WORDS BY BEN FREEMAN
Rocky is one of only a handful of artists in Hip-hop’s history to exceed the handle of ‘musician’. He’s a creative. Although his innovative excellence is reflected in his musical endeavours, these exact musical endeavours only account for a fragment of his prowess.
Having recently become the new face of premium fashion Brand Dior and also headed a fashion collaboration with Guess Clothing, it could be easy to forget where it all began for Lord Flacko. So lets take it back to his roots… the music. Here are my favourite A$AP Rocky tracks.
Long.Live.A$AP – Even in the sphere of music, A$AP demonstrates his adeptness as being more than a rapper. In this, the introduction and title track of his first studio album, Rocky not only spits fluently in a language that can only be described as street poeticism, but he also directs the music video. This was a bold move for an artist who (at the time) was up and coming, but he had belief in his own creative vision – alike much of the industry now does also.
Fashion Killa– The anthem of fashionistas across the globe. This is perhaps the most overt example of Rocky’s adeptness in juggling, and in fact combining, music and fashion. Often when rappers attempt to address brands in their lyrics the result is whack and corny (i.e. ‘Riff Raff – tip toeing in my Jordans’), but magically, such is not the case with A$AP. Fashion KIlla has become a pretty well respected guide to what’s hot. What I’m trying to say is, if A$AP doesn’t name drop your favourite brand… YOUR FAVOURITE BRAND AIN’T SH*T B.
L$D – Rocky has an extensive catalogue of creative pieces that the typical rapper simply could not execute – then again Rocky is more than your typical rapper – but this is the Crem De La Crop. Rocky is unapologetic in his indulgence of the two main concepts explored in the song (psychedelic drugs and women). The subtlety of the backing vocals and a rarely seen subdued A$AP throughout the endurance of the song creates an atmosphere reflective of his introspective state of mind when he does indulge in the song’s namesakes. The result can only be described as genius. The video is without doubt my favourite music to release so far this decade as it represents more than just a visual to the track; it’s an insight into the world of Rakim Myers.
Back Home – They say features can make or break a song. There’s no doubt about it. Not only was this the final song on his latest studio album, A.L.L.A, but it was also a tribute to his fellow creative, connoisseur and best friend, A$AP Yams, who passed just weeks before the album’s release. In reflection of this, it was essential that the features on this track were picked with great prudence – there was little room for error.
The flawless technical ability and lyrical dexterity of the mighty Mos Def made the decision to feature him unquestionable and fitting for a track that would certainly have meant a lot to Rocky on a personal level. The complexity of much of Mos Def’s music’s makes it easy to see why many younger hip-hop fans may not be able to understand and therefore appreciate his concepts and messages. He’s an acquired taste – much like a fine wine. Perhaps this is why he superbly and elegantly weaves a theme of wine into the beginning of his verse.
To many artists, having such an seasoned and respected rapper feature on their track could overwhelm them. Not A$AP. His prior verses on the song match Yasiin Bey’s brilliantly – he too also finding some abstract double entendres, in his case being star wars…
Hands so low/Hans Solo, Life saver/Lightsaber
Suddenly – This song is a recollection of memoirs documenting Rakim’s expeditious, yet explosive, rise to superstardom. The essence of wordplay that plagues the first verse is inarguably poetic with lyrics reminiscent of – dare I say it – a young Nasir Jones.
“shootouts like one Sig with two rounds
And one click left two down, that’s four kids but one lived
Left three dead, but one split, that one miss, that one snitched
That’s everyday shit, shit we used to that
Add it up, do the math with your stupid ass”
However the wordplay means nothing if it isn’t distributed in a way the people cannot appreciate – fortunately, I’m yet to hear an artist switch up their flow in such an impeccable manner as displayed by Flacko in Suddenly, making it difficult to do anything other than appreciate what A$AP has to say. His final verse is arguably the most sonically pleasing verse he’s ever released but somehow this does not take away from the conviction of the delivery as he takes us on a trip down memory lane through the trials and tribulations of his youth – a theme of prominence throughout a track that undoubtedly tops this list.
Fuckin’ problems – Alright. Many will disagree – after all its a radio record that the label pushed for. A$AP himself said he hated the track in an interview with [x]. So now you’re all bound to be asking “so how does the track make his top ten?”. One word; EXPOSURE! This was one of the tracks that began to lift A$AP from the realm of underground Hip-hop and it allowed Rocky to excel to previously unseen heights. It was a gateway song. The easy accessibility of the track meant people would listen to it and think “Damn, this Rocky guy kinda jiggy” and they’d therefore listen to another one of his songs. With the likes of Drizzy & K Dot contributing guest verses, the feature list cannot be ignored either. This was a hit from the word go.