A$AP Rocky’s two singles from this long awaited debut studio album have already been causing ripples of much appreciation. The slacker-rock version of hip hop with fourth-wall busting lines like “It’s just me, myself and I and the n*ggas I came with” in Goldie which is no less awesome nine months later in it’s inclusion here – or current single “Fucking Problems” which is, I think, made all the better by the deftly delivered raps from A$APs guests.
But, then some of the guest appearances on this album, well, namely two in particular, seem forced and unnatural and disappointing inclusions (and weird since the Lana Del Rey track got dropped). Skrillex guests with a beat for Wild For The Night which seems forced and out of place – I can’t help but wonder if the beat wasn’t even written especially for this record or if was just spare material that was just lying around, eMailed through and A$AP begrudgingly added some rhymes over the top. And then, on the extended version of the record – Florence Welch (Florence & the Machine) sings AT us, as she has a tendency to do (in my opinion she sing’s in the key of CAPS-LOCK) – and even when she isn’t taking up ear bandwidth on I Come Apart, A$AP turns in a low-rent sub-par rendering of something not too far from Kanye’s Runaway.
There are, though, apart from the aforementioned awesome singles – other stand-outs that make the album worthwhile; 1 Train with it’s classical sounding sonic-refrain and a plethora of talented guests showcases A$AP perhaps more of a tastemaker , rather than an overly talented rapper himself – the lyricism of his guests here is just stunning; Lamar, Danny Brown, Action Bronson, and Big K.R.I.T .
Another highlight is the muffled soul refrain of “Suddenly” sounding like it’s played on a stereo in an apartment across the hall producing an interesting sonic landscape for which the rap to sit within. But as much as I love this track sonically the line “fuck the conscious crap” sums up A$APs stoned/slacker attitude all too well and, for me, the slacker aesthetic that overshadows the album wears a little too thin a little too quickly – A$AP rarely goes beyond talking about success / ego / women – and while tracks like “PMW (All I Really Need)” are interesting sonically – the ‘Pussy, Money, Weed’ mantra just gets a bit tired.
And the thing is, Rakim Mayers actually does have some stories to tell – and he hints to this in the brilliant Danger Mouse produced Phoenix (another album highlight). Perhaps he doesn’t want to write about his life so far just yet – perhaps he rather focus on the positives of his new found life direction and success rather than delve into his past growing up in and out of shelters; his dad being arrested and the loss of his brother. And sure, this is his personal shit, but that’s what great lyricists do – and that’s where great songs come from – from delving into personal shit. That all said, I fully acknowledge that this criticism is coming from someone who hasn’t lived a life remotely like Mayers and it could be argued that my desire for something deeper auto-biographically speaking is possibly quite ghoulish. But we all, humans, feel pain, anguish, love, joy and loss – and it’s when music touches these things that walls tumble and connections are made and empathy and understanding is evoked. But for now, it seems A$AP just wants to get stoned and try not to remember that shit.
RATING : GOOD
I have always struggled with a numerical scale; it feels so finite and arbitrary.
So the CHEESE ON TOAST scale looks a little something like this :
FREAKIN’ AWESOME / JUST AWESOME / REALLY GREAT / GREAT / GOOD / PRETTY COOL / NOT BAD / COULD BE BETTER / PRETTY BAD, ACTUALLY / NOT RECOMMENDED FOR EARS