When A$AP Rocky first went viral last year, with the “Purple Swag” and “Peso” videos, he came off like a mesmerizing alien hybrid, an extraterrestrial visiter who’d somehow learned about Earth culture entirely from fashion Tumblrs and Boot Camp Clik videos. And even though he was making music that was, on its most basic level, knuckleheaded rap shit, he knew how to evoke a certain opium-den float, inhabiting the whole Clams Casino cloud-rap aesthetic as anyone could ever hope a street rapper to do. LIVELOVEA$AP wasn’t a flawless debut by any means, but it did a remarkable job stretching that sound out over an hour, maintaining its fuzzy focus. Now that Rocky’s reached the stage in his fame-ascendance where he’s introducing us to all his rapping buddies, he’s pulling back a bit on what made him famous in the first place, letting us see the seams and imperfections. Lord$ Never Worry comes off as the work of a rangy and chaotic rap crew, rather than one smart kid’s art project. And even if it’s nowhere near as cohesive as LIVELOVEA$AP, the new tape does more to convince me that the whole A$AP phenomenon is a real sustainable rap thing, rather than just a dizzy but fast-fading burst of energetic imagery.
To be perfectly honest, I’m still learning to tell all the A$AP guys apart, and I’m guessing that’ll take a while. This isn’t a Wu-Tang situation, where all the rappers have easily discernible personalities and styles, where you’ll figure out your favorite rappers in the crew just a couple of times after hearing the album. It’s more of a St. Lunatics thing, where I can never remember which one is Ali and which one is Kyjuan. But St. Lunatics had some joints! And anyway, I’ve only been living with Lord$ Never Worry for a day and a half; at this point, it’s really enough that A$AP Mob come off like a cohesive rap crew, a bunch of dudes who grew up with each other and pushed each other musically, rather than just the shirtless throng who stands behind Rocky onstage and who sometimes start fights.
Already though, a couple of standouts have emerged. A$AP Ferg is a grizzled and authoritative barker, the one guy in the crew who seems like he comes from a tougher and more dangerous era of New York rap. And A$AP Ant, the guy who handily walked away with the best “Bath Salt” moments, is a bloodthirsty Baltimore livewire. On “Underground Killa$,” he handily upstages both Rocky and an on-cruise-control Raekwon, an impressive feat for a mostly-unknown rapper. As for guys like Da$h and A$AP Twelvyy, they could do a whole lot more to stand out. But then, every Dipset needs its 40 Cals and its Agallahs.
And even if Lord$ Never Worry is a messier affair than LIVELOVEA$AP, the crew’s aesthetic remains as finely developed as ever. The group’s real triumph is one of curation; they pick the best pieces of the 2012 rap landscape and run with them. At times, that can be a bit of a detraction, as when the absolutely ridiculous rap-monster all-star team of Danny Brown, Fat Trel, and Gunplay shows up on “Coke And White Bitches” to absolutely annihilate everything around it. But on the other hand, that’s Danny Brown, Fat Trel, and Gunplay, all on the same song! That’s fucking awesome, and these guys deserve credit for making that happen. And the whole tape, while rougher-edged, just sounds gorgeous, from the unstable lurch of AraabMuzik’s “Dope, Money, Hoes” beat to “Freeze,” wherein we learn that Jim Jones sounds pretty good over distant, muffled Clams Casino foghorn-thumps. The tape also makes some of the A$AP crew’s influences more apparent than they were before, from the sociopathic insanity of the mid-’90s horrorcore scene to the gummy crawl of Compton’s Most Wanted. It’s all refracted through their whole fashion-rap style, but they’ve never sounded closer to their Clinton-era influences than they do here.
So that’s Lord$ Never Worry: A triumph of taste over talent, a messy and unresolved indication that something exciting is still taking shape here. Since A$AP Rocky first emerged, he’s slowly started shaping the rest of the rap world in his image. Lord$ Never Worry is a welcome indication that this particular image will hold, that it still hasn’t dissolved a year after “Peso.”
Download Lord$ Never Worry for free here.