A$AP Rocky doesn't really have a ton to say, so the music needs to sound cool for this project to have any weight. Given that Rocky's best friend and musical confidant Steven Rodriguez — a.k.a. A$AP Yams — passed away in January, there was cause for concern. Though Yam's and Rocky's relationship has always been complicated, Yams could easily be credited for shaping and forming Rocky's early sound, which yielded the memorable mixtape Live.Love.A$AP and an energizing, Houston-indebted sound.
Though Yams passed, it seems that Rocky was already deep into his sophomore LP At.Long.Last.A$AP, a release that pays homage to A$AP Yams on the front cover. And like previous Rocky successes, the music represents a series of tasteful aesthetic choices that sound both rooted in the people they’re paying tribute to and to creative blends of genre and mood.
Instead of focusing on high-profile crossover collaborations like Long.Live.A$AP's "Fuckin' Problems" and "Wild for the Night", At.Long.Last.A$AP guns for intriguing spins on the chopped-up sound he arrived with. While early release singles like "L.$.D." were messy and deliberately druggy — the best of the batch of songs released in the album roll up, "Multiply", did not make the final album — At.Long.Last.A$AP delivers even at its considerable length. At.Long.Last.A$AP is relatively light on features; outside of solid pop-ins from Kanye and Schoolboy Q, we're mostly hearing from Rocky. (Kanye's slice of "Jukebox Joints" is a rather interesting Late Registration call-back, though).
Thanks to At.Long.Last.A$AP’s notable production roster — Danger Mouse, Kanye, Clams Casino, Juicy J, Rocky himself — Long.Live.A$AP is a triumph over reasonable expectations. Rocky, for his part, sounds cool as shit, riding thick, syrupy production and packing energy into his features. Despite the ample red flags that cropped up during the album’s release cycle, even pulling songwriter Joe Fox out of complete obscurity serves the album’s sound, an intriguing blend of soul, lowkey guitar breakdowns and Rocky’s kinetic energy and pitched-down asides.
There was a time, even a couple releases deep, where it could be understandable to view A$AP Rocky as a person capitalizing on the styles of the day, an aesthetic that might not hold water over time. With Long.Live.A$AP, we can now view those releases as the beginning of A Career. (Though it might not be music for much longer.)