Next week, it’ll officially be two years since At.Long.Last.ASAP, ASAP Rocky’s last album—his sophomore, at that. You can count the number of solo tracks and features he’s done since then on two hands; conversely, you’d need Goro to record the fashion endeavors and assorted #highprofile event appearances where Rocky pulled up with a gorgeous date in a fit that inspired self-doubt in every thirsty male in his orbit. There was the thoroughly entertaining and lowkey underrated ASAP Mob compilation tape (“Way Hii,” with its joyful bar-trading between Rocky and Wiz Khalifa, hasn’t left my Recently Played since) but by the standards of musical productivity set by his peers, ASAP Rocky looks lazy—or, at least, unconcerned.
Which, sure. Consider who he came up with—Drake, Kendrick, Cole—and how much they’ve accomplished in a similar time period. (And keep in mind Drake’s beautifully wide-ranging #isityou "Draft Day" subliminal: “Too worried ’bout bitches and fashion, they go missing in action.”) Rocky and the Mob have a fanbase as fervent as any of those guys, but on the output front, they don’t keep the streets as fed. But as frustrating as Rocky’s sabbaticals may be, there’s no reason for them to create doubt about his abilities in the booth and behind the boards. (If you want to talk about Rocky’s politics or social circle, well, that’s a different story for a different day.)
A.L.L.A. remains 2015’s most underappreciated rap album. Philistines point to “LPFJ2” as the lone gem when truly, it’s Rocky crafting a moment similar to that of Drake and Take Care: improving on a major-label debut that suffered from cookie-cutter blockbuster moments with a sophomore effort that unapologetically pursues his weirder stylistic influences and idiosyncrasies. London studio sessions fueled by hallucinogens and guest appearances from everyone from Danger Mouse to Joe Fox, a homeless guitarist he met on the street (who would go on to appear on five of the album’s 18 songs) resulted in one of the most sonically thrilling albums in recent memory. Love-letters to UGK with rare Pimp C vocals (“Wavybone”) sit alongside psychedelic ballads (“LSD”) and Rod Stewart collabs (“Everyday”) that succeed far beyond expectations. These sounds are lush and expensive, and Rocky doesn’t waste them. The sequencing is fantastic (“LSD” into “Excuse Me” is the highlight) and the raps are correct. They remain his tightest bars to date, engaging with his darkest subject matter. (The album was finished after ASAP Yams passed.) “It’s like lately I ain’t myself, I rather hang myself before I play myself”—and that’s from “M$’s,” one of the only straightforward bangers, featuring Lil Wayne back in rare, rewind-every-four-bars form.
All of that is to say, with a classic mixtape, a serviceable debut, and a stellar sophomore album under his Chanel belt, doubting Rocky and the next project he’s cooking up is bemusing. Monday saw the release of “Raf,” a new song featuring Frank Ocean, Lil Uzi Vert, Quavo, and Playboi Carti. A narrowly focused fashion love letter posse cut, it’s not terribly exciting.
No matter. Because you know what is intriguing? Studio snapshots with Jim Jonsin and Lenny Kravitz. Cozy Tapes contributions like “Put That on My Set” that prove he hasn’t lost his step. Last year’s entertaining “Money Man” short that suggests we may get more visual supplements to the new music. Inspiration from friendships with the likes of Tyler, the Creator, and a little underdog spirit engendered by internet memes that deem him overrated. ASAP Rocky isn’t on our schedule, but he’s earned our trust with his music. And when he does finally show up, he’ll have more to offer than models and fashion.