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Polaroids Of Androids

Record Reviews


ASAP Rocky

It's understandable that criticisms of ASAP Rocky have often become transfixed on the point that his approach is generally more style than substance. Similarly, and arguably just as unnecessary, is a dissection of his subject matter, or lack thereof. After all, neither of these factors hindered Deep Purple, his unofficial debut. The seven-track EP, essentially just a collection of his YouTube "hits" compiled by a fan, introduced his unique blend of hazy southern gangsta drawl and uptown New York, Diplomat-esque street flamboyancy, unashamedly showing off his melting pot of 90's influences. Surprisingly, despite the heavy weight of expectation, he extended this style further on his first mixtape, Live.Love.A$AP, assisted considerably by partnerships with complimentary producers such as soul sampler Clams Casino and Atlanta-based DJ Burn One.

Both these releases shared a set of underlying principles, sampling fragments from a wide range of trends and styles — both past and present — and wrapping them in a likeable homemade aesthetic that was more Garage Band than big stadium arena. Guest appearances were treated as honoured approvals, strictly limited to members of his ASAP Mob crew and those of similar web-ring heritages, such as Schoolboy Q and Main Attractionz. Yet most tracks featured ASAP alone, stumbling through his tales of nothing with prolonged, weed-induced murmurs that set as a secondary element behind the consistently brilliant production.

Unfortunately, Long.Live.A$AP sounds like a contrived and manufactured version of this framework, a sloppily over-amplifying re-take that follows a path of mimicry instead of showing any form of natural development. This is mostly attributable to the multitude of failed collaborations which are blatantly obvious in their intentions. There's the bankable crossover (Kendrick and Drake on Fuckin' Problems), the re-vamp of his blogspot credibility (every rapper ever Tumblr'd on 1 Train) and even an attempt to leverage an entirely other fanbase altogether (that fucking Skrillex song). These hybrid experiments wreak of a record label marketing checklist, void of any natural pursuit of creativity and only succeeding in suffocating ASAP's own style by consistently relegating him to the roll of guest instead of his implied host position. These also bring his previously well-disguised below par MC abilities into the spotlight. Most notably on 1 Train, a stock standard bring-ya-whole-crew track, where Danny Brown and Yelawolf (in that order) both make ASAP look like a first year linguistic junior.

It's not a complete disaster, yet the highlights primarily involve instances where the compositions aggressively dominate. Such as on Phoenix, where the tape hissing, lo-fidelity beat by Danger Mouse leisurely swallows ASAP's attempts at introspective analysis with a thick desolating darkness. Similarly, the undercooked beat from Clams Casino on Fashion Killa sits high in the mix, minimising the annoyance of Rocky's playful Dipset impersonation as he name-checks all the brands he wants free gear from next season. With both, however, it's hard to shake the thought of what a more proficient rapper might have done with those beats.

And in a nutshell, that's the main distracting element of Long.Live.A$AP — the undeserving waste of it all. The scattered all-angles approach of this record would have suited a million other rappers — those with more creative flexibility or at least a willingness to expand their depth, even just slightly. But ASAP remains the single dimension rapper that made him such an easily digestible slice of fugacious Tumblr fodder in the first place and, within this particular landscape, the result just sounds heartless and fake.

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ASAP Rocky


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