body,” Schoolboy Q spits about his wealth, jewelry and ability to finesse women.
In all, the majority of Rocky’s tracks on this album contain a heavy guest-artist influence. The result is an album that allows listeners to enjoy Rocky alongside many other favorite artists.
From his mixtape to his debut album, A$AP Rocky has always prioritized quality features. This album is no exception. Many critics will point out the psychedelic dynamic, but it’s the spirit of collaboration that takes At.Long.Last.A$AP to the next level.
Contact Ritchie Lee at [email protected].