At this stage in A$AP Rocky's career, it's virtually impossible to predict what his third studio album should sound like. The Harlem artist has transcended any semblance of a generic "rapper" title--having emerged quickly as runway fodder from the moment his debut Live. Love. A$AP arrived in 2011, so since then he's straddled the line between musician and fashion icon. By 2013's Long. Live. A$AP he was just finding his creative footing, still experimental but slowly bulking up his rolodex. And now we're at what feels like the final installment of this trilogy, At. Long. Last. A$AP bka A.L.L.A.
Rocky held his official A.L.L.A. listening session yesterday evening in New York City's Red Bull Studios in Chelsea. The two-floor venue was everything but secretive about the event, as the outside wall of Red Bull had a gigantic lightbox displaying the A.L.L.A. album cover--where Rocky is wearing the signature birthmark of his fallen friend-slash-manager A$AP Yams who passed away in January. Once granted access to the venue, however, it was the equivalent of an Illuminati meeting. Phones, laptops, and anything with a battery pulse were taken away, as a mini reception with hors d'oeuvres were served upstairs before everyone was ushered to the downstairs area for the official listening. Red Bull was naturally the beverage of choice, but the other two options were symbolically champagne and PBR, which is exactly where A$AP Rocky sits within the music industry. Sometimes flashy, sometimes hipster, Rocky is that artist who navigates through both worlds seamlessly. He arrived at Red Bull Studios around 10pm, apologizing for his hour tardiness, and stood behind two turntables and an iPhone ready to do this.
While Rocky didn't play every track on the album, the ones he did spin were either about drugs and/or God and/or death. His first selection, "Holy Ghost" carried a psychedelic vibe thanks to Danger Mouse's production, who seems to be picking up where former A$AP Mob producer Clams Casino left off. London newcomer Joe Fox cooed on the cut, with an assist from Chace Infinite as Rocky tosses lines like "Who's more important than your Lord and Savior?" and "I got my own relationship with God." Both Danger Mouse and Joe Fox are frequent collaborators on A.L.L.A. appearing on several tracks, including the next one Rocky spun, "Electric Body." The cut is sonically divided into three parts: the first harnessing spacey blips timed to the rhythmic cadence of Rocky's bars. The tone toward the middle drops into dank basement dance party territory, where an interpolation of TAPP's "Shake That Ass" repeats in between a verse from ScHoolboy Q before finalizing into a trippy soundscape.