Monday, 14 January 2013

A$AP Rocky – 'Long.Live.A$AP'

A$AP Rocky
Polo Grounds Music/RCA Records

As if being named after '80s hip hop’s most influential rapper wasn’t enough pressure on Rakim Mayers’ young shoulders, the delays that clogged the release of this big label debut mean Harlem’s own pretty motherfucker has a lot to live up to. By and large, it doesn’t fully deliver on the promise of A$AP Mob’s stoned’n’swagged 2011 mixtape ‘Live.Love.A$AP’, but Rocky’s decision to cleave himself from the likes of the terminally moronic A$AP Ant has proved a wise move.

Three outrageously bad tracks soil the mid-section of the album: the dopey ‘Fashion Killa’, the Skrillex-produced ‘Wild For The Night’ (in fairness, no more gruesome than you’d expect) and then the utterly risible ‘Fuckin’ Problems’, in which Kendrick Lamar, Drake and the ubiquitous 2 Chainz provide a modish chorus line as Rocky undoes all his good work as hip hop’s self-styled anti-homophobia ambassador with the unforgivable line, “Turn a dyke bitch out, have her fucking boys.”

But there are stunners too: the Clams Casino-produced ‘LVL’ and ‘Hell’, the bumping ‘1 Train’, featuring stonking verses from underground heroes Action Bronson, Yelawolf and Joey Bada$$, and a later quintet of gloomy and dissonant tracks like the sumptuous, Wu Tang-alike ‘Suddenly’.

He’s diluted his artistic credentials to gain broader appeal, but Rocky’s preternaturally charismatic and agile flow makes this patchy album something far more compelling.

Needing some Timeaway: an interview with Darkstar

First published in Loud And Quiet

In October 2010, Darkstar emerged from the then blooming scene we used to call post-dubstep with an album of ice cold urban romance, a quintessential night bus record with a surprisingly potent seam of '80s electronic pop running through its 10 tales of mechanical heartbreak. Half Human League, half machine, North was a milestone for the entire scene, proving to be the high waterwark of a moment that has since then splintered and lost cohesion, with artists like Mount Kimbie and James Blake moving further away from their dubstep origins with each release.

Darkstar, who formed in London but are originally from Wakefield, Leeds and Cheshire, spent over a year working on the follow-up to North. It wasn't an easy journey. Itching to get away from the grind of the capital, they sequestered themselves in a country house in Yorkshire's Colne Valley – to give you an idea of the rural surroundings, it's the next valley over from where Last of the Summer Wine is filmed – and diligently worked on the new songs, until a painful twist of fate forced a dramatic rethink.

It started as a writing trip, says James Young, the man who formed Darkstar along with fellow producer Aiden Whalley, before the addition of James Buttery on vocals.

“We just got a house in the country,” he says. “It's really weird up there though. Because you've got a lot of space and time on your hands you do lose focus. It's very difficult to maintain normality.”