A$AP Rocky proves his longevity
It may only be February, but it is safe to say that the year’s most prominent Southern rap album has already been released by a New York City native.
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Coasting off of the mixtape hype he garnered in 2011, A$AP Rocky has delivered a debut devoid of almost all sonic ties to his hometown. Despite this, he still manages to create a sound authentic enough to successfully pull from the southern rap landscape without feigning any sense of cultural intrusion.
With his album LONG.LIVE.A$AP, he has managed to perfectly encapsulate the carefree attitude toward geographical distinctions, which characterizes modern rap. While indulgent use of different styles is certainly nothing new to the rap world, it has not been this widely employed or accepted since Southern rap first began to gain mainstream attention outside of its region during the turn of the century. As artists like T.I. and Lil’ Wayne increased in popularity the New York centric focus of rap music began to dwindle and the Southern immersion commenced.
This is why Rocky’s liberal use of a Southern twang, slowed down vocal pitches and constant references of drugs endemic to Southern rap do not come off as awkward or strained at all. Instead, they are indicative of an era of rap, which does not revere origins in the same manner as past generations of rappers.
Now, regions of rap music are viewed as nothing but commodities at the disposal of whoever is willing to take the risk. It is for this reason that regions of rap music have become increasingly harder to differentiate.
Gone are the days when New York rap could be summed up as boastful lyrics over break loops and Southern rap could be characterized as renditions of the newest Cadillac models.
When Big Boi defiantly talked about putting the South on the map on the seminal Outkast track “Elevators (Me and You)” he was carving out the South’s position in the hierarchy of hip-hop along with every other under appreciated subgenre.
Now the focus has shifted to sound. Along with the infusion of EDM, a decreased dependence on soul samples and the increasing presence of indie rock sensibilities, rap has further removed itself from the incorporation of any concrete sense of place.
Despite this, one of the best songs on LONG.LIVE.A$AP is “1 Train,” a posse track shamelessly emulative of the songs which came to define early to mid-90s New York rap.
It features rappers from California, Alabama, Michigan, Mississippi and New York, all rapping triumphantly of the tried and true topics which are staples of the genre. So places of origin might be on their way out, but the rest is here to stay.