The truth is that this tape wasn’t honestly the most ambitious album from the Harlem collective but it’s an enjoyable ode to A$AP Yams, the Mob’s lifestyle and is laced with a few surprising gems.
I would disagree with anyone who argues that the A$AP Mob aren’t a talented crew but if you told me that their talent isn’t always blindly obvious, I’d have to concede. Consistency here is an issue. Have no doubt that there are some high calibre tracks on this project but also there are some disappointing ventures too. The album lacks a sense of coherence but I don’t personally believe that’s all together a bad thing. It gave the tape a kind of raw feel that doesn’t seem too deliberately constructed by Record Company Execs.
The collective was founded in 2006 and consists primarily of the New York Rappers A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg, A$AP Twelvyy, A$AP Nast and A$AP Ant but the Mob also extends into the worlds of fashion and music video direction.
Their album is 14 tracks long and contains features from the likes of Juicy J, Skepta, Wiz Khalifa, BJ the Chicago Kid, Tyler the Creator, Playboi Carti as well as Hip-Hop’s new marmite rappers Lil Uzi Vert and Lil Yachty.
The A$AP Mob seemed to be mostly out in fully fledged form but A$AP Ferg, one of the more melodically savvy members was somewhat scarce on this album only lending his skillset to ‘Young N***a Living’ and ‘Yambourghini High’.
The album is abrasive, heavy and bold, channelling a lot of energy but not necessarily dense lyrical content. The crew manage to stay uncompromisingly ‘New York’ on this project but with a global outlook and vision which signifies some growth for the collective. The album ranges from funky boom bap to silky neo-trap beats to even cryptic hard-core bangers such as ‘Telephone Call’ with fitting assists from Tyler The Creator and Playboi Carti.
The production is captivating throughout most of the album and boasts an impressively diverse palette of sounds keeping the listener on edge. ‘Nasty's World’ was notably an interestingly produced track. It begins with a hard-hitting James Brown Sample 'This is Man's World' followed by a next-gen reboot of an old school feel beat. Young N***a Living also delivers a blissful backing track packed with 808s which contrasts the simple elegance of the vocal sample.
Elsewhere on the album, in another instance of Rocky’s UK sub – culture fandom Grime artist Skepta was featured on ‘Put that on my Set’ (but strangely not on the Tape’s track ‘London Town’). Whilst the song could have served as a cultural clash between New York and London’s music scenes the song didn’t take this direction and was unfortunately lacklustre. The lyrical performance from Rocky was dull and uninspired and not much could be said for Skepta’s verse either. The beat draws from the same Willie Hutch ‘Brother's Gonna Work It Out’ sample as Chance the Rapper’s ‘Lost’ but Rocky and Skepta fail to measure up to the delicate melodies and smooth lyrical cadences offered by Chance and Noname Gypsy.
Although the lyrical content isn't as profound as some other hip-hop projects released in 2016 like Kendrick’s ‘untitled unmastered’ and Mick Jenkins’ ‘Healing Component’, the lyrics are still witty, comical and engaging in parts. The lyrics are laden with sex and drugs in true A$AP form, showcased in A$AP Rocky’s poetic bar on ‘Way Hii’: “She in love with the coke, and I’m sipping the four, sniff a line off my dick, put the tip of my dick in her nose”. Right…
One great thing about the album was that it was nice to listen to the often complementary and sonically pleasing vocal performances where you can hear the rappers involved fluidly vibin' off each other, which really gives a sense that it's a collaborative project. ‘London Town’, ‘Runner’ and ‘Telephone Calls’ are all good examples of this.
It wasn’t easy to take to the album straight away. It certainly fluctuates dramatically in terms of quality where they manage to cultivate some progressive approaches towards music, but equally where you find some expectations aren’t met. What’s often the case with the A$AP Mob is that their talent isn’t consistently conveyed to the listener and I believe this project suffers from the same issue.
This tape is an indication of the talent at hand in the A$AP movement but it’s also evidence they need to refine their craft and step their flow up (which ironically Rocky tells Tyler to do on the ‘Telephone Calls’ track despite him almost rapping Rocky out of significance).
They do sound comfortable on this album, at home, ‘Cozy’ if you will, but it doesn’t scream excellence which a lot of hip-hop heads are looking for, so the Tape gets a generous 7/10. It can be frustrating to get a hint of some forward-thinking music then be hit with some stock trap beats and dry flows on the same project. However, the Mob should keep mind its own mantra and ‘Always Strive and Prosper’ for better.
Check out the project here:
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