the super late At.Long.Last.A$AP review that nobody asked for
Finally. (I refused to open this review with “At long last.”) It took a while to get here, but A$AP Rocky dropped his sophomore album in the year 2015. In retrospect, 2–2.5 years is a normal gap between albums. It gives the artist plenty of time to find creative direction and enough inspiration to complete a full body of work. But fuck that, I’m too impatient. All the pushbacks, delays, and failed promises from the crew put a strain on my poor little A$AP-stanning heart. Yet, as soon as the album leaked, I knew it was worth the wait.
Spanning 18 tracks, Rocky provided enough music to make up for his time away. Despite the album lasting over an hour, he made it work because he had the key component that makes or breaks rap albums whether you know it or not: cohesion. This is obviously easier done over a shorter length, shown by projects like Yeezus, I Don’t Like Shit, I Don’t Go Outside, and Who’s Gonna Get Fucked First. But A.L.L.A flows so well over 18 songs that it feels like less. He’s also no stranger to this concept; the consistent sound throughout LiveLoveA$AP is what made it such an important mixtape.
I would’ve laughed if someone told me a year ago that the two biggest contributors to A$AP Rocky’s second album would be 1/2 of Gnarls Barkley and a homeless guitarist from London, but here we are. The album gets right into it with “Holy Ghost” and “Canal St.”, which show off Rocky’s new introspective side…or at least as introspective as we’re gonna get from the pretty motherfucker. Uncoincidentally, the 5 tracks featuring said homeless guitarist Joe Fox were among the best on the album, and the sound that Fox, Danger Mouse, and Rocky were able to create carried the project.
But while A.L.L.A excelled as a whole, its individual parts weren’t lacking in any way. Standout tracks like “Fine Whine”, “Electric Body”, “Jukebox Joints”, “Excuse Me”, “Max B”, and “Pharsyde” highlight Rocky’s ability to stay true to his identity as an artist while showing off his progression since LongLiveA$AP. Rocky’s progression as an artist and rapper isn’t something that should go unnoticed, as he has improved greatly in both regards during his time away. If you didn’t realize this when “Multiply” dropped to kick off #FlackoJodyeSeason, it’s apparent all over A.L.L.A. Gone are his dependence on flows and basic rhyme schemes, and as a result his raps and verses feel more complete. The second verse of “Pharsyde” might be his best ever.
The strongest, most impressive, and most unexpected song on the album is undoubtedly “L$D”. The buzzword coming into A.L.L.A was “psychedelics”, and Rocky made it no secret that these drugs influenced everything from the album to his sex life. “L$D” is something different than anything Rocky has ever done before, and illustrating this nascent style with one of the best videos you’ll see all year was the smartest way to make sure that the song would be ingested the right way. “New Slaves” wouldn’t have been “New Slaves” if it weren’t debuted on the sides of urban buildings worldwide, just like (on a smaller scale, of course) L$D wouldn’t be L$D without that visual.
The quality of features wildly varied — from another lackluster performance by M.I.A. on an A$AP track on “Fine Whine”, to disappointing and overly basic verses by Juicy J and UGK on “Wavybone”, to Mos Def’s lazy effort on “Back Home”, to Kanye’s verse on “Jukebox Joints”. Objectively, Ye’s verse is probably his worst…ever. Yet, after a few listens it somehow became fun to rap along to. I don’t know if that’s the Kanye stan inside me, but I do know for a fact that no other rapper of his stature would be able to get away with a verse like that without being lambasted. However, Future and ScHoolboy Q delivered as expected and Lil Wayne fucking renegaded the entire album on the “M’$ Remix” with a verse that’ll probably leave you out of breath by the end.
However, the album doesn’t come without its low points. “Wavybone” left a lot to be desired, especially with its eye-catching lineup of rappers. “Better Things” is an average song that only made headlines for one line of shock value, and “West Side Highway” and “Dreams” are just okay songs that seem lost in the middle of A.L.L.A. Rocky also lost by not capitalizing on the stronger points of the album. Two of the grittiest tracks on the album, “JD” and “Max B”, suffered from being cut too short. While “JD” is just an interlude, the sub-2 minute track was an incredible tease considering its bass-heavy tripfest of a beat. But “Max B” could have been the best track on the album had Rocky not inexplicably cut it short halfway through his second verse, letting Joe Fox go on a way-too-long outro to completely ruin the vibe of the song.
The highs are high and the lows are…average for Rocky on A.L.L.A. He delivered a much better project than his scattered debut, even if this album lacked statement tracks like “Fuckin Problems” and “Wild For The Night”. However, both A$AP Rocky and A$AP Yams had expressed their resentment for those songs, blaming the label for those constructed mainstream tracks. Thankfully, RCA let him do his thing on this album, and it still managed to debut at #1 with over 140,000 sales plus streaming. The intangible influence of the late A$AP Yams was scattered throughout the album, and it’s hard to predict how Rocky’s next project will be without his guidance. But for right now, there’s no doubting that Rocky dropped a great album that will definitely stand the test of time.
Favorite track: “Pharsyde (feat. Joe Fox)”
Favorite beat: “Max B (feat. Joe Fox)”
Favorite feature: Lil Wayne, “M’$ (Remix)”