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.