Music
Tune in and turn up

Eleven years after they first formed, A$AP Mob’s original members might be all grown up, but they’re still having one hell of a good time. It’s one of the few things that’s clear on Cozy Tapes Vol. 2: Too Cozy, an effortlessly current, sporadically-formed record involving everybody who’s anybody in the hip-hop world right now.

It’s the collective’s second full-length after 2016’s first Cozy Tapes outing Friends – a record that brought the group together again following the death of their founder, Yams, the year prior. Just eight months later, the mob have returned with an album that paints them as the brash and unstoppable force of Harlem hip-hop, even if it risks losing the listener’s interest as it unfurls.

While the staple members of the A$AP Mob are present on every track of Too Cozy, they still manage to make room for a daunting number of collabs. Unofficial member but close A$AP affiliate Playboi Carti makes the most ostentatious impression with his eight frenetic features, but he more than proves his worth. “Bitch I walk / Walk on top of water” he brags with such conviction on the hook that gives the killer “Walk on Water” its title. After this biblical effort, he might as well adopt the A$AP moniker too.

While verses from the likes of ScHoolboy Q are bound to go down well with hip-hop die-hards, what Too Cozy does best is utilize its younger talents, giving them the space and opportunity to showcase their sound. On the record’s opener, “spawn of Will” Jaden Smith forgoes his reputation as a talentless Hollywood it-boy to deliver a menacing, memorable hook, based on excess and extravagance. “Me and Rocky sip the sake up in Paris, eating calamari” he drones, before he talks about rolling with Cartier and “sippin’ Dom Pérignon”. A boy with privilege? Sure, but a Rocky-approved collab has got to mean something. Flexing for the real kids is Smooky MarGielaa, a Bronx-hailing 14-year-old using autotune to his advantage. Bar the rigid and brilliant hook from Rocky, he’s got full control of “Black Card,” one of the record’s most energetic cuts.

The rest of the fun tends to be rooted in Too Cozy’s clean balance between classic and cloud rap production. The trap drums and chord progression of tracks like “Get the Bag” act as a calming, traditional antidote for the tracks that surround it. “BYF (Be Your Friend)” loops in some filtered mandolin strings, while “Blowin’ Minds (Skateboard)” has a Gameboy-esque playfulness to its sound.

Besides that, the A$AP Mob’s willingness to poke fun at hip-hop is limited to the skits that bookend the record. Set in the fictional Yamborghini High, these snippets of well presented in-studio banter are akin to something you might here from the Odd Future bunch, but they can still be funny as hell and damningly clever. Props to the sly Takeoff dig delivered by the school principal: “If you do not wish to be left off “Bad and Boujee”, please report to the gym at 2:30.”

And if you’re still struggling to fully ship the relationship between hip-hop and high fashion, you only need to look as far as “Bahamas,”one of the record’s standout tracks. A$AP Ferg’s verse slickly weaves in references to Gosha (“New shades, Gosha / Got me looking like a Beatle”) and Dior Homme (“Woah, Dior boys in Paris / Chilling with Kris Van Assche”). We get a fresh taster again on the closer track that you’ve definitely heard before, the storming track “RAF,” featuring Frank Ocean, Lil Uzi Vert, Playboi Carti and Quavo that premiered on Ocean’s radio show blonded back in May.

Regardless of how things are moving in the wider music sphere, hip-hop artists – particularly those that run in collectives – are renowned for sticking to their own shit. Right now, every pop musician’s management is in the process of crafting some sort of woke image for their star, eager to make it seem as though there’s an element of depth and quality to their work. Hip-hop has a historical relationship with reacting to the political and social era in which it’s made, and while Trump diss tracks may as well be the new tropical house, right now A$AP Mob don’t feel the need to let that dude define their sound.

But while the first half of Too Cozy sees A$AP Mob, slick, funny and in their element, there’s a lull two-thirds of the way in that doesn’t truly let up until we reach the rhythmic, playground chant-like “What Happens.” On it, the A$AP Mob rope in rap royalty RZA to produce, and link up with Zombie Juice, Meechy Darko, Carti, Joey Bada$$, Kirk Knight and Nyck Caution for 22 killer verses.

Whether that aforementioned lull matters to A$AP die-hards is another matter. As you delve deeper into it, it becomes clear that Too Cozy wasn’t made for the approval of critics. It’s a passion project disguised as an LP: tongue-in-cheek, big, built with bravado and full (though some may say crammed) with the collaborators that fans have been desperate for the mob to work with for years.

There are elements of Too Cozy that feel like a step up from its predecessor, especially when it comes to its contemporary production style and exposition of young talented rappers. But it’s hard to ignore its untethered, non-existent vision when approached as a linear body of work. Instead, it’s best to listen once, pick it apart and find your favorites. Too Cozy is dusted with promising tracks that are bound to go the distance; it’s just a case of finding them.

For more of our reviews, read why A$AP Ferg’s latest mixtape ‘Still Striving’ is too crowded with features right here.

  • Text: Douglas Greenwood
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