Words by Matthew Spence:
Ask someone about A$AP Rocky and numerous things will get mentioned: his dope music, A$AP Mob, his bromance with Tyler, his fashion style, the time he threw that Swedish guy 3 feet before beating his ass, how everyone wishes it was them who got Rihanna pregnant and not him. After going through those decks of cards you will eventually pull the card of: “His music videos are dope”. In all seriousness, A$AP Rocky videos like his music, have gone through a journey in tone and delivery. Over the past decade and in the latter of the 2010s, he’s gained himself a reputation, that being for having captivating visuals for his art. I had to use a big word so you know it’s that meaningful.
When it comes to Rockys’ videos I like to divide the eras: the Boy Flocko (2011-2013) to Testing (2015-Present)
– Boy Flocko Era
Everyones gotta start somewhere right? During the era of his debut mixtape (Live. Love. ASAP) and debut album (Long. Live. ASAP), his videos for the majority were….let’s say straightforward rap videos. Obviously, some of the videos were before the money started to roll in but still, gotta call it by its name yo. But it’s not all shade. They have glimpses of moments that make you say “well, that’s very neat”. Purple Swag, carries a sedating feeling through the video to match the Chopped N Screwed production that makes you wonder if it’s the weed or lean that’s fucking you up. Plus who can forget the white woman lip-syncing the N-word, it was a moment in time yo. For Pesso, we see A$AP Mob and the people/streets of Harlem. Both videos get their point across, but we would eventually see what Rocky is capable of.
Wassup, we see a more fleshed-out concept on camera (with a step up in budget): A fever dream containing several references to Illuminati imagery and satanic cult-like scenery including, Rocky over a pentagram. It was 2012, and everyone was annoyingly obsessed with proving the Illuminati’s existence in the music industry, so might as well just give the people what they want. I know a big leap from Purple Swag and Pesso where it’s just him and A$AP Mob basically around in Harlem, but Why? In Wassup, we see Rocky sell his soul and what proceeds to be a generic rap: money, cars, mansions, and women making out in the shower. In the end, Rocky wakes up, and alas it was all a dream or in this case a nightmare.
Transitioning into the next project, we see bigger production and the videos are…. still cool. Phoenix, we get another fleshed-out concept. We see a couple (played by Michael K. Williams and Joan Smalls) go through a toxic ass argument. Pieces are there but soon there would be a shift.
Right around the era of his second album, 2015s At.Long.Live. A$AP (or ALLA, because I don’t keep, wanna googling to remember the full title), you can say he began “Testing”, yes…I’m not proud of that one. One trip from LSD can do a lot for you. Experimenting with psychedelics, music, and meeting with frequent collaborator director Dexter Navy, Rockys’ videos would become more noteworthy. Eccentricity and authenticity are key elements to them. L$D, arguably his more iconic video: bright, coated in hallucinogenic feelings, and surrounded by saturated colors. Inspired by the 2009 film, Enter the Void (a hit or miss btw, depends on your taste), Rocky and a lady of what feels like (fittingly) an acid trip in Japan. Following them through the city of Tokyo it’s as Rocky is seeing the beauty of Love. Sex. Dreams and within the video, it seems he has a trip within the video and it transitions into a quick verse for his song “Excuse Me”.
One Shot. Him rapping into a cracked mirror in a scenery full of flickering lights and chandeliers in a white/golden room. In Laymen’s terms, it’s fucking dope. Explaining the shot to Noisey video: “I can’t tell the secrets of how it was shot but I can tell the events that led up to it”. Very informative, but there’s more: “That was spontaneous, I just thought of that when we went to the room”. Spoiler alert, they just flipped the camera upside down.
For the video of JD, we see Rocky jump back and forth from regular live-action to a slick animation version of himself and his expanding environment, while rapping his verse. A cold night, with an opening, shot paying homage to James Deans, out in the city photo.
A$AP Forever (my personal fav), full of quick zoom-ins and out transitions into environments and people. It’s rapid and vibrant. Transition to transition, it doesn’t give you a moment to really scope out everything on screen and in the frame so by the time you turn your focus onto something else, it’s already on to the next shot. In the ending, we see Rocky floating in an abyss (after smoking weed) to the hypnotic Moby sample you hear at the end of the track.
Sundress, Fukk Sleep, Guns N Butter, and Kids Turned Out Fine are also perfect examples. In one video, we’re in a futuristic dystopia, in the next video we see frozen people. Throughout the TESTING era, vibrant colors carry on while experimenting with story-telling visuals.
-What’s Next (I Don’t Know)
His videos have become one of the occurrences where you don’t wanna look away cause you feel you might miss something. You’re invested in more than just the music but the overall package. It feels like he’s beyond just trying to promote his music, but pushing the boundary with videos alongside his music as well. Speaking to Time in 2015, he said: “I really enjoy good visuals.” “Whenever a fellow emcee, or a rapper, or somebody puts out a music video that’s dope, I’m either hating or inspired.” Now, what videos he hates, it’s irrelevant, now the ones that inspire him are the ones we should be grateful for. We should be grateful because now his videos are possibly inspiring someone right now to make incredible visuals right now. Now we’re left wondering, what will he bring for his future album eras.