I have to be honest and say I didn’t have the highest hopes for the new A$AP Rocky record. Don’t get me wrong, he’s an undeniably talented rapper with a ridiculous flow but after the promise of his mixtape LiveLoveA$AP his proper debut fell short with disappointing production choices and way too much drug talk and swag-rap. Maybe the death of friend and mentor A$AP Yams helped give him new perspective and a clearer focus or the help of his new album’s executive producer Danger Mouse provided a more cohesive musical palette for him to paint on but either way At.Long.Last.A$AP is an impressive piece of work that took many of us by surprise simply by how good it is. Thankfully his minor-league crew members A$AP Mob are relegated to shout outs (“Got A$AP, got Fergie with me, no Black Eyed Peas) and aside from a throwaway track featuring M.I.A. and Future and another garbage Kanye verse the album is remarkably consistent, including rejuvenated guest spots from Lil Wayne and Mos Def (aka Pretty Flacko Senior). You could say that Kendrick Lamar is a better writer with a more ambitious scope (Rocky is a dude that brags about 3-day acid-fueled orgies and has never gone anywhere near “the conscious crap”), you could even make the argument that King Kendrick is a more technically skilled rapper, although Rocky has made that an argument worth having, but the bottom line is this is simply a more listenable rap record than To Pimp A Butterfly. It’s not hampered by skits and spoken word and tracks you listen to once then never again. It’s simply one of the best straight ahead rap records to come out in a long time, whether you play the songs individually or together as a whole. It’s nice to see someone put it together and capitalize on their potential in such a big way.