Review Summary: ASAP Rocky’s long-in-the-making LiveLoveA$AP is simply one of the best hip-hop records of the year.
ASAP Rocky’s meteoric rise in the past few months is certainly one of the most out-of-nowhere success stories of 2011. Known for little more than guest spots on mixtapes by left-field artists such as Main Attrakionz, ASAP began to garner significant attention for his songs “Peso” and “Purple Swag,” the latter becoming a certifiable Internet smash. Since then, the songs have received regional radio play (ASAP’s from Harlem), and ASAP later found himself on tour with Drake and signing an unbelievable $3 million deal with RCA.
That’s simply a staggering amount of money, clearly enough, especially considering the sorry state of the music industry, coupled with how far LiveLoveA$AP is from sounding remotely like dance-friendly mainstream hip-hop. All of LiveLoveA$AP is mid-paced, the beats (courtesy of up-and-comers Clams Casino and Spaceghost Purrp, amongst others) are dreamy and hazy, neatly falling in with the “cloud-rap” aesthetic established by artists like G-Side and Main Attrakionz. Honestly, the production choices are easily LiveLoveA$AP’s strongest feature: every beat, from the sad, Burial/Swarms-esque “Demons” to the swagged-out, chopped-and-screwed funk of “Trilla,” is uniformly excellent. Producer Clams Casino particularly shines: his beats for “Palace,” “Bass,” and “Wassup” are simply gorgeous, splicing downbeat vocal samples over hypnotizing, ambient synths and typical hip-hop drum tracks. The result are dreamy beats that amplify ASAP’s effortless flow, but also stand out in their own right.
The relative sameness of the production gives LiveLoveA$AP a uniform aesthetic, but one also gets the feeling that ASAP’s also simply more predisposed to rapping over thudding, mid-tempo beats than anything else. His flow is tempered but never lazy, simply sounding natural and effortless and likeable. The popular comparison to Odd Future rapper Hodgy Beats is appropriate, if Hodgy smoked a lot more weed and didn’t get bogged down by tired shock-rap tropes. ASAP’s lyrics are never more than serviceable--he doesn’t really deviate from typical subjects like having sex and getting high--but they never need to be: ASAP’s shortcomings as a lyricist are tempered by his excellent beat selection and his laid-back, personable flow.
Ultimately, that’s where LiveLoveA$AP’s success as an album truly lies. The dreamy beats, the haggard production, the confident and chilled braggadocio--it all combines to create a very particular aesthetic, perfect for late night drives or dank smoke sessions, and the album doesn’t have any higher ambitions than perfectly fitting these particular situations. There’s just simply a purpose to the whole of LiveLoveA$AP, and that kind of focus is something to be celebrated.