Cross-pollination; it’s all the rage right now. Check the charts in your country, and unless you happen to live in a nation where publicly listening music is not really the done thing, chances are there’s at least a 75% incidence of one artist featuring another one. The aims behind these mergers is obvious from a commercial standpoint. When Calvin Harris taps Florence Welch for a guest spot and she returns the favour on a remix, both their labels make money, general awareness of the other artist increases in their respective fan bases and you can see names in the Top 10 that never would have been there otherwise. And other times, there’s just a kid with too much money and lots of ideas who wants to get himself into the studio with all the hottest kids in the game. A$AP Rocky, perhaps the prettiest male rapper since Tupac, is all about having too much money. He got a Sony/Polo advance of three million dollars for his much-awaited major label debut, LIVE.LONG.A$AP. Three million. Some bands are lucky to get that over the course of their careers, and this twenty-something got it in one hit. So what do you do when the world is your oyster? You call Skrillex, obviously.
There’s a great interview with A$AP (real name Rakim Mayers) by a friend of mine, Eric Sunderman who writes for The Village Voice. Sunderman shadowed Rocky through a typical day in the life as a recently minted celebrity, showing the kind of strain public life can have on a young kid who just wants to make music. For all the hyping that inevitably happens when a young rapper drops a fully-formed album (remember the Kendrick-a-thon of November 2012? Though that was perhaps more deserving), sometimes a kid just wants to make a party track that will be blasted at every club from here to eternity. As it turns out, you’re not going to get that kind of reach from Timbaland anymore. Yanks are mad for blasts and electronic booms right now, and the number one practitioner of aural destruction is the former Mr Ellie Goulding, Sonny Moore. Yes, he’s ridiculous and often unbearable, but the kid has a plan and seems to know where he’s going, just like A$AP.
‘Wild For The Night’ is interesting first and foremost for Skrillex’s contribution. He’s always flirted with reggaeton and the kind of downtempo dub that used to be related to ‘dubstep’, but with the drop-time, reverb chords between the bleeps here, he’s carving out his slice of the territory Massive Attack and friends explored twenty years earlier. A$AP, naturally, takes that as an excuse to bring out his other persona, namely the one who raps with his voice slowed down like he’s overdosed on Nyquil who comes into violent conflict with his regular self later in the piece. This is by means unique to Rocky; you could hear it at the beginning of ‘Niggas In Paris’ two years ago and the phenomenon reaches far further back than this. But paired with the accompaniment, it’s far more interesting that just a studio trick. It’s a study in soundscape. Whether A$AP is as vital or as important as the others who have come out in the last six months remains to be seen, but if there’s one thing his presence here shows, it’s that the man knows how to own a track, regardless of who has written on it. Later on the record, he takes a pummelling ballad with none other than Florence Welch and adds just the right level of swagger to it without overwhelming it a la Chris Martin and Kanye. You can’t account for great subject material (weed, bitches, etc) but you can speak of good taste. Rocky has this for miles, even if it isn’t obvious. For now, just dance.
A$AP Rocky ft. Skrillex – ‘Wild For The Night’