There are few more perplexing artists in rap than A$AP Rocky, a decorated and accomplished emcee and producer from New York City, who has become one of the most internationally-known names in the genre.
Firstly, this is not a question of Rocky’s talent as an overall artist. A member (and easily the best member) of the A$AP Mob, Rocky is extremely gifted and respected as a producer, director and even model and actor. This is strictly an observation of his career on the mic from 2011-present. With an excess of chart-topping singles, a successful mixtape, ‘Live. Love. A$AP’, and two No. 1 albums in the U.S. and many countries abroad, he clearly brings an element that the majority of listeners enjoy. But, as worldwide names such as Drake and Future have proven, you don’t need to be the most talented spitter to become the most popular.
We also need to define the term, ‘overrated’. Because music is so driven on opinions and taste, it’s hard to pinpoint where exactly the majority of fans would categorize A$AP Rocky in the rap industry. So, we’ll limit it to this question – does Rocky’s career discography and current standing in 2017 warrant him to be considered one of the six or seven best rappers as of today?
I don’t think any of Rocky’s three projects are, ‘classics’. On the contrary, all three projects are legitimately strong pieces of work and none of the three are poor.
A$AP’s breakthrough mixtape, Live.Love.A$AP, is arguably his best work. The reason being, the beats and production fit his style nicely and he didn’t try anything too excessive. At the least, this is one of the best mixtapes we’ve seen since 2011, and an 8/10 for me.
One of Rocky’s most appealing traits is his free-spirited and free-flowing delivery style. He’s extremely versatile in his flow and he adds the ‘swag’ factor, both naturally (his voice) and intentionally (delivery). He can rap to a wide variety of beats, no matter how obscure they sound, and at the very least Rocky can make almost any verse sound passable no matter how abstract the production or beat is. A song like, ‘Phoenix’, is a good example. The beat is unbelievably slow and most of the track is basically Rocky flowing A Cappella, but it turns out to be a pretty beautiful track. His versatility is close to unmatched in rap.
You’ll hear Rocky with nasty flow that turns somewhat basic beats into straight bangers, such as on, ‘Goldie’, and he can make really eerie/dark choruses that makes a song great like on, ‘Lord Pretty Flacko Jodye 2’.
However, his bars and rhythm tends to slip on too many tracks. Look at, ‘M’$, off At.Long.Last.A$AP. The beat is filthy, and Rocky provides a really catchy chorus, but his verse gets pretty-off beat and lyrically it’s tremendously random and jumbled.
His two albums, LONG.LIVE.A$AP, and, AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP, are enjoyable listens and not one track sounds the same – the production and speed of each track varies – and Rocky showcases his diversity in every facet. The issue for me is that the albums don’t really flow well. There’s no real progression to his albums, it’s kind of like he just throws the tracks in a hat and randomly selects where to put them in the album. Then again, this may be more opinionated than anything else.
Rocky has some talent lyrically. His wordplay and wit is strong, which leads to a lot of catchy and memorable lines. Rocky’s fun delivery and sound can be heard on, ‘Goldie’, where his lyricism isn’t anything special, but his storytelling and ability to stay on-track are heavily displayed.
The issue with a rapper like A$AP Rocky is that his fun, laid-back rap style often overshadows how terrible his lyrics (for anyone’s standards) can sometimes be. Rocky’s sounds undoubtedly smooth on, ‘Fuckin’ Problems’, but his lyrics are straight garbage juice. I know it’s a turn-up track, but there’s a point where it just gets too dreadful.
The same happens on ‘Peso’, and ‘Wild For The Night’, two of his biggest hits. This particular verse in ‘Peso’ has some dope wordplay with the A-B-C lines, but the opening bars and final few lines are cringeworthy.
Rocky’s best songs – and the songs most of his fans/stans like most – are typically not his most popular tracks among casual music fans. Personally, my three top Rocky tracks are, ‘Brand New Guy,’ ‘Canal St.’ and ‘LPFJ2’.
I think what makes him such a perplexing artist is that, to his credit, his style is very different. Some of his biggest hits are immensely unique tracks that leaves some listeners disappointed, and some others fascinated – all depending on their personality or habits. Take, ‘L$D’, for example. To be blunt, I don’t like this track. It’s unbearably slow for my liking, but for weed-smokers or people in a different state of mind, this could be one of their favorites. Same goes for, ‘LVL’.
‘Fuckin’ Problems’, has a solid – admittedly poppy, beat – and Rocky sometimes rides the beat well but again his lyrics are horrible. There was a point several years ago though when I loved this track, though. Like it is for most music, it’s all about the listener’s mindset and that’s really exemplified by much of Rocky’s music.
Overall, these are the grades I’d give to A$AP Rocky’s ability/talent:
Overall Ability: 8.5/10
This is what I’d give him for what he’s showcased so far in his career:
Overall Discography: 7.5/10
Certain rappers who I think have clearly lived up to their potential and are almost always at their best include Kendrick, J. Cole and Joey Bada$$ (not saying these three are better, just that they usually bring their ‘A’ game). Others, whom I think have the talent to be near the top of the rap pyramid but too often slip to average and don’t offer their best effort/work include Big Sean, A$AP Rocky and Schoolboy Q.
At some point in the next few months, Rocky will likely drop his fourth full-length solo project, and this is a really important release in terms of his legacy. We’re nearing three years since his last album, At.Long.Last.A$AP, so Rocky needs to deliver something that’s almost unanimously positively-received with this upcoming effort.
Yes, I think A$AP Rocky is overrated in terms of his career discography. He’s been responsible for three solid projects and a countless number of bangers, but neither of his two albums are flawless or classics, and he’s been too inconsistent for me to consider him a top-five or even top-ten rapper. There are just too many throwaway Rocky verses out there, on both his own tracks and as a guest feature.
As an artist, which includes his career as a producer and director, I’d have him in my top-ten in rap, but I want to see more from him on the mic. He’s shown he has the ability, I want to see it on a more consistent basis.