January 10th, 2013 1:03pm

Boom Bap Mixed With New Raps

A$AP Rocky “LVL”

A$AP Rocky is, above all other things, an aesthete and a fashion maven, so it should come as no surprise that he has excellent taste in rap production. On his proper record, Long.Live.A$AP, this ranges from sinister, cinematic RZA-isms, chopped and skrewed vocals and rugged-yet-glossy cuts by Hit-Boy to trendier moves like collaborating with Skrillex. On a purely musical level, the most impressive cut is “LVL,” a Clams Casino production that takes the abstracted CD-skipping sound of The Field and finesses it into a viable rap track without sacrificing any of its ambient qualities. A$AP’s technical skill is most obvious in a track like this, where the beat is almost subliminal and his voice carries the rhythm rather than rides it. He varies his cadence and pitch brilliantly, keeping his parts stable but dynamic as the track shifts between sections that come off like slightly different stages of being stoned out of your mind. As with the rest of the record, though, A$AP’s lyrics are the weak point – if he’s so forward-thinking about tracks and thoughtful about his flow, why are his words nearly always sorta banal? There’s nothing bad about his lyrics, it’s just rap boilerplate as opposed to something more distinctive. It’s not a problem for the music, but it’s just a question it’s hard to avoid when this aspect of his craft seems stunted in comparison to everything else he does.

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