Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Album Review: A$AP Mob - Lord$ Never Worry

Grade: C-
Calling 2011 an exciting year for hip-hop would be a pretty significant understatement. Between the rise to prominence of Danny Brown, Lil B, Kendrick Lamar, Odd Future, The Weeknd and A$AP Rocky as well as a surprisingly well reviewed Drake album, it was quite nearly a hip-hop renaissance. As we stand three-quarters of the way through 2012, very few albums have been album to reach the level that these young guns achieved on their records from the previous year. Enter A$AP Rocky, who is back on the scene with his merry band of followers, the A$AP clique, and makes the situation... worse. 

Given the strength of lead single "Bath Salts," as well as LiveLoveA$AP, Lord$ Never Worry is quite a big disappointment. The blame for this falls on nearly everybody who was involved- excluding Rocky and the powerful guest stars (Raekwon, Danny Brown and Jim Jones) he brings with him. Foremost, the rapping on this record is unpolished and, often, rather amateurish. A$AP Ferg, who distinguishes himself as the best of Rocky's disciples by adopting his mentor's flow with a touch of sing-song rhythm also degrades himself with his repetitive profanity and often bland lyrics. The chorus of "Persian Wine" is particularly toxic, with Ferg concluding all ten lines with a caustically pronounced "n-word." On the other hand, his song "Work" is one of the few bright spots on this rough sampler. Full-group anthem "Full Metal Jacket" is rife with sloppy transitions and drab lyrics (blow on her nose/crack on the stove/house full of girls/who know my flow) from the whole gang who already sound jaded with their lifestyle. Not even Raekwon's excellent verse on "Underground Killa$" can save the song from bombing, nor can Danny Brown on the obnoxiously titled "Coke & White Bitches: Chapter 2."

Compounding the problem is that nearly all of the MC's- excluding Ferg and Rocky- are near indistinguishable from one another. Consider Odd Future's group effort Radical. One of the defining characteristics of the mixtape was how different everyone was: Tyler, the Creator's deep voice, Domo's weed-craving drawl, Earl's frenetic delivery; every track was unique because the 9 members brought different qualities to the table. A$AP Mob falls on the opposite end of this spectrum: each person has the exact same qualities and flaws; all the songs are pseudo-trap rap with a New York City flair. It sounds good when Rocky gives it a whirl, but the imitators need not apply. 

The final and perhaps most disappointing aspect to Lord$NeverWorry is that the beats are merely average, especially compared to the ones on LiveLoveA$AP. There are some cameos from established names, Araabmuzik produces the otherwise forgettable "Dope, Money and Hoes" and Rocky is reunited with Clams Casino on "Freeze," but most of the beat stylists are either in-house or relative unknowns like Silky Johnson and P On the Boards. Aside from the chopped-and-screwed elements that are inserted to the choruses so liberally that the uniqueness is lost, most of the beats sound like watered-down Lex Luger, further engendering the culture of mediocrity found in the clique. 

The fault of this album is not in the lack of effort- the group is scrappy. They all have a lot of energy and seem genuinely proud to be yelling "ASAP" at the top of their lungs whenever possible, they just don't understand how to focus that energy yet. A$APs Ferg and Twelvyy- who does fine on his solo track "Y.N.R.E."- certainly have the potential to thrive with more time and better beats are always available. The main problem lies in the identity crisis of having six very similar rappers on the same album- even Young Money has more variety. It's entirely possible that the whole of A$AP Mob is much less than the sum of its parts, but that doesn't prevent this album from being a drag to get through. Lord$NeverWorry is a lesson in how not to do a group album, and the A$AP Mob needs to be taking notes lest they get left in the dust by their leader.   

1. Thuggin Noise
2. Full Metal Jacket
3. Bangin on Waxx
4. Coke & White Bitches: Chapter 2 (feat. Danny Brown, Fat Trel and Gunplay)
5. Bath Salt
6. Persian Wine
7. Black Man
8. Dope, Money and Hoes
9. Work
10. Y.N.R.E.
11. Purple Kisses
12. The Way It Go
13. Freeze (feat. Jim Jones)
14. Told Ya
15. Underground Killa$ (feat.Raekwon)
16. Jay Reed
17. Gotham City
18. Choppas On Deck

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