Long live weird rappers
When Sony signed 24-year-old Harlem rapper A$AP Rocky to an insane $3 million record deal in 2011 based solely on his YouTube views, the entire rap community was, to put it politely, skeptical.
Sure, Rocky's two most prominent songs, “Peso” and “Purple Swag,” showed potential and proved he was an actual human being, let alone an actually decent rapper. But they were also weird. Not make an emo autotune album weird, because Kanye’s weird is a very distinct, maniacal sort of weird. It was more sonically weird, like when Snoop Dogg released “Sensual Seduction.”
The 30-year history of rap music has taught us New York City rappers are supposed to be derivations of Big Daddy Kane, Rakim and KRS-One. But with his 2011 mixtape, “LiveLoveA$AP,” Rocky proved he could make a whole record that sounded like lost Three 6 Mafia tracks while incorporating elements of his New York rap forefathers. Needless to say, the mixtape was incredibly weird, but sounded brilliant and unlike anything else being made today.
But then a whole year went by, and Rocky released but one song, “Goldie,” which reminded us of his infectious cockiness and lyrical ability in a great way, but the Hit-Boy beat and typical braggadocio failed to feed the weirdness niche he had carved out so nicely the year before.
Sony didn’t help much by continuing to delay the album until early January. But when Rocky’s album, “LongLiveA$AP," finally came, it came with a deliciously heavy dose of weird. He uses the word “guapanese” in a verse. He puts Santigold on a hook. He gets a feature from the 2Pac hologram. He raps over a Skrillex song. I only made one of those things up.
But somehow, Rocky is charismatic and fluid enough to make the album sound cohesive and interesting. He also manages to remain the dominant personality throughout the record, which is no small feat considering he has two different features from habitual song-dominator Kendrick Lamar, a posse cut featuring six of the hottest underground rappers in the business and a song featuring larger-than-life rap personalities Drake and 2 Chainz.
Really, “LongLiveA$AP” is a success of an album because of Rocky’s forceful personality and its unique sound. It serves as the difference between a decent rapper with a good album and a potential legend worth $3 million. Hopefully, Rocky’s weirdness will live as long as this album suggests.