- ASAP Rocky: LiveLoveA$AP (mixtape/selfreleased/liveloveasap.com) - This Harlem, New York native declares an affinity for Houston and doesn't want to be likened to a certain New Orleans rapper. Still, his slightly-behind-the-beat flow as well as the nasal timbre of his voice certainly has similarities with the Carter. The lyrical universe of LiveLoveA$ASP is filled with references to recreational drugs, reveling in it's effects. But it's the sonics of the record that really impresses. Delightfully produced, especially the tracks by Clams Casino and Beautiful Lou, it conjures up the sort of trippy soundscapes that Tricky once mastered so well - note in particular the laid-back groove and the sampled guitar lick of "Trilla", produced by Beautiful Lou. Additional color is provided by syrupy beats and rumbling bass (and hence the Houston love, I guess), Clams Casino's "Bass" a case in point. When the moods do get darker, they do so without succumbing to the techniques of horror core schlock, neither sonically or lyrically. No stoopid shock effects here. ASAP doesn't need such cheap tricks to be interesting. 8*
* Grades are tentative, based on three or four listens, though quite often a few more. Much of the writing is done during listens, and should be considered notes rather than final reviews.