Review: A$AP Rocky’s Experimental Sophomore Effort, “ALLA (At.Long.Last.A$AP)”

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After several release date modifications, rapper A$AP Rocky pulled a fast one and decided to drop his latest piece of work, ALLA (At.Long.Last.A$AP), a week earlier than scheduled. Last set to release June 2, fans and music listeners alike were pleasantly surprised to hear about the A$AP MOB representative’s early May 26 drop. Announced nonchalantly via Rocky’s Twitter, Mr. Mayers gave his followers less than a two-hour notice stating in all caps per usual, “OFFICIAL ALBUM RELASE IN STORES AND ONLINE @ MIDNIGHT TONIGHT , THANX FOR LISTENING , HOPE YALH ENJOYED . BLESS …. A$VP X LIFE X RIP YAMS.”

In other words, fans and critics had less than two hours to get their life and make sure they were front row and center to be one of the first listeners of this masterpiece. Being the A$AP Mob supporter that I am, I had my metaphorical popcorn and earphones ready.

Before listeners even had the chance to press play, Rocky made it so everyone had the chance to get acclimated with the album without giving it all away. Yes, it did seem like the Harlemite gave away a lot with his ‘Fuck the industry shit, I’m putting this out for me’ releases of such singles and teases of “Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2,” “M’s,” “Excuse Me,” “Everyday,” “JD” (If you peeped the New Year’s party invite), and the pivotal, “L$D.” That’s already six tracks, but Rocky took it back to the days of olde when artists use to come out with full on projects, in this case, 18 tracks deep. Some of the top Hip-Hop albums of the year, including Wale’s The Album About Nothing, Big Sean’s Dark Sky Paradise, and Tyler, The Creator’s Cherry Bomb maxed out at an average 13-14 tracks (Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp A Butterfly actually came close at 16 tracks).

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Met with awe and excitement for Rocky’s experimental sound, audiences now understand why the rapper took his time on this project upon listening. Meticulously curated, A.L.L.A still holds that creepy, trippy vibe we know Pretty Flacko for, but with a more updated and developed sound. While Rocky may come off as cocky, arrogant, and reckless, at times, he has this curiously intellectual side to him that appreciates all forms of expression and yearns to curate those experiences via his own art. This mash-up of clashing subpersonalities comes together to create a cohesive piece of work that unapologetically represents all the sides of Rocky. While there are a good amount of features, they don’t saturate or overcompensate for lyrical and musical composition. The features included were done just right, in a way that shows that these artists simply linked up in teamwork fashion to help develop a quality piece of work. Collaborating with a few well-knowns (Kanye West, ScHoolboy Q, Juicy J, MIA, Future) along with some unknowns (Joe Fox, James Fauntleroy), Pretty Flacko mixes high and low to create a flawless expression of an album.

The samples utilized on this album contribute to the diversity of the piece, giving it depth. From classics dating back to the ’50s to songs hardly even a year old, you’ll find a diverse array of influences utilized that will leave you impressed at how they were reworked and given new life. Flipping samples on their head, Rocky took an upbeat, happy-go-lucky song in Naja Rosa’s 2014 “Stuck In The Middle” and sonically turned it into a haunted house on “Dreams (Interlude)”. Taking it back to the ’80s, “Max B” not only samples the titled rapped, but also, the Run DMC classic, “Peter Piper”. Using “Electric Body” to shout out his peers who grew up in the ’90s, the song samples TAPP’s Baltimore Club classic “Shake That Ass Girl”. On the track paying homage to Pretty Flacko Senior Mos Def, “Back Home,” the ’70s flair of the band The Jaggerz is utilized with a sample of their track, “Gotta Find My Way Back Home”. Rocky even went as far as sampling a Christmas song by ’50s doo-wop group The Platters on “Excuse Me”. That is the epitome of dope. I fucking love Christmas.

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With so many sounds presented on each track, this well-rounded album represents the contrasting elements contained in all our personalities. For Rocky to cohesively present all these facets on one project, it shows you don’t have to choose just one side of yourself and box yourself into one category. While many are scared to cross and blur boundaries, Rocky bent and manipulated them to his benefit. Never disappointing, the standout tracks on A.L.L.A show promising development. Probably the most progressive statement of growth on the album, Rocky gives off a lucid new age Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix feel ushered in on “L$D”.

While many artists fear the ‘sophomore curse’ of not meeting the expectations their debut set, Rocky smashed any possible fears by taking the time to cultivate a piece of work that well-represents where he is musically and how far he’s come since we first heard of him back in 2011. If anything, A.L.L.A is a teasing indicator of what’s to come from this creatively expressive and diverse artist.


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