Is A$AP Rocky Losing His Edge?


Remember the first time you saw the “Purple Swag” video? It felt like something special, like some trailer to a movie that you suddenly realized you have to go see. When it went viral, the video acted as a point of introduction for hundreds of thousands of viewers (now over 12 million) and brought up a lot of questions: What’s the white girl doing with those gold fronts? Why is this New York dude rapping like that? Who is this guy?

Fast forward to now, and we should all be pretty familiar with A$AP Rocky. Nobody’s calling him hip-hop’s savior, but it’s hard to argue that he’s not on a hot streak. He gets by more on style and charisma than skill or depth, but he sounds good doing it and chances are if you like one of his songs you’ll like most of them. This isn’t to say that all his songs are the same—they’re not—but he understands the aesthetic he’s going for and he’s already mastered how to reproduce that aesthetic with everything he touches. It’s this kind of consistency that makes a guy like A$AP Rocky able to brand himself, and it’s the reason you see kids from cities and suburbs across the country with Twitter handles like @asvpxalexander and @DatPrtyMthrFvckr. He’s created something strong enough and distinct enough that people want to be associated with it.

A$AP Rocky, and the people around A$AP Rocky (most notably A$AP Yams, who handpicks beats for Rocky and seems to be somewhat of a mastermind) know what they’re doing. They know that to go big in 2012, you’ve got to sell more than music and the team has always done that well. Along the way they’ve made all the right decisions: working with producers like Clams Casino and Beautiful Lou, teaming up with Blvck Scvle, making sure music videos were effective and on point, and collaborating with all the right people.

They haven’t watered  down their brand. Not yet.

Yesterday, Rihanna released her “Cockiness” remix, featuring none other than A$AP Rocky himself, and for the first time he seemed slightly out of place. It’s weird to say that, because the New York rapper has more Southern flavor than a lot of Southern rappers, sometimes adapts a Bone Thugs flow, and inarguably leans more towards a Pac character than a Biggie. But for the first time, A$AP doesn’t stick to the script that the A$AP guys have been selling up to this point. To top it off, the remix came with the news that A$AP may be joining Rihanna on stage at the 2012 MTV Video Music Awards. This isn’t another well-executed step in the right direction—this is a power move. In a business sense, a sense that Rocky and the rest of the A$AP Mob clearly have, it’s a progression.

The thing is, the career path of A$AP Rocky is getting to that sometimes inevitable point where star power starts to cast a shadow on intrigue. Some early adaptors—the ones often responsible for hyping up new buzzing acts in the first place—lose interest. But for every one of them, the tide brings in a mass of new fans like a swelling pool of red tide that proves toxic to previous inhabitants. We saw it on the horizon; Rocky has come a long way since “Purple Swag” and his earlier work still referenced by hardcore fans. But is this a point of no return, or can A$AP balance the power moves with staying true to what won over his fan base in the first place?

This isn’t an unfamiliar situation to be in, especially for rappers. We’ve seen acts like Wiz Khalifa, Wale, and Big Sean all face some difficulty in keeping those initial fans happy while reaching for a larger audience and sacrificing a little individuality in order to conform for the masses. It’s never an easy task, and there’s no doubt we’ll see it come up again (like when Kendrick Lamar collaborates with Lady Gaga), but this new batch of artists seems particularly savvy. Even under the pressure of major labels, these guys know what made them blow up in the first place, and they strive to keep that alive. It’s this kind of awareness that keeps artists striving not just for popularity, but for artistic integrity (even if it takes an album or two to find it). It’s the kind of thing that separates Drake from Flo Rida, no matter how blurry that distinction is to you.

However you look at it, A$AP Rocky teaming up with Rihanna is a game-changer. There’s a chance that we’ll look back in a year and say, “Yeah, that was the point it all started to go downhill,” and there’s a chance that this will be a spike in the charts that further separates Rocky from the pack of newcomers. It will probably all depend on who you ask. Most importantly, it will depend on what this rising talent decides to do next.

A$AP Rocky’s major label debut, LongLiveA$AP, comes out on Sony this Halloween.

  • Charlie

    As long as he keeps up the Noisey interviews with Danny Brown he’ll have indefinite edge bruh bruh

  • Andre (PayUp)

    Well written.
    I agree fully. We’ll just have to wait and see.

    For some reason I feel like we won’t be disappointed with him or Kendrick as far as the music goes.

  • Randy

    I mean dude just released a mixtape full of hood posse cuts and if Purple Swag was the trailer then Purple Kisses is the movie. His beat selection and verses on the mob tape show that he’s not slipping, The remix with RIhanna is well done too and we get to hear Rocky over a Bangladesh beat, I think you’re speculating heavy on this one bruh bruh

  • gobeans

    Yams and rocky are only human. But if they learn from whatever mistAKEZ are made they’ll be aight.

  • Age 19

    I do like to think of A$AP Rocky as a special case as he had gotten big and continues to get big off of that “smoke-ridiculous-amounts-and-get-bitches-for-days” charisma. It’s a less harsh fan crossover really than the Wiz Khalifa/Wale-turned-popular comparison, or maybe a more subtle one, because Khalifa and Wale were once established and most importantly, RELATABLE. A$AP Rocky doesn’t have to move quite far out of his box as his kind of typical badass content seems more determined by his flow/charisma.

    At the same time though, I do believe that he will probably never be that “kind” of popular and it’s pretty apparent. But from afar, that really should be a good thing and speaks miles of where music has come; a dude that can sign a multi-million dollar deal based on the strength and pull of the underground. I find it really hard to believe that Rocky has his eye on “jumping his boat” or losing his edge after that brand new, underground-rooted ASAP Mob mixtape of his, which to the casual pop listener has little accessibility. Like you said con, the Mob know what they’re doing too. Rocky was probably paid to do the collab :p

  • ramzy

    just wanted to say that he did his thing on that rihanna feature tho.

  • smoke 3 phillies

    well written article.
    asap might fall off, its hard to say.
    the faster the come up the harder the fall.
    and it is apparent he jacked some raida klan properties. so it might just be a matter of time.

    raida klan is moving things slow, but they got a tight fan base, not just some hypebeats that are on asap right now for the moment, they moving on to the next.

  • Camwagon

    I think this was strickly a bussniess move by Rocky. This song is terrible in my opinion, but Rocky will probably get Rihanna on the hook of one of his joints because he did this. Its sorta like Drake hoping on ‘Whats My Name’ and Rihanna in turn doing ‘Take Care’. At least thats the way I see it.

  • jujju

    He’s already fallen off. Every new song he puts out gets more and more “pop”.

    Why does Rocky have to do a Rihanna song as a business move? What happened to making art for arts sake?

  • Rafael

    He was never that live to me. Leaf is dope, and so are a few other songs. But his fan base seem to be more in love with his style and whole vibe than his actual rhymes, flow and delivery…coz they are lacking big time. Give me pro era over the Asap’s crew any day

  • unclesam

    Anyone who writes bruh bruh should kill themselves on the spot.

    Back on topic, I think you’re grasping with this. It’s way too early to say that it’s going downhill now. It’s like you only wrote this so if it really DOES go downhill, you can say that you predicted it.

  • marie

    I dunno, ultimately, it’s not like he’s going to become the next nicki minaj. There are a lot of people in this ASAP Mob crew that require financial support (in my opinion) so it makes sense to take advantage of every commercial opportunities that comes his way. This type of content he raps about his a shelf life to a mainstream audience, so at least he can monetize as much as possible so once the momentum fizzles, he can be in a position to make a decent living doing his thing underground. I think of it like Cam’ron and dipset.

  • @Gene_us

    “However you look at it, A$AP Rocky teaming up with Rihanna is a game-changer.” *Face Palm*

    What game is this you speak of?

  • lilrizq

    “and it’s the reason you see kids from cities and suburbs across the country with Twitter handles like @asvpxalexander and @DatPrtyMthrFvckr.He’s created something strong enough and distinct enough that people want to be associated with it”.

    @ComplexMagazine That style of spelling is called “RVIDXR(RAIDER)Hieroglyphics” Look up a Twitter handle called @MuneyJordan aka SPVCXGHXZTPVRRP(SPACEGHOSTPURRP), this is the guy A$AP Rocky bit that writing style off of. PVRRP is also the guy that produced the track Rocky opens up his shows with called “Pretty Flacko”. Do your research beyond the hype. RVIDXR KLVN

  • MannyAcero

    One Rihanna song and he’s a sell out and losing it? take it easy fam. it’s way too early to be doubting this guy.. i hope he reads this article and puts you on the spot.

  • LarvaMarva

    The comb was for those who don’t understand or appriaciate asaps style, I believe this shows people who aren’t sold on him that he can do something outside of his “purple swag” & but this was so well written & I completely understand what your saying… Bravo!

  • Jay

    I think it will really depend on his album, to me that will decide it for 2012 and his near future.

  • Truth.

    You can only steal The BasedGod’s & SGP’s swag for so long before you run out of ideas, ASAP. Better get creative quick, or it’s curtains for bra, and he knows it.

  • LaJIT

    well fucking written, perfect sense with the business moves and finding the balance of pleasing the fans that got him on in the first place.

  • GRLAstyle

    This is a well written article with a very narrow point of view. The question for debate is, will the A$AP MOB be able to weather commercial success while maintaining authenticity. The answer to this question is irrelevant when it’s obvious that the fire is already lit. Never mind the already proven Rocky features with the likes of Juciy J, Usher and Swizz beats just to name a few. The RiRi track is only further proof that the Rocky flow is in commercial demand. However commercial success in the music industry means nothing these days interms of money. The author of this artical grossly miss interprets the likes of one song to call it a “power move” when it is obvious to industry followers, A$AP fans and critics alike, that this was a few bars for a few chips. In the track bath salts Rocky clearly shows ambitions towards projects far from the valatil music beast. As for the MTV appearance, the bigger picture needs to be considered. A$AP Rocky is Darwinism at its best. These new artists are learning, adapting, and flourishing in a dead market no thanks to stagnant observers like the above scribe. Food for thought, you do the dishes! @grlastyle

  • Max

    you see rihanna and rocky on a remix and you say he is selling out… smh

  • Slimwood

    You wrote this long ass shit about asap rocky losing his edge over ONE….. ONE fuckin collab with rihanna? C’mon he didnt even fuckin dropped his mainstream major label album yet!

  • kushmjerf

    he has only gone downhill from where he began, its the truth

  • greek

    Good Article

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  • theesotericagenda

    I think this is an insightful piece, but its also very one sided-this is pretty much all a matter of public opinion. On one hand its only ONE song, and there’s no reason to come hard at Rocky’s neck for selling out just yet. Plus, he’s getting his paper-so many people are quick to forget that most of these new artists come from nothing, so if the opportunity to make a little more money and put a little more earning power behind their name comes up, they’re not gonna pass it up just because a couple people might say they “went mainstream.” However, the message from this article rings true to some extent. You know you looked at Rocky at least a little side-eyed for this feature, and its warranted-with Wale & Wiz being perfect examples. Those dudes have made it as far as mass appeal but how many times have you seen hardcore fans trolling these guys latest works on youtube or something-the change in sound obviously occurs. I have a little more faith in guys that have real dudes around them (the whole ASAP Mob & Kendrick with TDE) because they have circles that can pull them back down to earth so to speak, as opposed to a bunch of yes-men. Still P&P, lets see the debut first.

  • King

    we just dont know how smart rocky really is yet. YE rapped on fucking ET by katy perry… we wait.

  • King

    grlastyle argued well!

  • @mahmoudii1

    I just wanna see how long it is before he stops jacking SpaceGhostPurrp’s entire persona. He can only run off of somebody else’s style for so long.

  • carl

    dude is lame and an embarrassment in every way.

  • Tochi

    pretty sure it was downhill

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