Perhaps more than anything, A$AP Rocky’s most recent album, LiveLoveA$AP (2011), is a testament to the fact that the 1990s East Coast/West Coast binary has once and for all imploded. Southern hip-hop has taken the ascendant position in terms of visibility, essentially displacing West Coast rap as the laid back corallary to hardcore East Coast rap. In the terms of this shift, West Coast rappers and styles have been the losing party, yet A$AP Rocky troubles the potential binary of the new hip-hop landscape.
Mostly handled by New Jersey producer, Clams Casino, the production on LiveLoveA$AP is straight Southern: deep bass, chopped and screwed vocals, eerie synths, and a laid back beat. Rocky’s lyrical concerns also match Clams Casino’s production style, with their emphasis on, among other things, purple drink. Blurring the line between one H-Town and the other, Rocky mentions Houston nearly as often as his hometown Harlem on LiveLoveA$AP. The fact that both producer and rapper are so influenced by Southern hip-hop makes the pair an effective match, but the fact that both are from the East Coast (NJ/NY) also belies several important changes in the hip-hop landscape.
While the Southern influence on LiveLoveA$AP obviously is a result of the rising popularity of Southern rap, this influence is also indicative of the new respect accorded to Southern rap. Ten years ago, if a Harlem rapper had released an album this reliant on Southern-style production, one would have assumed it was to mock the South. Further, the fact that a Harlem rapper has released what is, essentially, a Southern rap album is a sign that regional binaries and boundaries have become fluid. In the last couple years, albums that showcase this fluidity have included Big K.R.I.T.’s K.R.I.T. Wuz Here , J. Cole’s Friday Night Lights, and J. DaVinci’s The Day the Turf Stood Still. Though Southern and East Coast styles are currently the twin poles of the hip-hop world, they don’t form an oppositional binary in the same way that the East and West coasts did during the height of the feuding ’90s. Transregional borrowing and influence is not only common, but also commonly lauded by the critics.
This region blurring trend is perhaps best explained by the rising importance of the internet to hip-hop culture. Ten or more years ago, mixtapes would have largely been local affairs, rarely making a splash beyond their home turf. These days, mixtapes are probably more likely to be downloaded from a web-service such as Dat Piff than purchased on the street. Not only does this shift make a larger palette of influences more readily available, it also increases the possiblity of transregional collaboration and the exposure of amatuer artists more willing to experiment and cross boundaries.
Anyways, down to the meat. Rocky explicitly lays out his influences on LiveLoveA$AP‘s opening track, “Palace.” Check out that song below, along with official videos for “Peso” and “Everything is Purple.”
A$AP Rocky, “Palace” (from LiveLoveA$AP, 2011)
A$AP Rocky, “Peso” (from LiveLoveA$AP, 2011)
A$AP Rocky, “Purple Swag”