As you should’ve surmised from the album cover, the stakes are high on At.Long.Last.A$AP. It’s A$AP Rocky’s make-or-break effort after Long.Live.A$AP left many disappointed. Plus, A$AP Yams’ void is still hanging over hip-hop. As a result, A$AP Rocky was tasked with both a redemption quest and a tribute for a friend.
So what’s a Harlem cat to do with all eyes on him? Well, Rocky is still willing his self-proclaimed PMF title into consensus. On “Canal St.,” Rocky proclaims, “Your favorite rapper’s corpses couldn’t match up my importance.” His closet’s the MET Ball in miniature (“Jukebox Joints”) and, although gentrification is messing with his beloved Harlem (“Pharsyde,” in a clunky bit of social awareness), he’s still chill enough to admit he spends $20,000 on “Rick Owens.” It’s a bit of the same, except on a trippier, much-improved project.
A hint of Yamborghini’s curation acuity has a place here amid the cocksureness. While a lot of attention has been focused on Joe Fox’s rise from homelessness to omnipresent drifter on five tracks, it should be noted that Rocky has become more adept at arranging the various sounds.
The production on each track culls itself in way that exposes its flourishes yet doesn’t sound forced. The highlights are subjective: You have the tense bass line of “Canal St.” (Hector Delgado/Klimeks), the urgency of the hook on “Electric Body” (again, Delgado), or the apocalyptic riff on “M’$” (Da Honorable C.N.O.T.E./Mike Dean), among others. The guests bring it, too. M.I.A.’s fuck-off and Future’s lean-fueled remorse are crystal clear on “Fine Whine.” “M’$” pulls another spirited verse from Lil Wayne. Oddly, it’s Kanye West who ends up disappointing with his unimaginative sex talk on “Jukebox Joints.”
And speaking of indulgence, it also happens to be what makes At.Long.Last.A$AP drag a bit. It’s not just that it’s an overlong album—it’s an overlong album drenched in dusted psychedelia (a sound executive producer Danger Mouse undoubtedly influenced) and experimentalism. There’s not enough potency within the haze, and movements intended to be trippy end up becoming draining. A track like “Excuse Me”—with its tired concept and a beat that sounds ripped from an mtvU lineup—was better off on the cutting room floor. The woozy “Pharsyde” and “West Side Highway” kill the album’s momentum.
The irony of A.L.L.A. is that it’s best when the production switches to traditional rap inflections. On one hand you have the rattling, Three 6 Mafia-inspired knocks and sense of nefariousness. That’s where Pretty Flacko comes out and he becomes anywhere from the black James Dean (“JD”) to an amicable scumbag (“Better Things,” which is bogged down by the tasteless Rita Ora lines). On the other hand, there’s the airy soul sampling tunes. They deliver the album’s more infectious moments, ones where Pimp C gets resurrected for a gettin’ money anthem (“Wavybone”) and Mos Def’s excitable, abstract persona visits from South Africa for the album-closing “Back Home.”
But it’s only right that A.L.L.A. ends with A$AP Yams visiting from another astral plane. In his trademark mix of confidence and humor, he proclaims, “Y’all just gon’ keep watching us.” This is true. Rocky may not have totally gotten it this time, but he’s getting better. Thus the legend continues.