“Everyday I spend my time, drinking wine, feeling fine. Waiting here to find the sign, that I can understand…”
It’s the familiar voice of Rod Stewart crooning these words, words that could embody the very image the Harlem native presents to the world; the drink, drugs and fashion, the diffused purple mist that colourises his videos, basically everything that reminds you of being in that twilight hour of a house party, where everyone left has resigned to one of the hotboxed bedrooms, and amongst the weed smoke, deep meaningless conversations and that couple in the corner getting to 2nd base, a single album is Spotified to soundtrack the ‘comedown’ of the early hours.
The difference with Rocky’s latest embarking “At.Long.Last.A$AP”, is that these words simply read may be easily deciphered as his usual praising of his recreations. But, listening to Stewart’s heartbroken tone, sewn together with Mark Ronson’s retroactive production (dragging 1970s throwback organs into the modern age with thunderous drums), shows us a very exposed man. Not a world famous hip-hop artist, but a 26 year old who has had one hell of a turbulent couple of years personally.
Between losing one of his best friends to a drug overdose, breaking up with his girlfriend and the added pressure of supporting Rihanna on her worldwide tour as well as a co-headlining arena tour with Wiz Khalifa, you can understand if it’s all gotten to him just a tad.
This album is by far the most somber, dark and psychedelic LP in his catalogue, and really does show brilliant range and creativity as a result. Production is handled by some big hitters including Kanye West, Ronson, and Danger Mouse, who presents some very low-fi and eerie sampling on album opener ‘Holy Ghost’, which pretty much sets you up mood-wise for the album. It’s the same subject material, but in a mature fashion that sets Rocky apart from his previous material.
‘Canal St.’ carries on the melancholy vibes, with Rocky almost (dare I say) Tupac Shakur-esque in his delivery, almost like a “Hail Mary” of sorts with discussions of the downside of his past life drug dealing and although he glamorises drugs, he would never go back to where it was your be all and end all.
This leads us into one of the album singles and standout tracks ‘L$D’, an extremely trippy number complete with swirling falsetto and hazy electronics panned left and right to send your head into orbit. It’s definitely the most ambitious piece of music Rocky has put out and even more so as to put it as one of the lead singles for the album, but it really works and shows off his diverse taste in music and love for shoegaze darlings like My Bloody Valentine and the Cocteau Twins.
‘Excuse Me’ carries on with twinkling pianos, harps and strings, something to listen to looking up at a starry sky. The evocative production on this album really does create that otherworldly feeling Rocky wanted for this album, and there’s definitely a focus on the ups and downs of psychedelics (which Rocky openly admitted being on throughout recording the album).
If ‘Excuse Me’ is a gentle float through clouds, then the album’s other standout ‘Electric Body’ is it’s paranoid cousin, constantly looking out the window for police whilst your drugged up friend bangs on a detuned piano behind you. Regular collaborator Schoolboy Q features to add some extra venom to the verses, but it’s the incredibly hollow yet extremely catchy chorus of ‘Shake that ass girl, make that coochie wet’ that steals it.
‘At.Long.Last.A$AP’ succeeds on numerous different levels, from it’s light and dark shaded production drenched in psychedelia, it’s strong guests spots from rappers and producers alike, and as it’s intended purpose: As a tribute a the late A$AP Yams.
Rocky is more polished, mature and thoughtful that I’ve ever heard him and he’s getting closer to perfecting his niche day by day. The day he gets it 100% right could be when we finally acknowledge him as one of the all time greats.