A$AP Rocky shrewdly repackaged southern rap on 2013’s debut Long.Live.A$AP. The shaky concept of a Harlem rapper aping the chopped and screwed codeine flows of Houston’s finest could have easily faltered were it not for Rocky’s swaggering charisma and the audacious industry chutzpah of his aesthetic mentor A$AP Yams, the recent victim of a fatal overdose.
Rocky’s sprawling, psychedelic follow-up continues to blur the musical lines, aided by all-star cast list including Danger Mouse, ScHoolboy Q, MIA, Mark Ronson and the frequent Britpop-styled interjections of former London street busker Joe Fox. While huge yawning synth riffs and sampled guitar licks are prominent, the leaner efforts suit Rocky’s kinetic flow the best, the tic-tac-toe diction of Canal St and hypnotic, siren-driven Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2 only paling against falsetto crooned standout L$D, woozily rendered over a twisted lift from Bobbie Gentry’s Ode To Billie Joe. Elsewhere, Kanye West collaboration Jukebox Joints makes the hallucinogenic connection explicit with the sly couplet: “I’m tripping off the acid/Now yo’ ass is looking massive”.
Not all his druggy dalliances yield such winning results, though – by-rote mid-section filler such as Bob James-sampling Max B and Juicy J hook-up Wavybone cluttering an already bloated running order. While it would also have benefited from omitting the overwrought all-star pig’s ear of Everyday and confused closer Back Home (despite closing with a great Dame Dash-style rant from Yams), for the most part A$AP Rocky deftly negotiates the difficult second album hurdle, switching up his braggadocious flows with the nonchalance of an old stager. And if there are few lyrical miracles in these scattershot songs obsessed with sex, drugs and shopping, in this intuitive stylist’s mouth the words themselves are often beside the point.
Watch the video for Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2: