Maybe the guise of A$AP Rocky can be found in the tiny skit buried underneath “Peso”, the slow bouncing, thudding Ty Beats production that eventually became the launching point for New York to consider him as its cultural savant among other things. It’s taken from a YouTube clip (now pulled for copyright infringement) where a potty mouth Latin fellow screams at a train passenger to “Recognize that shit! Recognize the name! ASAP!”

From a $3 million deal with Polo Grounds to now becoming the face of a young crowd who possibly had their first introduction to hip-hop thanks to a Jay-Z record post Reasonable Doubt (hell, post-Vol. 2 for that matter), Rocky n/e Rakim Mayers has enough eyes on him for all the reasons you wouldn’t expect from a Harlemite. He rocks gold fronts, name drops fashion designers and lives in a world that harkens to somewhere on either of Houston’s reputable sides.

The hate comes from this reason alone from Southern heads. It’s not real Houston/Memphis rap because its creator is from a borough in New York. Groans induced, columns were written, “It’s gaining appeal because it’s the hipster culture” comments filtered blog talk when a new Rocky track got posted, etc. Acts down South looked bug eyed when the Polo Grounds/RCA deal was announced, rightfully so. It felt like the label were trying to capture lightning in a bottle, one who mixed patois with the ways of ESG. Houston be damned, Rocky was going with it regardless.

There’s plenty of purple thoughts included on his first major tape LIVELOVEA$AP, all of them seemingly should say he’s a joke and a heavy borrower of styles. In fact, he credits Houston (not Tennessee, not Louisiana) on the tape’s opener “Palace” as his major influence and nothing else. He sells drugs, has his way with your girlfriend and if anything – has an ear for beats (from Clams Casino, A$AP Ty Beats, Burn One among others) that would make him seem like Rick Ross’ slower, bass enamored cousin. In other words, A$AP Rocky knows what he’s doing through a golden smile and French braids, a harvester of trends that have influenced internet rap – all hailing from below the Mason-Dixon.

For all of the clamor about his actual rapping ability, Rocky’s commendable. He’s not a breaker of your mental vocabulary ala Kendrick Lamar nor does he try to be. He does yield the spotlight few times on LIVELOVEA$AP on the demonic “Brand New Guy” with its choral chanting and ScHoolboy Q’s intent to commit audio larceny, “Get It” with Houston’s own sultan of alt-swag Fat Tony with its celestial chimes courtesy of Soulfein3000 and the obligatory crew feature on “Trilla” where Rocky infuses a double-time flow to his repertoire of slugged out, drowsy Memphis/Texas stanzas. The raps stick to a certain formula, “bitches, purp” rinse & repeat and even when he gets a bit personal  on “Demons”, it doesn’t last for more than a minute before Rocky’s back to his script.

Heavy production may be what keeps Rocky on the lips of non-fans and critics alike. Nothing production wise on LIVELOVEA$AP can be denied, especially the Neil Young sampled “Old Man” flipped by Burn One into “Houston Old Head”. In a sense, it’s everything right (and what may be perceived wrong) with Rocky. He’s easily one of the more impressionable rappers around, easily influenced and adaptive to what he’s listened to growing up but the heavy reliance on Houston especially may do him in. Or turn to be a blessing.

Oddly enough, it may be the best Texas made mixalbum from someone who may have never seen a Frenchy’s or decided to ride slab in Manhattan. It could also be yet another album sandwiched in a year where almost every talked about album features borrowed concepts and ideologies from an era that went largely unnoticed until Pimp C broke from the belly of the beast (and then sadly passed). LIVELOVEA$AP may turn off an entire section of the country who remain steadfast to regionalism but in a climate where a co-op makes more sense than being a trailblazer, the people who used to sneer at such actions will smile at it and say, “Let the kid have his fun.”

Self Released, 2011