PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

A$AP Rocky: At. Long. Last. A$AP.

If Live. Love. A$AP. was the start of Rocky's trip, then At. Long. Last. A$AP. makes for one hell of a disappointing comedown.

A$AP Rocky

At. Long. Last. A$AP.

Label: RCA
US Release Date: 2015-05-26
UK Release Date: 2015-06-01
"I guess the new me just gon' take some getting' used to"

-- A$AP Rocky, "Excuse Me"

At age 26, A$AP Rocky already has one iconic mixtape to his credit (Live. Love. A$AP.), one monster hit single to his name ("Fuckin' Problems" of course), and even with the early surprise release of At. Long. Last. A$AP., two chart-topping albums. Yet there is a chasm of difference between 2013's Long. Live. A$AP and At. Long. Last. A$AP., and that's largely due to the fact that in between releases, Rocky's done-good narrative took several dramatic left turns.

Even with his long-standing group A$AP Mob prepping and then abruptly canceling a long-in-the-works posse long player, it was the early 2015 death of founding member A$AP Yams that had a profound effect on him. He says he didn't use drugs to cope with the massive loss, but after getting some LSD from ILoveMakonnen at SXSW, he went on to have three orgies in one night. Following such hedonistic thrills, he very much wanted to take his hotly-anticipated new album in a more drug-friendly direction. Gone is in-house producer A$AP Ty Beats along with Rocky's musical muse Clams Casino; those standbys were replaced by Danger Mouse and a British street busker named Joe Fox, who Rocky just picked up on a whim.

The result? A remarkably dry, surprisingly cached-out psychedelic opus that is lacking in both purpose and memorable moments.

For those following Rocky's difficult 2015, one wouldn't blame him if he wanted to devote an entire disc to his fallen mentor, but outside of closing track "Back Home" (which features one of the album's most lively beats), At. Long. Last. A$AP. primarily stays in his lyrical wheelhouse, tackling drug use, social ills, and his trademark brand of braggadocio. "Your favorite rappers' corpses couldn't measure my importance," he boasts on the moody "Canal St.", but his more laid-back flow telegraphs different intent this time out. His punchlines sound more like obligations, as if that id-as-battering-ram hunger that fueled his first mixtape has slowly eased out of him.

Part of this is due to Rocky's change of sonic venue, here avoiding easy pop hits in favor of reverb-heavy percussion and a slew of hazy keyboards and cut-up soul samples. "Fine Whine" plays like chopped-and-screwed number in reverse, opening with pitch-shifted vocals and lighted-by-lampposts keyboards before upping the BPM once M.I.A. and Future join in. Their lightly misogynistic verses come in sharp contrast to Rocky's general fame laments ("I become the druggy / Enhance my fame and money"), making for a weirdly disjointed experience. Even stranger is how this actually isn't the only time this happens on At. Long. Last. A$AP.; even the Schoolboy Q feature "Electric Body" can't decide whether it wants to be a gloating success story or a stripper staple. In the end, it attempts to have it both ways: "This year I turned into the racist / All I wanna see is green faces" Rocky notes.

At other points, the album experiments around with "channel changing" beat structures, songs veering from one sample to another with a burst of TV static being the only binding agent. During "Max B", a solid desert-funk beat is being smash-cut against Joe Fox's pleading acoustic lament, as if two songs are actually fighting for the same track space. It's an unnecessary stylistic choice that at least feels more carefully planned out on the Kanye West feature "Jukebox Joints", which not only features the most "classic sounding" Kanye we've heard in years, but also the faintest whisper of the hunger we've come to expect from Rocky at his best:

Listen close I got some shit to tell you, motherfuckers get familiar

It's not just model bitches on my genitalia

Did Azalea's from Australia, trips to Venezuela

Cinderella's under my umbrella for different weather

Ella, ella, ay just play it like I didn't tell ya

Yet, even with that none-too-obvious dig at his former paramour Iggy Azalea, Kanye surprisingly proves more than able to one-up the headliner, abruptly concluding his own verse (during which he refers to himself as Ye Guevara) with ego-stroking done right, screaming "They wanna throw me under a white jail / 'cos I'm a black man with the confidence of a white male!"

So what happened to Rocky? He clearly doesn't need to be doing shameless club cuts like "M'$" or indulging in alter-egos like he does with "Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2 (LPFJ2)". Even during the former track, he still gets outshined by his own guest -- in this case, a defiant Lil' Wayne claiming that his former label Cash Money Records is no more. The never-ending barrage of drab textures don't help matters either, but every so often, we get flashes of a rejuvenated, tripped-out Rocky persona that suits him damn well. "L$D" might even be the best track here, playing around with a slightly more accessible melody against lyrics that don't do much on the wordplay front but nonetheless sound like they come from the heart, his delivery slower, more deliberate, and downright engaging as he stumbles around with real romantic emotions while clumsily high as hell.

Despite the increasingly-monochromatic nature of Danger Mouse's production work (evidenced on virtually everything he touches here), some of Rocky's flirtations with the occasional pop melody proves surprisingly gratifying. The great twosome of "West Side Highway" and "Wavybone" (the latter featuring an unearthed verse from the late great Pimp C of UGK) shows what an actual drugged-out album from Rocky would sound like, and the results are tantalizing. ("I'm Richard Porter mixed with Mr. Porter" might even be his best zinger here.)

It's just a shame that the rest of At. Long. Last. A$AP. never ends up settling on a definitive tone, theme, or driving intention, the bland tempos and Rocky's own withdrawn presentation making this big-budget production sound more like an afterthought than it does a full-blown artistic statement. People will dig for meaning and find it if they want to, but if Live. Love. A$AP. was the start of Rocky's trip, then At. Long. Last. A$AP. makes for one hell of a disappointing comedown.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.


Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.


Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.