Once again, Drake is proving his ubiquitous palatability by destroying steaming records (set by himself) with his just over one-week-old playlist, More Life. Six-days later, Compton’s son, Kendrick Lamar, said, “Hey, Drake, this is what real rap sounds like,” when he delivered his dynamically produced lyrical warning shot—and potentially fourth studio album single—“The Heart Part 4.”
Drake and Kendrick represent opposite yet equally important Hip Hop energies: Drake’s the club-banger guy, and Kendrick’s the socially conscious lyrical mastermind. While I love Drake more than the emotionally unstable teen girls who frequent his concerts, and me and Kenny get along like lamb and tunafish, one artist’s absence has left a deep void in my Hip Hop heart: A$AP Rocky.
Rocky represents an alternative Hip Hop lane that can’t be characterized by the genre’s prototypical metrics. Sure, he’s an accomplished lyricist and a learned producer, but his allure transcends those benchmarks through his enticing presence, typified by a poly-influenced unconventional musical aesthetic, designer clothes, an ear to the street, and a palpable swag. It’s been almost two-years since he released his sophomore studio album, At. Long. Last. ASAP, and while rumors of a third album have risen, concrete information is nonexistent. Yes, we received Cozy Tapes: Vol. 1 Friends - in 2016, but that was a collective MOB project—I need me some solo Rocky. I miss A$AP Rocky like my mom misses the grocery store’s half-priced matzo ball soup deal (okay, I miss that too). Sometimes, I can’t help but get nostalgic.
I vividly remember my first time watching the “L$D” music video—the third single off Rocky’s second album. To this day, I still get chills hearing those opening euphoric bass strings that invite us in to Rocky’s psychedelic playground. I was 22, I had just moved into my first Manhattan shoebox apartment, and I was completely immersed in the “city life,” which essentially meant scraping together enough money after rent and bills to go out on weekends and front like I was a “boss.” To further convey this facade, I would go out in a too tight button down tucked into slacks that hung above freshly polished shoes. Hi, my name is Zach, and I used to be a massive tool.
My incessant bragging about my “dope setup” finally convinced my best friend to venture into the city that he loathed for a weekend—he wasn’t impressed. After giving him the grand tour (me planting him in the middle of the apartment, and telling him to rotate 360°), he’d asked if I’d seen A$AP’s new video for “L$D.” I responded with a terse “nah;” he replied with a disbelieved, “dude…” To properly position our mindset for the impending trippy visuals, I grounded up some Girl Scout Cookies (no, not that kind), cracked a Dutch, and packed it like I was trying to avoid checking a bag on an airplane.
The video’s aerial opening reveals Rocky sparking a blunt in a mysterious setting, perfectly complementing those goosebump-giving euphoric bass strings. My first thoughts? “Bro, I’m smoking a blunt right now too! Rocky you a real one bro.” Ha, yeah gnarly dude… As the camera recoils, it submerges us deeper into this hallucinogenic excursion, complete with Tokyo’s vibrant scenery, vivid colors, designer clothing, and an Asian love interest who still haunts my dreams (and socks). This music video borrows a similar psychedelic, evocative aesthetic as the avant garde film, Enter The Void. If you’ve never seen this movie and are curious, all I’ll say is proceed with caution. That movie's a trip.
Rocky’s lethargic vocals guide us through Tokyo’s streets and illicit offerings; bright Vegas-esque lights and a child-like novelty allow us to freely absorb the bold imagery. Much like an inebriated state, the video excludes transitionary periods by omitting how he goes from unsteadily sauntering ominous, unpopulated streets in casual garb to standing wide-eyed in an upscale luminous setting rocking a fresh top coat. The ambiguous transitions escalate when Rocky strategically splices in a verse from the album’s succeeding track, “Excuse Me.”
The verse’s opening lines, “Okay excuse me, Mr. Bill Collector, I got problems” refocus our attention from an entranced Rocky in an upscale entity, to a present-minded Rocky, a white room, a mirror, and gold accents. We have no idea where we are, we just know that we like it. The cut and pasted “Excuse Me” verse meshes well because it matches “L$D’s” euphoric, wavy style, and expresses the music video’s deeper submergence into Rocky’s trip, further blurring the lines between reality and hallucinations. Like I said, we have no idea where we are, we just know that we like it. After he raps the verse’s last bar, the video fades back into “L$D,” and continues flirting with reality, ending with our protagonist confusedly standing on a balcony, suggesting an introspective moment of, “Did that just happen?”.
At this point, my jaw surrendered functionality by remaining open for over five-minutes; the blunt precariously hung off my lower lip. I took a final drag, extinguishing the roach, looked over at my friend in disbelief, and uttered the only word that my inebriated mind could offer, “Yo…” “I know, man,” he said with a smirk. As Jonah Hill said in This is the End, “Weed is tight.” That it is, Jonah.
I’d always been a fan of Rocky’s, but it was in that moment when I realized his great artistry. That video, man. That crazy acid trip, joyride of a video, along with At. Long. Last. ASAP's totality, completely changed my perception of the Harlem rapper. Thanks to his earlier eccentric work, he’d been known as Hip Hop’s cool, esoteric child. But this obscurity didn’t really resonate with me for some reason. Sure, I loved his hits “Goldie,” “Purple Swag, and “Peso,” but I wasn’t a full believer. It’s not that I didn’t like him, he just wasn't a top-of-mind artist. If a friend asked to put him on, I wouldn’t say no, I’d just ambivalently shrug my shoulders and say, “sure”—basically like if a girl offers you a hand job when she’s on her period. You’re not going to say no, it’s just not necessarily what you want. For awhile, I viewed Rocky like consolatory hand jobs.
But now? Well, now I view him like diving balls deep into that sexy Asian girl in the “L$D” video (pause?). I’m like Spongebob screaming, “I NEED IT!” in that episode when he goes to Sandy’s for the first time, and is tempted by the vase of water. I can only watch this video, and ride the high of nostalgia for so long before it goes stale. I need this new Rocky album, man.