01.11.2011, Words by Charlie Jones


A$AP Rocky’s long anticipated debut mixtape ‘LiveLoveA$AP’ finally dropped last night. Following the outright breathtaking and increasingly unavoidable Peso and Purple Swag – plus some more low key but similarly impressive tracks like the Clams Casino-produced Wassup, this release is the moment for Rocky and his Harlem-based A$AP mob to present a full-length expression of their style and vision to the world. The buzz around the 23-year-old is huge but Rocky embraces and feeds off the hype without falling into the old-as-time trap of believing it; he presents a mix of assured self-confidence and incessant hunger here is a pleasure to hear and suggests even bigger things from him in the near future.

The mixtape opens with Palace, another gorgeously expansive and sweeping Clams Casino-produced track, that could be a manifesto for the whole A$AP Rocky project: the repeated “Got damn/How real is this/I know the whole world gonna be feeling this/East coast nigga/But how trill is this” openly addressing the burden on his shoulders; his confidence in his abilities and the superimposition of a definite Harlemite shine and authenticity with a distinct H-Town lean. His rhymes are more about cadence than technical virtuosity and the development of his flow seems to have settled at a mono-syllabic stuttering style combined with a dragging drawl at the end of his bars. A$AP Rocky can rhyme but, like UGK’s Pimp C, understands melody and even the alphabet word-play in Peso is as much about a gathering of momentum and playfulness as showing how clever he can be with words.

LiveLoveA$AP<br />
<p>The production on the mixtape is chiefly handled by the aformentioned Clams Casino, with the rest handled by a mix of in house beatsmiths. Overall, the production is solid and cohesive: largely bass-heavy, hollow beats with the occasional venture into more ethereal territory like the tinkling piano the wunderkid A$AP Ty Beats deftly weaves into the chorus Purple Swag Chapter 2 – an updated version of the original with featuring verses from A$AP affiliates Spaceghostpurrp and A$AP Nast. Another standout track is the full bodied Get Lit with its booming bass pulse and glossy synthesised whine perfectly complimenting Rocky’s meandering rhymes about his main passions: lean, weed, women, clothes and his crew and himself. Sitting in the middle of the hour long tape <em>Get Lit</em> carves a definite space for itself and slows the pace down; A$AP Rocky is clearly comfortable in this space and revels in the opportunity to express and explain what means the world to him at the moment. </p>
<p>Weirdness is a theme that repeatedly crops up in recent interviews with A$AP Rocky and it continues to fuel his work. He mentions the way people see or saw him and his crew as weirdos but, like Harlem’s own Diplomats, has a knack of making the strange seem completely legitimate and official. He stares straight at the camera blowing his smoke on a backdrop of the American flag on the stark mono-chrome cover, and this honesty is probably the most captivating feature of this mixtape and the wider A$AP movement. The A$AP crew are creating a world within a world and, with Rocky as their figurehead and spokesperson, present that world unadulterated – even the long wait for the mixtape to finally be uploaded seemed like a hint at the casual confidence and pride they feel about this potentially make-or-break moment in their careers. </p>
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