“I hope you all enjoy this, nah’mean? If it’s one thing I can say about this album, it’s that I wanted to make music the way I wanted to, not like any of this other wack sh*t out here.” This is how Rakim Mayers, alias A$AP Rocky, recently addressed an intimate crowd of about 25-30 journalists, label reps and industry folk at his pre-release album listening event.
Of the 18 tracks that make up his second studio album, A.L.L.A (At.Long.Last.A$AP), the crowd only heard about seven or eight songs, but one could already get an impression of the trippy, psychedelic sound Rocky was experimenting with for the new project. With anticipation already building for what A.L.L.A. would bring from the banger of a single “Lord Pretty Flacko 2,” all buzz seemed to fall to the wayside with the sudden and tragic death of A$AP Mob founder A$AP Yams. How the Mob will move forward without their fallen captain remains in question, but with Rocky at the forefront, they’ve made it known that it would be business as usual, with them dedicating all that comes next (including A.L.L.A.) to their longtime friend.
Those looking for past Rocky crossover hits like “Wild for the Night” and “F*cking Problems” on A.L.L.A. are in for a rude awakening, but it’s in that dedication to personal satisfaction that Rocky shines. Yes, prior singles (“Lord Pretty Flacko 2,” “M’$”) make the album, giving listeners something to bounce to. But Rocky has been a very vocal fan of psychedelic trips, which he chronicles in the song “L$D,” and it’s that sense of ’70s funky soul that gives A.L.L.A. its voice.
The album’s cohesiveness allows for listeners to let the record play sans interruption without sounding like one long, droopy track. By tapping onto genre-bending producer Danger Mouse and hip-hop legend Juicy J to join him and Yams in co-executive producing the album, one can sense Rocky gained insight and knowledge from the two in making music how he feels—not looking for that hit single that most artists sacrifice themselves for. "Danger Mouse is known for his success in the Rock space, and Juicy J is known to be a legend in Hip-Hop. Me being who I am, I kinda appeal to both genres, you know," Rocky said when he sat with EBONY in the world famous Jungle City Studios in Manhattan. "All that was left for me was to write the rhymes and the choruses, because there was no stepping on toes. And sonically, everything just came together."
And while working in that mind-frame, Rocky provided several tracks paying homage to those who’s inspired him in his career, such as “WavyBone,” “Pharsyde” and “Max B.” “Jukebox Joints,” a highly anticipated track featuring both production and a guest verse from Kanye West, doesn’t disappoint, as we’re treated to that vintage, soulful Kanye sound we loved from years past.
Newcomers also feature on the album, to match up with the game’s heavy-hitters and industry favorites. Contributions from fresh talent such as Bones and Joe Fox (who met Rocky after playing him his CD, and was invited to work with him in the studio) are met with features from UGK, ScHoolboy Q, James Fauntleroy, and a very welcome collaboration with the original “Pretty Flacko,” Yasiin Bey (p.k.a. Mos Def). It’s this mix of new and old, stepping out of comfort zones to create something fresh while paying respects to those who’s come before him that makes A.L.L.A. a great listen.
Sophomore albums are often looked as “make or break records” in both pop and hip-hop. Is the sound that makes an artist the hot thing of the moment good enough to keep them there?
Looking back at how A$AP Rocky has done it from his beginning to now, from the mixtapes, the constant mobbing with his crew, the Southern-soaked sounds to his ventures into acting and his influence in fashion, one could say that he’s done it right. He created a niche for himself, attaining both a loyal fan-base and keeping himself interesting enough to gain more. He's given the labels what they want, with radio-friendly records that put him on TVs across Middle America, but now it's his time to do things his way. "If someone comes up to me and tell me, 'your album was amazing,' that's my Grammy right there, you know," Rocky said. "It brings tears to my eyes to hear that. That's why this album has that title. At Long Last… I can finally make what I want and I hope the people love it."
Now he’s given the music industry an opus on who he is, what he likes and listens to, the music he wants the people to hear. And in satisfying his own personal standards, he’s created one hell of an album, which is the best kind of tribute one can give their fallen brother. "It was difficult to put this all together, especially dealing with Yams passing, you know," Rocky stated. "But I know he'd be proud of what we've done." And I very well believe somewhere out there Yams, decked out in the coziest of wears, is smiling down at what his brother has given the world.
Cory Townes was born and raised in Philadelphia, and currently lives in Brooklyn. A devout Philly sports fan, Townes is the Social Media Manager for EBONY.com. When he’s not saluting the plug or bringing headbands back in the 2015, you can reach him on Twitter @CoryTownes.