The leader of the mini-revolution of cross-over underground mix-tape-rappers

asap rockyA$AP Rocky did his first live show in Sweden at last year’s Way Out West music festival in Göteborg. I was there and witnessed  the some serious love he got that afternoon, clearly surprised his already classic mixtape LiveLoveA$AP, was so big in this northern outpost. He was on fire that afternoon, constantly running back and forth, even jumping into the crowd at one point. I remember spending most of the show with a stupid smile on my face, seeing all these Swedish teenagers who knew the words to his songs.

It was a heavy experience, the beats were faster, harder and louder, the breaks bigger. A$AP occasionally screamed more than rapped, but that’s not really uncommon at rap concerts. Still, when his debut album was finally released in January, after a series of delays, I forgot to listen. Until now.

On LongLiveA$AP he cements his place as one of the driving forces behind the mini-revolution of cross-over underground mix-tape-rappers, who together together with Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q are going mainstream. His song Goldie was huge already last summer, as this video from his Way Out West concert clearly shows. On the new album slow songs like Suddenly and Phoenix, also illustrate that he’s quite the poet as well when he wants to:

Painting vivid pictures, call me BasquiAnnotateat Picasso
Capo Head Hancho, now my following’s colossal
Ain’t no boxer, Pacquiao, but got the chopper en todo caso
It’s like you heard, God spoke, I’ve seen the ghetto gospel
The choir like my reefer and the preacher got my eyes low
Sister Mary Jane to make me see from singing high notes
The bible or the rifle, goodnight folks

If Junot Diaz has been attributed to having one of the new voices of contemporary American literature, then A$AP can claim an equal space in the rap world. Santigold’s great chorus on Hell, the great chill wave pop beat in Fashion Killa, and the necessary banger about having lots of sex (with Drake, Kendrick Lamar and 2 Chainz) are only a few reasons why I’m certain to return to this album many times.  Despite London’s inability to bring anything resembling spring, this sounds like an appropriate soundtrack for warmer and brighter times.


It takes an ocean not to break part 2: Drake and morning sex

Rap music took a bigger place in my world of music this year than during many other years. I saw Talib Kweli, who I have long admired for his amazing flow and his guest appearance on my favorite Kanye West track Get Em’ High, rap his way through a nice Way Out West set together with Hi-Tek.

The biggest new name for me in 2010 was without a doubt Drake. After releasing his 2009 mixtape So Far Gone, where he samples both Peter Bjorn & John’s Let’s Call it Off and Lykke Li’s Little Bit, he released his first proper full length debut in 2010 with Thank Me Later. I’ve struggled to pin point what it is that makes Drake so good, except for his indisputable skills both as a raspy rapper and as a soul full RNB singer. One appealing thig with Drake is his self-depreciating side, he doesn’t mind taking swings at himself, as in The Resistance where he raps about the disillusionment of fame:

‘I heard they just moved my grandmother to a nursing home.
And I be acting like I don’t know how to work a phone.
But hit redial you see that I just called, some chick I met at the mall,
that I barley know at all and..
Plus this woman that I messed with unprotected
Texting saying that she wish she would’ve kept it.
The one that I’m laying next to just looked over and read it.
Man I couldn’t tell you where the fuck my head is, I’m holding on by a thread it’s..
Like I’m high right now, the guy right now, and you can tell by looking in my eyes right now.
That nothing really comes as a surprise right now,
’cause we just having the time of our lives right now.

Even though his lyrics are no masterpieces he always delivers a sincere attitude which is refreshing, and with beats that almost always deliver the groundwork is made in songs like Miss Me, where Drake and Lil Wayne battle it out in five minute banger that manages to both be party and romantic longing in one. In Shut It Down Drake and The Dream goes on some serious RNB style ‘I love woman praising’ and I buy it all, even the overblown chorus.

In Over he goes grand with marching drums and strings as he if is the new Kanye West while Kareoke shows of his smooth voice as he worries about a girlfriend he has lost. Drake gets away with everything on Thank Me Later and his blend of pop, rnb and rap has not been done this brilliantly since Justin Timberlakes’ 2006 masterpiece FutureSex/ Lovesounds.

Other impossibly amazing rap musicians included Black Milk (Black and Brown with the early Amsterdam reference and relentless tempo an outstanding example), Jay Electronica (who I wrote about in this remembering Spain post) and J. Cole who is signed to Jay-Z’s label (where Jay Electronica is also present) and who has made the best songs about morning sex ever together with Drake.