Believe the Hype
Hype can take you a long way fast; just ask anyone from Odd Future. However, once you make it so far, your image has to be followed with actual talent. In contrast to other new hip hop acts that try to appeal to wider audiences, ASAP Rocky has managed to blow up in less than two months while backing the fame up with quality music. His LiveLoveA$AP mixtape was well received across the blogosphere and caught the attention of both RCA records and the BBC’s ‘Sound of 2012’ poll. But what does this Harlem-based rapper bring to the table?
ASAP Rocky (Rakim Mayers) is by no means a deep lyricist, evidenced by lines like “I be that pretty motherfucker / Harlem’s what I’m reppin.’” In contrast to the hip hop that his home city is known for, Mayers’ variety prioritises the musicality of syllables and the intonation of voice over semantic nuance. With LiveLoveA$AP, his flow stays metric, with dragged out vowels reminiscent of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony in a much slower fashion. In fact, a codeine-infused aesthetic seems to be the underlying theme of the mixtape. The influence of Texas trill, the deep humid sounds of the Houston scene-with all its styrofoam cups and laidback slurring-are quite evident in his bass-laden music.
The production by Clams Casino in this mixtape is particularly noteworthy. The New Jersey-born beatmaker got his start working with hip-hop fringe artists Lil’ B and Soulja Boy, and has since become known for his beautifully crafted, ethereal-minded loops. LiveLoveA$AP is perhaps his best work so far. The sampling of spectral voices mixed in with heavily saturated wall-of-sound-meets-chillwave beats make for a musical bed that turns How To Dress Well’s soulful music jealous. Clams inserts ASAP’s filtered voice in stark contrast to his beats. Although sometimes debased by what seems like at least an octave (reminiscent of DJ Skrew), the rapper continues to sound crisp and contained. Songs like “Bass,” “Peso,” and “Wassup” are good examples of this production-centric approach.
This self-proclaimed pretty motherfucker may just be getting his start, but certain people are already mentioning his debut mixtape when talking about the best new music this year. As with all things hype-worthy, ASAP Rocky’s image has been carefully handed over to the caretaking of VICE. At least for now, the only direction this young rapper can go, is up. If the bass-inclined danceability of his recorded stuff is anything to judge by, ASAP Rocky’s live performance is probably one you don’t want to miss.
ASAP Rocky / Jan. 29 / Corona Theatre (2490 Notre-Dame Rd. W.)