Mac Dressman is a Hoya Staff Writer.
The title of A$AP Mob’s latest album may be telling — it is as if the group got “too cozy” after the success of its latest album, and neglected to put the same amount of effort into “Cozy Tapes Vol. 2: Too Cozy.”
A$AP Mob is a collective of New York rappers propelled to stardom largely by their most prominent member, A$AP Rocky. Although it released a mostly forgotten mixtape in 2012 titled “Lords Never Worry,” the group’s critically acclaimed 2016 album “Cozy Tapes Vol. 1: Friends” obtained significant recognition from the hip-hop community. Despite the stiff competition from other talented rappers in the group, A$AP Rocky’s verses were clear standouts on the album.
On “Cozy Tapes Vol. 2,” Rocky continues to dominate. However, this is a result of him being surrounded by uninspired and talentless guest vocalists rather than having particularly interesting additions himself.
The most conspicuous offender is Playboi Carti, whose rhyming abilities are on a par with a foul-mouthed 7-year-old. On “FYR (First Year Being Rich,”) for example, Carti delivers what can only be described as nursery rhyme bars: “She wanna rock with the man/She wanna hop in the Lamb, rock with the band/She wanna rock with the gang/Ooh, pop a lil’ band/Ooh, I got mo’ bands than yo’ man.”
Of course, rap is about more than complex wordplay and tongue-twisting rhyme schemes; much more important are unique flow and engaging delivery. Unfortunately, Playboi Carti’s verses lack any semblance of either, as he aimlessly mumbles in a weak monotone with the same flow in every song. It is anyone’s guess as to why he appears on eight of the album’s 14 musical tracks, more often than any actual A$AP Mob member besides Rocky.
Similarly lackluster additions from artists Smooky MarGielaa and Key! plague the album as well. But the problem is larger than a few weak guests, as most of the album is devoid of personality. Not only is the subject matter invariably vapid, but it is also presented with little humor or creativity, in a way that makes the A$AP Mob wholly unlikable.
One example is A$AP Nast’s nasal drawl in “Walk On Water:” He raps “Big bang, Nasty in this h-e man/I might f – – k around and f – – k a little n – – a’s h-e, man/You know how the game go/You know that s – – t for sure, man.” Nast makes no effort to approach the “steal-your-girl” cliche from a new angle, and the word “little” makes him seem like a bully rather than a baller. The lyrical filler on this album might be forgiven if the rapping had more conviction or energy, but instead the A$AP Mob simply sounds bored.
This makes listening to songs like “Get the Bag” a chore, as one artist after another reluctantly reads off their yawn-inducing lines. “Get the Bag” could have used a catchy chorus to break up the monotony, although perhaps it is better left untarnished by the cringe-worthy hooks on the other tracks. A$AP Rocky’s tone-deaf wailing on “BYF” is laughable, and “Black Card” features squeaky Auto-tune from what sounds like the rappers on helium.
The production, although occasionally entrancing, is for the most part as uninspired as the rapping. The album generally strives for a menacing tone, with muted synth notes over trap’s ubiquitous 808s and hi-hats, often punctuated by short grunts or even gunshots. This approach is effective in establishing a cohesive mood, and songs like “Walk On Water” and “Coziest” show that this sound has potential.
However, many of the beats are simply too skeletal to be interesting: “Feels So Good” lacks any musical substance or progression, consisting of two alternating notes and a basic drum pattern that repeats every few seconds for the entire song. A simple beat is not always bad, but urgency and aggression are also lacking from most of the instrumentals. Almost none of these songs could be reasonably called “bangers,” as the music aimlessly drifts along without escalation, or even a change-up at the chorus. “Blowin’ Minds (Skateboard)” is neither enticing nor threatening; it is just boring.
Yet the album is not without bright spots, particularly near the end. The fashion anthem “RAF” features four strong verses from A$AP Rocky, Quavo, Lil Uzi Vert and a rapping Frank Ocean, whose styles contrast well over the attractive, subdued beat. Similarly, Joey Bada$$, the A$AP Mob and the Flatbush Zombies trade quick bursts of rhyme on “What Happens.” The eerie music and different voices that pop in and out make listening to the track reminiscent of walking through a haunted house, as different monsters grab your arm or growl in your ear.
Finally, A$AP Rocky and Big Sean’s slick rhymes shine on “Frat Rules,” with smoother multisyllabic flows and more personal anecdotes such as “My apologies, why I gotta be misogynistic every time we kick it/Every time I visit something’s different/And every time I leave you know you miss it.” Their energetic delivery and the triumphant beat carry the song, in spite of Playboi Carti’s tasteless hook and the obnoxious distorted groans littered throughout the track.
Although it has several notable moments of quality, overall “Cozy Tapes Vol. 2: Too Cozy” lacks substance, creativity and personality. The “Principal Daryl Choad” skits at the middle and end of the album add some much-needed humor but are ultimately goofy and pointless. No skit can make up for simplistic beats, empty lyrics, limp rapping and corny hooks. Maybe the A$AP Mob should stretch its boundaries, be a bit less cozy and put some passion back into its work.