“I needed time to master my craft. You don’t rush art, and I don’t think you quickly produce fine art. You take your time.” – Rakim Mayers [A$AP Rocky]
Two years after the release of his debut album Long.Live.A$AP., Harlem-native rapper A$AP Rocky graced his fans with his sophomore album At.Long.Last.A$AP an entire week earlier than expected. With an evidently different vibe from his previous album, Rocky takes his listeners on a wild ride full of soul, passion and great production to create one hell of a project. Check out the following track-by-track review of the artist’s sophomore album and listen along with the Spotify stream at the bottom of this post!
1. Holy Ghost
Starting off the album with a snippet from the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Rocky gives the track a sort of religious symbolism as if it were a prayer to start off the project. Claiming that he is in some sense the highest of all rappers in the game, everyone should “Bow your head, the Most High’s around.” With an alternative rock production by Danger Mouse, Rocky starts A.L.L.A. on a high note.
2. Canal St. (ft. Bones)
Right from the first listen, this track easily became one of my favorites off the entire album. Referring to the song’s title, Canal Street is a famous crosstown street in Lower Manhattan. It’s a source for tourists to purchase bootleg merchandise like designer bags and watches. An area or crossroad where local New Yorkers, immigrants, tourists, hustlers, hipsters, bridge and tunnel crowds, artists and everyone else collide. This smooth KLIMKEKS produced track, which also features rapper Bones, preaches the “work hard, play hard” lifestyle of New York City, especially Rocky’s own Harlem.
3. Fine Whine (ft. Future, Joe Fox and M.I.A.)
The beginning of this track, featuring Joe Fox, symbolizes the effects of lean (the famous Houston drink comprising of Sprite, codeine cough syrup and Jolly Ranchers) and switches up into a song about a girl heartbroken over Rocky. While this girl is expecting Rocky to feel sad about them not working out, he does not care about her. He encourages her to get intoxicated and cry about what they could have been. Referring back to the song’s title, the girl is fine-looking and she’s drinking fine wine while whining = Fine Whine. A hard-hitting percussion-filled bridge featuring rapper M.I.A. tells the inferiority women feel from the perspective of a woman who loves, yet is still treated like an object. Immediately after, Future comes in and explains that he “screwed up” with this girl and to numb the pain of what he has done his is abusing cough syrup. A song with a deeper meaning after a little more analysis, the third track of A.L.L.A. sets the bar for artist features and great production.
This song and accompanying video were previously released on May 19 via rapper Lil B on Twitter. With a Cudi-esque vibe, the song intertwines an ode to the drug LSD (commonly known as “acid”) with his relationship with women. As a psychedelic, one of LSD’s many side effects is vibrant, color-rich hallucinations, as well as the inducing of a strong sense of euphoria. Rocky could be rapping under the influence of LSD, praising the effects it has on his mind and body, or rapping about a girl that he has feelings for — like a drug, he’s addicted to her. Although “love, sex, dream” stands for LSD, this plays into the song’s concept: Rocky’s infatuation for women. His appreciation for women is as deep as his connection to the drug.
5. Excuse Me
“Wealth is in the mind” has been a mantra of Rocky’s ever since his debut tape, dropping that knowledge on the popular Live.Love.A$AP. track,“Trilla.” As Rocky became more and more famous, he hasn’t been in town for a while and is therefore asking what’s happened during his absence. He forgives the people that still might not know who he is, knowing that his clique is running the game in New York. In the midst of a foul era, where the hip-hop industry can seem ugly, Rocky still has given it his all and earned his respect and gained huge success. So please, excuse him for steadily improving his position within the rap game. Another track with a Cudi vibe, “Excuse Me” shows listeners a different side of Rocky’s talent as both a rapper and producer.
The sixth track coming in around 2 minutes long is actually a slow banger allowing A$AP Rocky to tell all of his haters that he’s back in the game and here to stay. Most of the song’s only verse describes how Rocky is going to run up on the people who have betrayed him. This alludes to the idea that Rocky is talking about other rappers. In other words, he is letting his listeners know that At.Long.Last.A$AP. will kill any competition from other artists releasing music this year. He also won’t hesitate to kill any opposition if they show up in Harlem, Rocky’s hometown. The track ends with Rocky saying “James Dean,” alluding to the song’s title.
7. Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2 (LPFJ2)
This track was first teased in the music video for “Multiply” and finally released on December 31st. This track is clearly the sequel to “Pretty Flacko,” one of Rocky’s most notable songs. Another banger with a Rocky’s cocky persona shining through the track amongst Nez & Rio production. Check out the track’s video here.
8. Electric Body (ft. Schoolboy Q)
We are all familiar with the Rocky-Schoolboy duo from previous hits such as “Brand New Guy” and “Hands on the Wheel.” That being said, the two rappers brought the same great verses to one of my favorite tracks of the album. The entire track gives an underlying shoutout to Black Hippy’s “HiiiPower” movement that ScHoolboy’s a part of; it is know that TDE and A$AP Mob are pretty tight-knit. Another Danger Mouse produced track results in a classic “we love girls and their assets” type of track.
9. Jukebox Joints (ft. Joe Fox and Kanye West)
A soulful feeling is given off from the first second of this track and is the first collaboration between two of hip-hop’s most fashion forward emcees. The song samples an Indonesian song by Rasela, titled “Doa Untuk Kasih,” as well as “Much Better Off” from the legendary Smokey Robinson & The Miracles. Rocky is not only claiming to be the father of rap like other rappers do, but is also calling other rappers his son. “You my son like my last abortion, I’m just laughing off it.” He mentions calling his competition his last abortion, which means that they have been terminated or killed. That line is similar to many other “father of rap” cliché-type lines. Kanye comes in with a below average verse than we are used to, but Ye’s production successfully carries the track until the last second.
10. Max B (ft. Joe Fox)
Joe Fox once again appears on the project with a beautifully written hook between two fierce Rocky verses. Talking about war among the Harlem streets he grew up on, he describes a scene in which gang members start shooting and a stray bullet hits and kills an innocent bystander. “Now this the kind of story that should make doves cry. F*** that, this the story that should make thugs cry.” A dove represents innocence and peace. This innocent bystander was killed due to violence he had no part in, and the innocence he once had, died with him. This very real story of an unfortunate death could bring tears to the toughest of people and Rocky acknowledges this.
The eleventh track produced by Danger Mouse introduces Rocky as he discusses hearing about/or stumbling upon the dead body of someone in his hometown, Harlem. It reiterates all that he thinks is wrong with the world, as far too often parents are having to bury their children. The hook is a variation of the British Primer version of the classic poem “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep.” This poem is widely used throughout pop culture, and was used in the medieval ages when infant mortality rate was high. Just as this poem was used for praying for the infants of the medieval ages, A$AP is sending a prayer in the way of all the people raised by the ghetto leading into the closing line of the track: “If you seen the s*** that I’d have seen in 26 years of living, that’s how many f***s I’ve given”
12. Wavybone (ft. Juicy J and UGK)
Rapper Juicy J’s hook (“Gettin’ money is what I do”) reiterates that if you work on something that you want, you will reach it that goal sooner or later. Rocky’s goal was to get money, and that dream became a reality when he became a world-renowned rapper. The rapper finishes off his verse at the very beginning of the song, allowing the rap game veterans to shine in the spotlight. Houston rappers Bun B and late Pimp C (RIP) give the track a reminiscent ’90s vibe with top notch verses, right alongside veteran Juicy J. Produced by Juicy J and Crazy Mike, this track throws Rocky’s listeners back to when UGK and 3-6 Mafia’s were at their peaks in the rap game.
13. West Side Highway (ft. James Fauntleroy)
The thirteenth track produced by, yet again, Danger Mouse is a little randomly placed within the project but tells Rocky’s listeners about a love interest. The hook sung by artist James Fauntleroy ties the track’s smooth vibe and Rocky’s soft side together perfectly. A.L.L.A. takes a slow turn towards the end of the album with chill and tracks strictly for vibing out to.
14. Better Things
Another non-collaborative track produced by Birdman (surprise, surprise!) and London on da Track, Rocky explains that he has done many fun things in life as a bachelor but while he was living up the single life he was also looking for his significant other along the way. As the song progresses, he goes on to say this is one of his late night thoughts. The hook (“Light it light it, puff it puff it, pass it, pass it”) clearly refers to the recreational of marijuana a.k.a. another song calling for remedy of the herb.
15. M’$ (ft. Lil’ Wayne)
After a couple of slow songs, the fifteenth track off A.L.L.A. picks right back up with the previously released single, which did not include Wayne’s feature. M’s refers to the millions of dollars these two rappers make on a weekly, maybe even daily, basis. Wayne leaves a lasting impression on new and old fans with an amazing verse that takes up the last minute or so of the track. From the very first listen, Weezy’s feature makes my top list of favorites off this project. To all the Weezy haters out there, take a listen to his verse on this track and please tell me how you have re-evaluated your opinion.
16. Dreams (Interlude)
This two-minute long interlude allows Rocky’s listeners to realize that he does not want them hopping up and down to his music, but rather wants you to sit back, listen to the music, and internalize it. With all the bad events going on in the world, A$AP Rocky believes all people need is a little harmony, love, drugs and peace.
17. Everyday (ft. Mark Ronson, Miguel and Rod Stewart)
Debuted at Red Bull Music Academy’s “A Conversation with A$AP Rocky” on May 7, this track features Rod Stewart’s feature on a classic song “In a Broken Dream.” Miguel’s lyrics, along with Rod Stewart’s sample are a manifestation of Rocky’s life while recording this album. According to a credible source, the majority of the album was recorded during a stint in London. After rising to fame in 2013 with Long.Live.A$AP and hit records such as “F****n’ Problems, Rocky felt he needed to escape the limelight. He described this feeling to Elliot Wilson during a CRWN interview. Other lyrics in the song also allude to this feeling. The two-minute mark picks up the pace of the song with a Rocky beat we’re all accustomed to. Overall different sound from the artist, but one we can all get used to in times to come.
18. Back Home (ft. Mos Def)
Sampling The Jaggerz’ “Gotta Find My Way Back Home,” A$AP Rocky fits this sample in with the theme of coming back to the rap game, where in the first verse, he flashes lines about returning to his old neighborhood and in the second verse, laments his late friend and mentor, A$AP Yams, implying that he wishes Yams would come back spiritually to visit him and A$AP MOB back “home.” Mos Def’s feature complements the Rocky produced track and perfectly closes out the star-studded list of artists that collaborated with the Harlem rapper. This touching tribute to his late friend is a great way to tie in the overlying theme of the project and close it out in style.
After a few listens, it is safe to say that this album is for the true Rocky fans who have been with him since Live.Love.A$AP. The Harlem rapper has claimed his spot on the rap game throne and is here to stay, regardless of the hardships he has recently faced. Fellow singer-songwriter Joe Fox (who appears several times throughout the album) summarized this album perfectly in just three words: “psychedelic, forward-thinking, and a masterpiece.” We agree with you, Joe. A$AP Rocky has created a beautiful masterpiece once again.
By Rupal Mehta