A$AP Rocky is one strange cat. Probably one of the weirder mainstream rappers to reach success since Lupe Fiasco went off the deep end in a big way, he’s a mixture of ideologies, styles and very good taste. One of the continual criticisms of Rocky – putting to one side the equally vociferous legions of women who want to or have slept with him – is that he’s a triumph of style over substance; all pretty boy posing and clothes-horsing without the ability to actually do much when it comes to verbal dexterity. While he did a pretty good job of disproving that on his first outing, the excellent Long Live ASAP, he also ceded territory on many of his better tracks to guest artists like Kendrick Lamar, Drake and Danny Brown. My favourite songs on this record featured at least four other rappers, while conversely, the best on At Long Last A$AP are usually entirely the realm of Rocky himself. It appears that fame and the death of his mentor have helped whittle down Rocky’s lyricism, if not his vision, which remains as widescreen and bonkers as ever. I first heard ‘Excuse Me’ as a companion piece to the video for ‘LSD’, in which Rocky spends a lot of time trying to be Frank Ocean vocally and some sort of bizarre Japanese anime character visually. I was happy to find it as it’s own piece in the tracklisting, because it’s too good to just be an indulgent coda on an album full of them.
‘Excuse Me’ appears through a haze of strings, harp samples and flipped bass, a slowed down rework of an obscure hip-hop song from 2011. It’s pretty much what you’d imagine a classic Hollywood film score to sound like if everyone in The Big Sleep was on seriously good weed. This slow rolling tempo is actually optimal for the kind of lyricism that Rocky is most comfortable deploying; cruisy, simmering violent rhymes that every so often reference fashion houses with lots of syllables in their names. He lopes across the bars like they are grafted into his expensive sneakers, and despite what many people will tell you, it’s equally as impressive to master a slow roll than a Twista-like blitzkrieg. Sure, he sings again in the chorus, but he’s definitely not the worst vocalist in rap by a long shot.
The instrumentation is what really gets me going here, because I haven’t heard a lot of beats this airy in a long time. But Rocky’s the perfect foil and even though it’s only got two verses in it, ‘Excuse Me’ is the most refreshing breath in an album characterised almost exclusively by deep inhalation.