“God damn, how real is this?”
These are the first words on the debut mixtape of Harlem rapper A$AP Rocky, who is clearly excited about his entrance into the rap industry.
That was 10 years ago, on October 31, 2011. A decade later, “LIVE.LOVE.A$AP.,” is still one of the most innovative rap projects of all time, both sonically and lyrically.
Released at a time when rap was beginning to stretch outside the box, Rocky pulled influences from all around the genre, including former friend-turned-enemy SpaceGhostPurrp, late mentor A$AP Yams and Houston pioneers UGK.
The opening track “Palace” instantly establishes the style that made Rocky the icon he is today. The track is complete with confidence-boosting production from Clams Casino as Rocky delivers the devil-may-care attitude that lets him float effortlessly across any beat.
This is far from Casino’s only contribution on the album, as he also produced calm-yet-cunning anthems like “Bass” and “Wassup.” Casino’s (and arguably Rocky’s) peak moment comes in the form of “Demons,” an emotionally honest look into the mind of one of hip-hop’s most creative people:
“Demons posted all around me, I can’t beat ‘em all alone / Thinking ‘bout you, thinking ‘bout you, add it to your thoughts / These evil thoughts, they starting to drown me / Lord, don’t leave me all alone.”
This rare glimpse into Rocky’s mind acts as the ultimate example of the project’s versatility. While pouring his heart out on “Demons,” Rocky acts as a “pretty mothaf---ka” on “Peso” and a fashionista on “Trilla,” which is assisted by fellow A$AP Mob members A$AP NAST, A$AP Illz and A$AP Twelvyy.
Among the endless variety scattered through the tape, Rocky shines on an early collaboration with longtime friend ScHoolboy Q, where the two rap some of their best verses before trading bars in the third verse:
[A$AP Rocky] “I ain’t set tripping, I just happen / To know who click-clacking, you mismatching / F--k swagging, you been jacking / F--k fly, I am fashion / Tryna cop that Benz wagon, my b---h drive it, my friends crash it / N---as threat with the chit-chatting / See a n---a don’t s--t happen / I’m finna blow on that Bin Laden / So talk money, pig latin.”
Even Rocky’s more romantic side gets a chance to evoke itself, as he raps a sultry ballad with A$AP Ferg on “Kissin’ Pink,” where a dream-inducing beat from Beautiful Lou transcends listeners into a deep state of relaxation:
“Wait a minute, cause ain’t s--t changed, just a different day / This the kind pain I just couldn’t take away / Something like Wayne cause you couldn’t feel your face / Is you in it for the feeling or the taste?”
One of the album’s most prolific guest appearances is easily A$AP Ty Beats, who produces “Peso” and “Purple Swag: Chapter 2.”
“Peso” stands out as the tape’s proverbial cream of the crop. Originally leaked online and subsequently making its way onto the radio, “Peso” is one of Rocky’s defining tracks, where he presents his swagger in all its glory. Complete with one of Ty Beats’s most trippily produced sounds, Rocky calmly creates a casual song — one sure to get stuck in a listener’s head.
Rocky finds himself at his phonkiest when rapping alongside SpaceGhostPurrp and Chace Infinite on “Keep It G.” Produced by SGP himself, the blues and bass heavy beat evokes the feeling of anime “Cowboy Bebop,” painting the portrait of a man who prefers to let his world morph him into something different:
[SpaceghostPurrp] “Stay true to the game / F--k them lames / Keep it mother---in’ G / Like a mothaf---in’ G told me / Stay true to yourself / Everyday, low-motherf---in’-key / Cause at the end of the day / F--k what you say, n---a I’ma G.”
With the tape released on major streaming services for the first time last Friday, Rocky now has his original sound accessible for a whole new generation. While “Kissin Pink” and “Demons” are disappointingly not included and “Purple Swag: Chapter 2” was swapped for the original “Purple Swag,” Rocky’s “LIVE.LOVE.A$AP” is just as good as it was a decade ago, making it a must-listen for all of fans of hip-hop, regardless of their familiarity with Rocky.
Best of all, Rocky provides fans with a bonus track at the end titled “Sandman.” Produced by Casino, this track acts as one of the rapper’s best in years, providing a savory bar that brings his entire career full circle while also paving the way for an exciting future project:
“Girl, I'm not supposed to be here, still / Rap careers last three years still / I'm a G here, that's OG times three / Triple OG, still just shows I'ma be here still”
Alex Falter is the senior arts editor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org