Back in 2012, the Harlem-based hip-hop group A$AP Mob released their debut mixtape, ‘Lord$ Never Worry.’ By all accounts, it was a clunky release, mixing irritating production with subpar verses. Fast-forward to 2016 and Mob member ASAP Rocky has become a bonafide star, releasing tracks with Lana Del Ray and Skrillex, as well as the biggest names in rap. Minus ASAP Ferg, who also has carved a nice niche in the rap game, the rest of the group has had trouble standing out in a muddled industry.
When it was announced that ASAP Mob would be releasing a new album in honor of their late creative director ASAP Yams, there was some worry about where the album would go. Despite Yams’ conscious decision to merge a screwed-up Houston rap sound with iconic New York flow, Rocky had shown a penchant to experiment with sounds and even cross over to full-on pop. Despite Yams’ untimely and tragic death, Cozy Tapes Vol. 1: Friends does a good job of carrying on his legacy and keeping the group in the sonic direction he originally aimed for.
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Along with all members of the Mob (Rocky, Twelvy, Ant, Ferg, Nast, Playboi Carti and Young Lardi), Cozy Tapes has features from Tyler the Creator, Lil Uzi Vert, BJ The Chicago Kid, Wiz Khalifa, Skepta, Juicy J and many other prominent rap names. At times, however, it feels like Friends is a Mob album second and a Rocky album first. After all, he’s featured on 8 of the 12 songs. Even when lyrically he’s phoning in a verse like on the standout track “Yamborgini High,” his style and remarkable flow complement the spacey production almost perfectly.
Another memorable track is “Bachelor,” where the vocals of up-and-coming sensation Lil Yachty are utilized almost perfectly. That is, he gets in and gets out without overstaying his welcome. Rocky’s chorus on “Bachelor” is the catchiest and strongest on the whole tape. “Way Hii” is another welcome track, although the buttery-smooth vocals of BJ the Chicago Kid feel underutilized. The song also features the rare inspired Wiz Khalifa verse. His aesthetic feels somewhat off with the Mob, but a solid Khalifa verse is a piece of rare candy.
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One of the biggest misses on the tape comes when British grime legend Skepta pops up on “Put That on My Set.” Skepta would be a perfect fit over 95% of the production on this tape. When he raps over Willie Hutch’s relaxing and peaceful “Brother’s Gonna Work it Out” sample, however, it feels like trying to jam a square peg into a round hole. Not to mention that sample is arguably the most overused one in hip-hop.
All in all, Cozy Tapes is a solid, consistent and satisfying release from the ASAP Mob. This tape goes as Rocky goes. It doesn’t have the experimentation of a purely Rocky album, but the Mob works well within the confines of this heavily Houston-influenced production.
Cozy Tapes Vol 1: Friends is out now via Polo Grounds Music and RCA Records.