THE TOPIC: ASAP ROCKY'S LIVE.LOVE.ASAP
THE CONSENSUS PANEL: Kathy Iandoli (HipHopDX.com), Andrew Barber (FakeShoreDrive.com), Confusion (PigeonsAndPlanes.com), Roger Guerrilla, (TheMaskedGorilla), Karen Civil (KarenCivil.com), Combat Jack (Daily Mathematics), Nathan Slavik (DJBooth), Paul Cantor (PaulJCantor), Modi (DCtoBC/The Great Progression), and Insanul Ahmed (Complex).
Peep the mini reviews below...
Panelist: Kathy Idoli, HipHopDX
Reaction: In this era of Hip-Hop, it’s hard to distinguish which rappers will have a future beyond two mixtapes. I had my doubts about A$AP Rocky, because I don’t trust rappers with dollar signs in their names (unless you’re Too $hort). A$AP’s been frequenting the Hulkshare circuit for a second, popping up here and there on some of his peers’ web cuts. It was hard to gauge his longevity within the bars he spit in those cameos. LiveLoveA$AP was the true test, and he succeeded with flying colors. While this new age of Tumblr Rap can be grating at times, A$AP Rocky has a keen understanding of how to accurately slide genre-bending sounds into the Hip-Hop landscape (peep "Peso" and "Wassup"). That and he sounds like Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s cousin ("Trilla"). The abstractness of LiveLoveA$AP is no doubt due in part to Clams Casino’s (Nutley, NJ stand up) swirly psychotropic production. Other rappers who have attempted this new school formula ran the risk of being bludgeoned to death by Hip-Hop purists. A$AP struck a balance by rhyming like a parking lot pimp over warped beats. The hood gon’ love it, the hipsters gon’ love it. Is that worth $3 mill? Sure, why not.
Panelist: Andrew Barber, FakeShoreDrive
Reaction: I wouldn’t wish ASAP Rocky’s buzz upon any new artist. With the amount of hype currently sorrounding the young Harlem emcee, he’s pretty much destined to fail. There’s really no place to go but down--unless the music is absolutely undeniable--which this isn’t. Not yet at least.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s some good music on here, but I don’t think it’s the kind that justifies giving any artist $3 mill in this climate. And I hate to beat that dead horse.
While the tape teeters on swag rap, I can appreciate any project that evokes feelings of say DJ Screw’s 3 ‘N The Morning or Fat Pat’s Ghetto Dreams.
Bloggers are ruthless, unforgiving and enjoy building up new artists only to tear them down. I hope that doesn’t happen to Rocky as he appears to have a bright future ahead of him. But the buzz stick may have hit him a little too hard too fast. So Far Gone this is not.
Panelist: Jacob Moore, Pigeons & Planes
Reaction: ASAP Rocky isn’t doing anything new. Whether it’s the Houston sound or that Bone Thugs flow, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that everything he’s doing has been done before. If you pick out any single element of this mixtape, you can most likely tie it directly to a piece of hip-hop history.
Put them all together, though? That's a different story. The key to ASAP’s appeal lies in his style and his ability to pick out a bunch of cool things, throw them in the melting pot, and cook up something that feels fresh.
With as much hype as he’s getting right now, there’s bound to be a backlash from non-believers and a parade of on-boarders. This tape is nowhere near a masterpiece, but it does just enough to establish what ASAP’s about and to give enough reason for the believers to keep believing.
At times, Live.Love.A$AP feels a bit uninspired, but when he’s in the zone—especially over that Clams Casino production—A$AP really makes you think that his rap-without-borders is the future. It’s hard to listen to “Palace,” and not think, “Damn, he’s on to something.”
Panelist: Karen Civil, Karen Civil
Reaction: Mood music. That's exactly what Live.Love.A$AP is in a nutshell. Hopefully Joe Budden doesn't get too upset with the description, but that's essentially what we have here. The only difference is where Joey's form tackles deep, personal and often times depressing life experiences, ASAP picks dope ass beats, gets real high and vibes the hell out. Labeling the kid the next King Of New York may be off base and too lofty of an expectation entirely too soon, but he does manage to stick to what he knows and do it well. It's not your normal sounding "New York album" and that may be its best quality. He's not worried about bringing the area's music scene back to the pinnacle. He's just doing him and he's reaching out to people from all over to help accomplish his goal (notice the DJ Burn One production). I respect that and while the tape can get repetitive at times, Rocky manages to keep it an easy listen for the most part (much needed during a week of a billion mixtape releases).
Panelist: Roger Guerrilla, TheMaskedGorilla
Reaction: ASAP Rocky’s ‘Live.Love.A$AP’ was one of the most anticipated projects of 2011. Three seconds into the first song of the tape, “Palace,” Clams Casino seems to be making sure the project lives up to the hype with a beat reminiscent of “O Fortuna.” (You know, that song that’s in the start of the first Jackass movie.) With “Palace” leading into three songs we have already heard, followed by “Brand New Guy”, which includes a perfect feature from ScHoolboy Q, the project seems to be effortlessly matching expectations. That’s until the next song comes on, “Purple Swag: Chapter 2”: the remix version to Rocky’s breakout hit.
Rocky’s friends bring less to ‘Live.Love.A$AP’ than Taco and Jasper Dolphin bring to any Tyler, The Creator project, which until now seemed nearly impossible to accomplish. “Purple Swag: Chapter 2” leads into a number of terrible features from Rocky’s friends, painfully disrupting the project’s flow. The tape gets back on track with “Houston Old Head”, but at that point it’s already too late.
Rocky’s desire to put his friends on instead of creating a solid, cohesive project has the listener skipping throughout the entire middle of the tape, leaving ‘Live.Love.A$AP’ with very little playback value. The hype surrounding ASAP Rocky is undoubtedly real, unfortunately his debut effort fails to fully meet those expectations.
CLICK NEXT PAGE TO SEE REVIEWS FROM DJ BOOTH, DCTOBC, AND COMPLEX!
Panelist: Nathan Slavik, DJBooth
Reaction: A flood of hype and a $3 million deal with RCA has transformed ASAP Rocky's new mixtape "LiveLoveA$AP" from a "maybe I'll check this out if I have a minute" project to a "damnit, as a hip-hop fan I have to check this out and figure out where I stand on the guy" project. While so I don’t think definitive statements can be made just a few days after a project’s released I can say this : It's probably way better than you were expecting.
I don't really know what to call Rocky's style - he likes to call it Trillwave but I'm going to pretend like that never happened - but it's far more than just a Houston rip-off. At times he sounds like Pusha T, other times Cam'ron, other times like a rapper who still has no idea what he wants to sound like. Whatever it is, it’s uniquely his own, and in an era of copy and paste rap at the very least that deserves some respect.
The media loves to hype a rapper to titanic levels then criticize that same rapper for not meeting the absurd expectations they created, and by that measure LiveLoveA$ap (of course) falls short. But remove all the breathless coverage and you’ve got an album that adds a new voice to hip-hop’s monotonous drone. That’s a good thing.
Panelist: Paul Cantor, Paul Cantor
Reaction: ASAP Rocky is gonna get a lot of shit for a while because he's a guy who seemingly did about as little as one possibly could in their rap career and got a huge check for it. It's a rags to riches tale that will make the average struggling rapper cringe. Charge it to the game. It's hard to listen to this mixtape without thinking about it, but if I was to remove the 3 million dollar tagline from "LiveLoveA$AP," what would I think? I'd think it's pretty good.
On a technical level Rocky's not a terribly amazing rapper— no more or less talented than say, anyone else who can string some rhyming couplets together, which is basically like, everyone— but I think he's got a good voice and a certain panache in his delivery that makes him unique. Not everyone has that. In fact, few do.
And he rhymes over production that never tries to do too much. The beats just sort of groove along and give him adequate space to just do what he does. I never get the sense that he's trying too hard here. I kind of dig that.
Is this mixtape the greatest thing ever? No. Is ASAP Rocky worth 3 million dollars or whatever? I don't know. Who cares. Is the music pretty enjoyable? Yeah, definitely. Musically, I enjoyed listening to it way more than a shit ton of rap I hear these days.
Panelist: Combat Jack, Daily Mathematics
Reaction: I fortunately got to hear this kid’s music weeks before the hype beast made me skeptical. With songs like “Purple Swag” and “Peso” in full rotation, I was open to hearing more. LiveLoveA$AP fully delivers what I was expecting. With a solid proportion of the production helmed by Clams Casino, this mixtape is a swagged out collection of drugs. Literally. I’ve listened to this mixtape several times since it’s Halloween drop, and with no assistance of nary a narcotic in my vicinity, I’ve literally gotten high on every listen. I’m talking endorphins in my brain b. There’s mad New York cats complaining about how A$AP swagger jack’s the south, but with a heavy sprinkle of Houston’s Chopped and Screwed sauce, and a table spoon’s worth of swag sauce added to the mix, I dig this joint fully. I also hear some Diplomats and a pinch of Lil B influence in this kid’s DNA. In a good way. Who says every rapper needs to be super lyrically rappity rap anyways? I don’t necessarily get how a label could shell out a deal reportedly worth millions, but I do get this music. Any music that gets me high naturally is always a good thing, and this mixtape is dope in its rawest form. Harlem, NYC, we have a problem.
Panelist: Modi, DCtoBC / The Great Progression
Reaction: A$AP Rocky is the man. Simple as that. I really enjoyed the hype/hate/hoopla surrounding him, and got into like 30 twitter squabbles over the man's trillness, defending him like he was my snot-nosed little brother. His name was all in people's mouth after like two or three cool YouTube videos (none of which have surmounted 1 million views, by the way). He rocks and raps about high-end fashion stuff that I've never seen or heard of before. ASAP and his team (sidenote: funniest part of the COMPLEX interview he had: "When you see one of them, just call them ASAP and they’ll respond. We’ve all got the same name. It’s like Junior.” WHAT!? Incredible!) have rhyming styles heavily influenced by Paul Wall, Bone Thugs, and Lord Infamous, but they're from New York. You can't get any more trill than that. I feel like the internet molded these guys, much like it molded myself and plenty of my peers/contemporaries. So I can relate, and I can respect it.
But what about his music? I'm on the fence, dude. I feel like I received exactly what I thought I would receive musically, which was a whole lot of trippy beats that bang and boatloads of swag bars, but not a lot of content. I think he's unpolished as an emcee, though he's definitely talented. He gets outshined on every song, even by the dudes in the ASAP crew. He sounds almost amateurish rapping alongside hungrier rappers like ScHoolboy Q by doing things like coming in a little too early on the track. I think the hype for him as an artist is a little premature and unnecessary.
In short, I like A$AP's persona more than I like his recent effort. Time will tell if it'll grow on me. I'm still on his team, and still rooting for him, but I'm gonna need more.
Panelist: Insanul Ahmed, Complex
Reaction: Live.Love.ASAP has flaws but with Retromania in full effect, ASAP Rocky rises above them. Sure, the mixtape is a little too long, Rocky relies too heavily on a litany of borrowed flows (from everyone from Bone Thugs to UGK to MC Eiht), and sub-par features from the ASAP crew weigh the parts of the album down, but don’t let any of that worry you.
When you combine ASAP’s microphone persona, high level of self-awareness, and defined musical aesthetic, the result is more compelling than almost anything on the marketplace today.
Few acts in hip-hop have a sound that’s as fully realized as the one ASAP had out of the gate (the ones who do are usually superstars like Drake, Kanye, and Rick Ross). He doesn’t rap on here all that much, often opting to let the song ride before showing up for quick bursts of wit delivered in a flow that sounds oh so familiar. But every time he does spit, he lifts the song up before gently placing it back in the it's own groove (peep his mere eight bars on “Kissin’ Pink” for evidence). Ultimately, the mixtape—much like Rocky himself—is greater than the sum of it’s syrup, smoke, and swag.