Black Thought Hails ASAP Rocky’s Impact on NYC Hip-Hop, Reflects on Kanye’s Evolution

by Barbara

In a recent conversation with Pitchfork, the venerable lyricist of The Roots, Black Thought, delved into a retrospective exploration of the rap albums that have etched an enduring mark on his musical journey spanning five decades.

Among the albums he highlighted, one standout held a significant place in his evaluation: ASAP Rocky’s inaugural 2013 masterpiece, “LONG.LIVE.ASAP.”

Black Thought lauded the album for its transformative impact, christening it as the harbinger of a novel epoch in New York hip-hop. Describing its attributes, he extolled its unabashed braggadocio and Harlem-infused machismo, while also commending its genre-blurring essence. “This album bridged the chasm between the quintessential New York hip-hop aura — which was witnessing a muted phase — and the emergent stylistic trajectory represented by classic acts like UGK, 8Ball, and MJG. Rocky deftly wove a tapestry of dopeness and trill, fulfilling a pivotal role,” he articulated.

The iconic rapper also saluted Rocky’s ability to shatter creative barriers, inspiring his contemporaries to infuse a similar level of inventiveness into their craft. “For me, Rocky signaled the dawn of a new era. The shackles of artistic myopia began to crumble among New Yorkers who had been ensnared in its grip, and they adopted a fresh perspective in their creative pursuits. The ‘ASAP’ cohort exuded a palpable authenticity, and their movement resonated with me on a profound level,” Black Thought elaborated.

The resonances between their artistic personas didn’t escape his discerning eye. He identified shared facets between himself and ASAP Rocky, unveiling a significant synchronicity. “ASAP Rocky’s essence mirrors mine in certain aspects. Curiously enough, we share a birthday. His namesake, Rakim, profoundly influenced me. His disposition exudes tranquility. Yet, beyond these affinities, I hold him in high esteem for his persistent penchant for innovation,” Black Thought mused.

Beyond the realm of Rocky’s impact, Black Thought’s reflections also journeyed into the domain of Kanye West’s transformative 2008 album “808s & Heartbreak.”

“Unveiling the audacity that pervaded ‘808s,’ it was akin to a sonic revelation — a ‘What the f—?’ moment,” he exclaimed. He marveled at Kanye’s audacious fusion of creative deconstruction and reconstruction, heralding it as an embodiment of artistic courage that immortalized itself in the annals of legend. “The audacity displayed by Kanye, the audacious maneuver to dismantle and reconstruct with ‘808s,’ commands admiration. It embodies the stuff of myth and lore,” Black Thought acclaimed.

However, even amidst his admiration for Kanye’s musical odyssey, Black Thought acknowledged a growing disconnection with the trajectory of the “Heartless” rapper’s journey. The tide of his musical evolution has witnessed him drifting away from the shores of resonance. Black Thought attributes this shift to a variety of factors, including the rapidity of Kanye’s creative output and the pressures of constant reinvention. “Perhaps the frequency at which Kanye churns out his art and the relentless pace he has to maintain play a part. The assembly-line approach he appears to have embraced, reminiscent of the Motown paradigm, proves efficacious. I hesitate to say anything is lost, but sometimes the focal identity becomes obscured,” he deliberated.

Black Thought’s discerning perspective also highlighted the evolving collaborative dynamics within Kanye’s work, a transformation he views with nuanced introspection. “The central essence, the nucleus that it’s meant to encapsulate, occasionally gets overshadowed. The aura of Kanye, the distinct persona, sometimes retreats behind the looming shadows of an ensemble comprising various writers, producers, and contributors. The Kanye I once resonated with has, in a sense, undergone a metamorphosis,” Black Thought reflected.

In these reflections, Black Thought unveiled a multifaceted understanding of musical evolution and the intricate interplay between creativity, identity, and the passage of time.

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