El-P from Run The Jewels is a voice of reason and somebody who knows what he’s talking to when it comes to hip-hop. A$AP Rocky is a talent that he adores, and his favourite album by the rapper is one that he feels doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.
The Run The Jewels founder is no stranger to being misunderstood, and it took him decades to truly assert himself to the masses, with most of his career flying under the radar until he linked up with Killer Mike. Over the last few years, the duo have been on a rich journey together, allowing both men to receive the credit they duly deserve after grinding for years in the underground scene.
A$AP Rocky’s career trajectory is different to El-P’s, and he was only in his early ’20s when people woke up to his brilliance. In 2012, when Rocky was on the come-up, he was getting hailed as the messiah, and his debut album Long. Live. A$AP lived up to the hype that surrounded the rapper. However, when Rocky returned with his ambitious and psychedelic sophomore effort, At. Long. Last. ASAP, people quickly brought the rapper crashing back to earth.
While the album didn’t receive wholly negative reviews, El-P thinks that most people slept on its brilliance, and speaking with Pitchfork, the producer went as far as describing it as Rocky’s “opus”.
He explained: “I don’t think people gave this record the love that they should have. It’s fucked up and weird at times, but it just knocked. Like ‘M’$’ —come on man, that’s one of the hardest records of the last ten years! He really was saying some shit on this record.
El-P continued: “Sometimes people just miss an artist’s progression because they have a definite idea of who that person is. Sometimes your timing is off, and by the time you want a progression from someone, you’ve ignored the fact that that actually already happened. That record was a progression for Rocky, but I don’t think people heard it that way. I really felt it was an opus. But this happens a lot. How many classic records also have a classically bad review?”
Speaking from the perspective of a musician, he added: “On the one hand, it’s terrifying for an artist to put their shit out there for critical review, because you don’t want to be misunderstood, and it plays such a big part in the way people receive records. But on the other hand, seeing how this shit plays out over time, you can relax a little bit, because it doesn’t always all line up in the moment.”
El makes a strong point. Perhaps, the reason why At. Long. Last. ASAP wasn’t given its flowers when it was released is because of the difference between it and Rocky’s debut, but the record is ageing like a fine wine.