Somehow I ended up shelling out a hundred bucks to listen to this record (an especially dumb feat given that it’s a free download). There I was, minding my own business in Amsterdam airport, waiting to catch a flight to London (swag, as Rocky himself might say). It was with about fifteen minutes before my flight was due to be called that I decided it was the perfect time to listen to LiveLoveA$AP for the first time. And as the first chops of “Palace” kicked in, I knew my decision was a good one. It’s a track that has perhaps come the closest to defining swag in 2011 – an ill beat (I never use the word ‘ill’ but there’s no better way to describe it) blessed by a regal flow that announces the presence of a true talent. Suddenly it was forty minutes later and I realised that I’d missed my plane as I’d been so deep in the music.
Okay, it’s not up there with ?uestlove’s story about how he packed in his job to repeatedly listen to It takes a nation of Millions To Hold Us Back, nor is LiveLoveA$AP on the same level as that seminal album, but it does just about illustrate the pulling power of A$AP Rocky. The kid is good. Maybe not good enough to justify the huge sums of money reportedly lavished on him for signing his major label deal, but good. Very good. And to be fair, that’s got more to do with the desperation of the record industry to provide us with a hot new MC than Rocky himself.
Still, there’s little evidence on LiveLoveA$AP that he’ll struggle to deal with the expectation. “Biggy and Nas, put they ass in a blender, sprinkle some 50, out came this (you can fill this word in yourself).” You could accuse of him of lacking some things (humility mainly) but confidence certainly wouldn’t be one of them. Fortunately for us he’s got the skills to justify the hype. Rocky’s a bragger and boaster par excellence, who reps Harlem hard and raps even harder about how pretty he is and how high he gets. And somehow it’s a trick that doesn’t grow old over the course of the mixtape. In a word, he’s got swag. Serious swag.
It helps that he’s powered by some brilliant beats from a crew of producers that deserve as much shine as Rocky’s getting himself. Clams Casino and Lyle come particularly hard on “Bass” and “Brand New Guy” respectively. All in all it’s an enjoyable romp that’ll get pulses racing and bassbins banging.
Rocky has said of this mixtape that its goal is for the listener to work out whether you like him or not. The chances are that if you’re heard of him, you’ll probably have made up your mind about him before listening. But if you’re willing to open your ears up, you’ll be entertained by a high quality MC having a blast on record. He may not yet have reached the standards of the legends he aspires to, but he’s certainly in the position to do so. Watch this space.
– Will Georgi