Spitter du jour ASAP Rocky’s hotly anticipated LiveLoveA$AP has finally hit the e-streets and, after an evening of hasty listening, it’s mostly excellent. Rocky flexes a bit more rapping muscle than he has on past tracks (particularly on dazzling Clams Casino-assisted opener “Palace,” which sees Rocky running down his influences, bouncing from his usual languid cool to an almost Bone Thugs-esque flow all the while discussing his love for Houston and Master P) and generally sounds like a star in the making, or, at very least, a rapper who can reach some level of sustained appeal with a bit more grooming.
You’ll probably be reading a lot about Rocky’s personality and rapping on other blogs, and you’ll be reading more still about his recent deal and what this tape means for his future as a major label artist.
I’m not here for that though. I do want to discuss a skill that bodes well for Rocky’s future.
Whether you, dear reader, want to admit it or not, one of the most talented and important beat selectors in the industry today is neither a producer, an A & R (though in a past era he would have been a masterful A & R), nor an executive, but a rapper: Rick Ross. Though he’s not always great at choosing productions for his underlings (Pill raps far too densely for a lot of Ross’ lush soul epics, and Wale is…Wale…I’m not really sure what kind of beat he’s supposed to be spitting on yet), he has an uncanny knack for populating his albums with productions both tasteful and timely, from the extravagant 70s stylings of the Justice L.E.A.G.U.E. to Lex Luger’s now pervasive hard hitting southern apocalypses (which, let’s not forget, were not pervasive until “B.M.F.”). Throughout his career, in spite of technical inadequacies as a rapper and constant assailment of his character and authenticity, Ross has thrived. His larger than life personality no doubt has much to do with his success, but it is his ability to select beats that are undeniable and subsequently get in where he fits in over them that has extended his life far beyond the expected one hit wonderdom of “Hustlin.”
To get to the point: ASAP Rocky has an exquisite ear for beats. Not only does Rocky assemble a cohesive sound for LLA from a diverse set of producers (including monster contributions from the aforementioned Clams as well as names you should be looking out: DJ Burn One, Spaceghost Purrp, and Beautiful Lou), he also manages to choose incredibly of the moment beats without sounding the least bit derivative or uncomfortable. On highlights “Kissin Pink” “Keep It G,” “Roll One Up,” and “Demons,” Rocky brings listeners sounds from the south as well as the cloud-hop popularized on the internet by Clams in conjunction with Lil B, Soulja Boy (trust me), and Main Attrakionz, sounding at home on each beat he chooses.
(Of course missing from the tape is ANYTHING that sounds remotely like it came from anyone’s conception of New York Hip-Hop…but maybe this means it’s time to update what New York Hip-Hop sounds like, especially when I sit on the N train and hear a Luger or Southside beat blaring out of every other pair of headphones)
So I don’t know how ASAP Rocky’s career will turn out. Apparently they’re playing “Peso” on Hot 97 here in NY, but I haven’t listened to the radio in years, so what the hell do I know anyway? If Rocky’s able to continue choosing beats that highlight his qualities as a rapper–his voice and a flow both sharp and languid, alternating as Rocky sees fit–he’ll at very least maintain his core audience. He still has room to grow as a rapper and, just as in Ross’ case, this continued change will hopefully be accompanied by a sharpened and ever-evolving ear for beats. If his record deal is half as good as it sounds (or anywhere near as good as what Odd Future got), Rocky may actually get the chance to progress and make some hits in the process. We’ll check back in after this little tour with some dude named Aubrey.
Photography by Far Fetched Future. Catch more flicks of Team ASAP here
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