This week marks the release of Harlem MC A$AP Rocky’s major label debut Long.Live.A$AP. One of the most anticipated hip-hop releases of the year, the album marks the culmination of three years of some of the most buzzed about and consistent output in rap today. For those of you late to the A$AP Party, we have assembled a crash course recap of all the major A$AP moments you may have missed, bringing you up to speed on why the road hip-hop’s taken has been a Rocky one.
“Been Around the World” 2010
While it’s been largely reported that Rocky began putting together the A.S.A.P. Mob–his clan of his favorite resident artists of all kinds–together in 2007, his first track to make waves online didn’t credit him with an “ASAP” in his name. Known then as simply “Rocky” (which blogs at the time lamented made him “un-Googlable”), the laid back beat and smooth delivery made for a solid introduction to the rapper, as well as allowed the track to become a mainstay of summer 2010 playlists. Rocky soon added the “ASAP” to his name and began uploading his tracks straight to YouTube, resulting in a fan from Paris compiling all these early tracks and uploading them as a widely-circulated (but unauthorized) collection called Deep Purple.
The next year saw Rocky hitting his stride, incorporating more ambient elements into his soundscape. After the success of the Clams Casino-produced “Wassup” put him on more radars than ever, Rocky had his first massive online explosion with “Peso.” While his music’s always contained that distinct sleekness that’s fit right in with Harlem’s hip-hop lineage (Kool Moe Dee, Jungle Brothers, Black Rob), “Peso” delivered a strong visual component to match Rocky’s regional sound. Directed by Abteen Bagheri, the video’s reminiscent of Marc Klasfeld’s work with Cash Money for how much context Rocky’s environment gives his music.
“Purple Swag” 2011
A Harlem MC incorporating elements of southern hip-hop into their own music isn’t entirely unprecedented, most notably seen in Cam’Ron’s affinity for his southern counterparts. Rocky shares this appreciation, as heard in his massive hit “Purple Swag.” While “Peso” was such a thick slice of Harlem, Rocky’s incorporation of Houston production and slang shows the type of extra-regional influence we’re seeing more and more of as the post-Napster generation comes of age. The controversial video, featuring grilled out young white females lip-syncing Rocky’s lyrics, made it another viral hit as expectations for Rocky hit a fever pitch.
“Pretty Flacko” 2012
October of 2011 saw Rocky release his online-only album Live. Love. A$AP. Containing both “Peso” and a updated version of “Purple Swag,” the album also contained a collaboration with Florida-based producer/rapper SpaceGhostPurrp. A fellow appreciator of numerous hip-hop sounds, his work with Rocky showcased how much he was truly influenced by mid-90s Memphis hip-hop as well. The two had their then-highest profile moment together, causing a near-riot at CMJ’s 2011 Fader Fort. Before their falling out early last year, resulting in SpaceGhostPurrp’s absence from all recent Rocky projects, the two put out “Pretty Flacko,” a track that emphasized just how diverse Rocky’s sound could be.
The first single off of Long.Live.A$AP proved a Rocky with major label resources could continue to absolutely deliver. “Goldie” built upon Rocky’s multifaceted foundation, combined the best elements and resulted in the fullest realization of his vision to date. The clip not only became one of the year’s most lauded rap singles, but earned Rocky a Video Music Award nomination for Best Editing.