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A$AP Mob - Cozy Tapes Vol. 2: Too Cozy (Album Review)

Friday, 01 September 2017 Written by Jacob Brookman

Trap is a genre of hip hop that relies on its cheapness for effect. Cheap production, cheap drum sounds. Cheap sentiment told through cheap rhymes. In many ways, cheapness is the essential characteristic of trap music: it screams urban credibility thousands of miles from the million-dollar studios of Beverly Hills. It's music produced in dank bedrooms and on laptops between gigs.

New York’s A$AP Mob are a genuinely interesting group of creatives within trap, but their latest album, ‘Cozy Tapes Vol. 2’ falls far short the bar they set with Vol. 1. This record is one of tedious claptrap and limited focus, and though it is punctuated by moments of impressive flow, its problems are manifold and occasionally overwhelming.

There are a couple of decent tracks. Walk on Water is a spacious cut with a smoky, stoned quality and marvellous interchanges between lyricists. It's a song that recalls some of Rae Sremmurd's finer moments, alongside a lyrical presence that is quintessentially New York.

Elsewhere, RAF leans into some of the most compelling trap territory. It’s home to spooky, spiky production and long, languorous vocal phrases that slur off a bar with laconic insouciance.

Additionally, its video is one of the most inventive and beautiful hip hop promos you will see this year. It shares a creative foundation with Dizzee Rascal’s Wot U Gonna Do?, with the artist(s) performing in a tight space while CGI creates a magical, compelling hinterland around them.

But listening to that track next to RAF is also pretty telling. Wot U Gonna Do? has a quality and patience of production that makes it pop out of the headphones, whereas RAF - probably the best track on ‘Cozy Tapes Vol. 2’ -  has some subtle variations in the backing loop but precisely nothing unexpected.

The bars are OK but that only brings us to the message of the track, which is essentially a piece of branded content for the Belgian fashion designer Raf Simons. His name is scattered throughout, along with multiple references to his Adidas trainer line.

One cannot be squeamish about product placement in songs. It's a reality of pop music that can trace its lineage to the pre-war period and it’s also relevant to mention the role of trainers in rap culture. That is clearly an intellectual/branding justification for the collab, alongside the (probably) compelling economic one.

But it’s so cynical. If trap is to actually develop into a meaningful artistic genre, then it needs to break out of the spiral of money worship and luxe branding. The aspirational quality of ‘Cozy Tapes Vol. 2’ is contemptuous and occasionally hateful. That can be justified when the music is fun or political, but this album is neither.

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