Featured, Music, Pop Culture

Is There A Support Group For Smart Black People Who Read And Shit…And Still Prefer A$AP’s Album To Kendrick Lamar’s?

There are two things you need to know about A$AP Rocky and I before we continue:

1. I hate typing his name. Partially because I think it’s a stupid fucking name. But mainly because I hate having to remember to type $ instead of S when spelling it. It’s a knat in a moving car, a tiny bone in a piece of trout you assumed to be boneless; an entity whose entire existence is predicated on how successfully it annoys me.

2. I thought “Peso” was the least compelling “hot” rap song I’ve ever heard. Listening to that was like eating a half bowl of lukewarm wedding soup; and learning this song was a hit was like learning that lukewarm soup won a gotdamn James Beard award.

These two things combined to make him perhaps the only star rapper I was completely indifferent about. I was so annoyed by his name — and so “eh”-ed by the songs I’d heard from him — that I just paid no attention to him. Nothing about him made me want to know anything more than nothing about him.

So, when Panama hit me on Gchat last week and asked “Do you like ASAP Rocky?” naturally my response was “I don’t know enough to have an opinion. So no.”

In the week since, I’ve learned, both through his music and through profiles of him and thinkpieces on him, that Rocky’s music is unapologetically nihilistic, misogynistic, and basically any other socially irresponsible “istic” you can list. And it’s not a buffoonish or ignorant irresponsibility. There’s no time you’re not aware he’s completely aware of what he’s doing. He just doesn’t give a shit. He’s the millennial Cam’ron. And, in this week span, I’ve also listened to his new album, At.Long.Last.A$AP, approximately 142 times.

Which is roughly 132 more times than I’ve listened to The Blacker The Berry — Kendrick Lamar’s paean to socially conscious and unambiguously furious Blackness — this entire year. 

In summary, Kendrick Lamar — a rapper who’s so much better at rapping than A$AP Rocky is at rapping that the distance between him and Rocky is the same as the distance between Rocky and a rapping Teletubby — released the most relevant major-label rap record of the last decade. It is ambitious as fuck, angry as fuck, and Black as fuck. And listening to it makes me feel like having a bunch of Black-ass babies and giving them names like “Freedom” and “Toni Morrison.” But I enjoy listening to At.Long.Last.A$AP — an album created by a quasi-rapping hedonistic hipster nigga with plaits — more. Much more.

And I don’t know how I’m supposed to feel about this.

I know how I do feel, though. Guilty. Immature. Slightly irresponsible. Occasionally hypocritical. And, when I listen to “L$D“, like I’m actually on LSD.

I also don’t know why thinking about A$AP’s album compels me to compare it to Kendrick’s. Because it’s not like they’re the only two rap artists to release records this year. My best guess is that it’s because I desperately wanted to like Kendrick’s album more than I actually do. I feel self-conscious listening to it, like not wishing to distill it into oil and rub it in my skin is an affront to my Blackness. A$AP’s album, however, was received with about as much skepticism as I could muster. I’m not sure if I was sneering when I first listened, but I wouldn’t be surprised if I were. Not only did I not expect to like it, I did not want to.

But I do. It’s undeniable. And I need someone to hold me.

Damon Young

Damon Young is the editor-in-chief of VSB. He is also a columnist for GQ.com and EBONY Magazine. And a founding editor for 1839. And he's working on a book of essays to be published by Ecco (HarperCollins). Damon is busy. He lives in Pittsburgh, and he really likes pancakes. Reach him at damon@verysmartbrothas.com. Or don't. Whatever.

  • May I just say, how A$AP Rocky is the bain of my general existence as of right this moment. So …agreed. Damon, you def need someone to cradle you right now. But..wait for it.. here’s the upside… FIRST COMMENT BABY……

  • KB

    I’ve never been able to buy into the hype that is A$AP Rocky and his music, as well as the ridiculousness that is the A$AP mobb. Perhaps it’s because he’s a Harlem rapper with an H-town sound and a west coast look that bothers me. That being said, I understand why you have been listening to his album over Kendrick’s. It is pretty simple actually. A lot of times we use music as our escape from the harsh realities of life, especially with everything that has been going on in regards to police brutality and the injustices we still face as a people. TPAB doesn’t let you forget that, while A$AP’s album is a retreat to a fantasy-filled world of bullets, b*tches, blunts, bentleys, bling, bottle-poppin, and the like. We need balance in our lives and as crazy as it may sound, sometimes music like his helps to provide said balance through escapism.

    • The album isn’t like that at all.

  • Nick Peters

    To Pimp a Butterfly is more of a theoretical album as his primary goal wasn’t really to make hits for listeners…but more he had topics he wanted to speak on and a vision he wanted to portray…while he made great songs and a great concept…that doesn’t necessarily make a great listening experience…

    don’t know much about A$AP Rocky….never was really motivated to listen to him even though he looks good in DOPE

    …Don’t sleep on the Champions League Final tomorrow

    • MsSula

      Hosting a viewing party for the Champions League Final.

      The Old Lady could pull a trick out of her bag and actually surprise us all. And I will be here for it.

      • Nick Peters

        2-1 Barcelona…just a guess…

        • MsSula

          That’s most likely what will happen. But if both teams play their natural games and not some defense, parking the bus in front of tbe goal a la Chelsea, we should be in for a treat.

          The “Neymar, Messi, Suarez”trio is at its best of the season and will be hard to win against.

  • miss t-lee

    I don’t really see it for either of them, so. Meh?

  • CamCamtheGreat

    I don’t really have anything to say except that I like both albums. I just feel like I have to contribute to any post about current rap or else they’ll cease to be written.

    “He’s the millennial Cam’ron.” Never thought about it like that, but it’s real. Harlem and shxt.

    Now someone write about Chance the Rapper’s Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment’s “Surf” album.

    • panamajackson

      I will probably write about Surf. I love that album. It’s been on repeat. It’s nice to have some “happy”, guilt free music to listen to.

    • Surf on Spotify yet?

      • It’s literally free on iTunes just download it.

      • Yea, it’s free on iTunes

      • CamCamtheGreat

        Surf is $Free.99 on iTunes.

    • I had never heard of Donnie Trumpet until I saw the “Sunday Candy” joint. I eff with it.

    • RewindingtonMaximus

      Nah straight up, A$AP Mob is literally 2001 Dipset.

      • I thought ISIS was 2001 Dipset.

        • RewindingtonMaximus

          Only because literally every city they take over, they bump Diplomatic Immunity out of sheer disrespect

        • marwilli

          “It’s a new day, got the AK in the suitcase/ Head on up to Ramadi tell em ISIS sent ya.” -Al-Kamrahn, “No Diplomats Anthem”

      • SuperStrings

        *looks up* God, please don’t punish us with anymore reincarnations of dipset. We’ve learned our lesson, we promise.

        • How you gone act like Dipset wasn’t manna from above? Disrespectful.

          • SuperStrings

            We must be thinking of two different manna. lol

        • h.h.h.
        • RewindingtonMaximus

          Aye…eventually we all miss the Dip

        • miss t-lee

          Please don’t.
          Let that sh*t ride all the way out.

          • SuperStrings

            I’m mostly out of the loop now, so it wouldn’t really matter that much to me, but for the sake of my kids and all future progeny, please spare us. Think of the planet. lol

            • miss t-lee

              *applause*

  • NomadaNare

    Should you feel bad about repeatedly smashing and calling that sort of cute but not stupid fine and obviously idiotic basket weaving/sports medicine major over the dumb fine STEM major who is so alluring you know you’ll probably marry them anyway after you graduate and get to a better place in life? No, because everything has its time. That’s probably what’s happening with these albums. You’ll probably pick up spins on repeat listening of To Pimp A Butterfly through the years, like just that phrase alone has oodles of nuance. Meanwhile you’ll probably never listen to A$AP album again after the year is out.

  • Brass Tacks

    I think it boils down to “flow”. I would argue that Kendrick is the more technical of the two, but A$APs flow is smoother from a mental digestion standpoint. Kinda like how everyone loves to brag about fine dining establishments, but at the same time, would be equally content grabbing a burrito bowl from Chipotle.

  • MsSula

    Don’t know what an A$AP Rocky is, so I am just here to say that King Kunta goes hard. That is all.

    • MzzPeaches

      What’s the yams?

      • MsSula

        The yams is the powers that be!

        Lol. Ok I think I have slightly overdosed on this song.

      • marwilli

        The Yams is A$AP Yams.

        • MsSula

          Touché, my dear.

    • Mr. SD

      But Annie are you ok?

      • MsSula

        “Limo tinted with the gold plates”

    • RewindingtonMaximus

      Nucka we gon be alright

    • NomadaNare

      That it does, that it does. Also, Alright is my ish.

  • I was surprised by how much I liked this considering how disappointing I was with his solo debut in comparison to his mixtape. At this point in the year, I probably like both of the albums equally. While Kendrick is obviously the much better rapper, ASAP is easily at least within the ballpark or better than Kendrick when it comes to flow and mic presence and those are honestly equally (and a lot of the times greater!) than simply being the better lyricist. I don’t keep A Tribe Called Quest albums in rotation because I’m mesmerized by Q-Tip’s lyrical prowess.

    • I will say A$AP knows how to ride a beat

    • zerofade94

      I dunno. I feel like ASAP has zero personality on the mic. I can’t remember any of his lines. I just remember the beats (and Pimp C).

      • RewindingtonMaximus

        But that depends on what you look for and your tastes. I get why people like Rocky over more punctual rappers, but its about chemistry at the end of the day.

  • Boobs McGhee Rutherford III

    Some people prefer the convenience of fast food to healthy home cooking. No judgements or apologies necessary.

    • See, I disagree with this characterization that people keep putting on this album. This isn’t a made-by-assembly album that exists because a label was trying to put together everything that’s hot right now. That’s an album like Nicki Minaj’s Pinkprint. It was no soul or identity. It just exists because the label was trying to maximize sales as much as possible. There’s a distinct and unique identity with this album that you can’t deny regardless of whether or not you like it. If To Pimp a Butterfly is healthy home cooking than At.Long.Last.A$AP is the equivalent to a sketchy but good authentic Chinese restaurant tucked deep within Chinatown.

      • MsSula

        You people making me hungry with all them restaurants analogies.

        But they have the advantage of making things clear.

      • RewindingtonMaximus

        Poetry.

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