Hip-Hop

A$AP Rocky Delivers A Non-Stop Acid Trip With 'At. Long. Last. A$AP'

ASAP Rocky
Phil Knott

ASAP Rocky

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.

A skit happens, featuring James France with ad libs from A$AP Ferg, where Rocky delivers some Pretty Flacko rhymes as "J.D." or as he likes to call himself, "the Black James Dean."

The song "Canal Street" could be A$AP Rocky's version of Biggie's "Juicy" with its aspirational slightly braggy theme about once shopping for gold on Canal St., but now "went to Paris for my Chucks." The video for the track "LSD" arrived during the session (but no phones meant no mobile viewing) and after a few failed technological attempts, the room got to view the Tokyo lit visuals that lead into another album track "Excuse Me," which begins with hating on bill collectors but concludes with the self-loving line "I guess the new me is gonna take some getting used to." The super smooth "West Side Highway" has Danger Mouse on the beat with harmonizing from James Fauntleroy. Rocky tries his hand at production on "Dreams," where he turns banging on piano keys into a beat and mutters through his bars about life being a bitch in red lipstick and stilettos as he has a dream "like Dr. King" while "police brutality was on my TV screen." Other deep cuts like the stream of consciousness titled "Juke Box" get pretty dark, as Kanye West returns to his soul samples for the production while A$AP envisions his own demise: "When my death calls, I pray the Lord accepts collect calls." He closed the listening session with the Danger Mouse produced "Far Side," another morbid track about finding clarity in LSD as his signature chopped and screwed voice recites the "Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep" prayer.

While previously released singles like "Everyday" and "What's Beef" do fall in line sonically with what was heard yesterday evening, there's plenty of room within the rumored 19-track project to throw in a wild card or two.

At. Long. Last. A$AP has the soul of the '70s placed within a 21st century context. Drug-induced religious revelations are a common theme, along with the concept of death. Some tracks are short and punchy like a mixtape segue, while others are full-bodied cuts. While there is some familiar A$AP DNA in the mix, there is a degree of new territory from the Harlemite. "I didn't want to give people what they expected," A$AP Rocky explained about the project. So far so good.

At. Long. Last. A$AP drops June 2nd via ASAP Worldwide and RCA Records.