Music is going through a particularly weird phase where all it takes is a unique visual identity to have hipster music journos falling over themselves to give you props and declare you the next big thing.
Clearly image has always been critical in music, even more so in Hip Hop where personality and style is often just as important to the listener as actual skill or talent – how often do you hear folkie guitar strummers taunting each other about who has the most swag? Hip Hop's fixation with the latest and newest compounds this, with the obsession not just reserved to material goods but also the MCs themselves. No sooner has MC Newbie celebrated his first chart smash before some pretender to the throne is calling him yesterday's news. As if that wasn’t bad enough, we live in the Benton age where you have a nano-second to get people engaged before they’re on to the next video of a cat break dancing on a turtle.
Subsequently visuals have become THE short cut to and barometer of how interesting your music will be. The problem lies in the fact that the audience are often distracted by something else before they manage to get onto the actual quality of music part. So before you know it, the blogosphere is filled with hype and hot air around some new drone who's done nothing but wear a pair of knickers on his head on his mixtape cover. The groundswell of gubbins gets noticed by the mainstream media, of course, and they insist the kid is on the latest cover of HipsterFuck Monthly and does a European tour immediately. 'But he doesn’t have any big songs yet?’“Who cares!!! He’s got pants on his head! Kids love that shit.”
On Halloween 2011 A$AP released his LiveLoveA$AP mixtape and since then the once omnipresent horrorcore stylings of Odd Future have disappeared from the Tumblrs et al, only to be replaced by A$AP and his crew swagging it the fuck out. They are currently the cool kids that everyone wants to dress like and Instagram the shit out of.
Just another drone?
Sometimes you have to really cut through the hype and focus on the music - a task that is getting harder and harder
LiveLoveA$ap is good. It’s not as incredible as the frothing blogheads will have you believe, but do not let the media love-in and haute-couture photo-shoots put you off; he’s a talented MC with a very interesting sound. It seems so simple now but his true mashing up of East Coast sensibilities and Dirty South flavours offers up something distinctly new to the game. Sure, Cam’Ron and the Diplomats toyed with this and it is no surprise that A$AP is also from Harlem and cites the Dips as a huge influence, but no one has taken this juxtaposition into everything they do.
Sometimes you have to really cut through the hype and focus on the music - a task that is getting harder and harder.
Knowingly or unknowingly he represents a new generation of Hip Hop fans who don’t give a fuck about regions or coastal rivalry; they simply love the genre and will happily have Boom-Bap, Trap Muzik and G-Funk sitting side by side on their iPhones.
Perhaps this is why A$AP has caught people’s attention. Since G-Unit stormed the industry in the early 2000s, upcoming East Coast MCs have really struggled to breakthrough. Rather than evolving with the scene, their objective to truly represent the East Coast meant many crumbled under the Golden Era baggage that comes with this aim, while their audience turned its attention to the more dynamic scene emerging from below the Mason–Dixon Line. By forgetting about the past and focussing on what has truly influenced him and his crew growing up (Bone Thugs, Three 6 Mafia and Wu Tang), A$AP Rocky has created a sound and style that represents real modern day Hip Hop better than any knock-off, wannabe Nas flower who constantly bangs on about keeping it real, dun.
Don't let yourself get distracted by the visuals and discard him as another part of the virus that is ruining Hip Hop. He is everything Hip Hop should be; experimental, raw and passionate. His Hip Hop just so happens to be the 2012 version and he doesn’t apologise for it.
Judge for yourself.
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