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Review: A$AP Mob - 'Cozy Tapes, Vol. 1: Friends'
‘Cozy Tapes Vol. 1: Friends’ is Harlem-formed hip-hop collective ASAP Mob's second mixtape release. The project brings together ASAP Rocky, ASAP Twelvyy, ASAP Ant, ASAP Ferg and ASAP Nast. It also boasts guest appearances from non-Mob members Juicy J, Wiz Khalifa, BJ The Chicago Kid and Skepta.
Style is often as important as content on ‘Cozy Tapes Vol. 1: Friends’.
‘Cozy Tapes Vol. 1: Friends’ attempts to toe the line between flashy charisma and actual substance - and to be fair, it only occasionally loses its footing.
Enduring depth could’ve easily been achieved if ASAP Mob elaborated on the aftershock of the mixtape’s main inspiration, cover star, and co-founder ASAP Yams passing away early last year at the age of 26 from a accidental mixed-drug overdose.
Instead, the boys offer up a relentless onslaught of flair, self-possession and fiery ambition in his memory.
ASAP Rocky has compared ‘Cozy Tapes Vol. 1: Friends’ to Ruff Ryders’ ‘Ryde or Die Vol. 1’ and The Diplomats’ ‘Diplomatic Immunity’.
The title of the track ‘Way Hii’ more straightforwardly describes the overall disposition of ASAP Mob's latest.
While making money, getting incredibly high and screwing women are still the collective’s main objectives, the record’s line-up of huge hip-hop personalities is its real attraction.
The project’s collaborations entertainingly showcase the different wavelengths the individual rappers sit on, whilst banding them all together as a unit.
In general, the Mob and their guests sound like they’re all on the same page, share the same vision and are happy to give each other the time to do their own thing. ‘Cozy Tapes Vol. 1: Friends’ is packed with genuine, wavy camaraderie.
Plus, the mixtape’s tracklist of intense trap beats and subdued, non-invasive, untroubled melodic loops strengthen the Mob’s musical manifesto.
The underside of the Mob’s lit, hazy sensibility is that some of the rappers’ performances go beneath chilled, and slip into bland - ‘Cozy Tapes Vol. 1: Friends’ isn’t completely free of that.
Still, ASAP Rocky operates comfortably as the group’s frontman - and on a mixtape as colourful as this one, it’s an impressive feat.
Wiz Khalifa and ASAP Rocky trade rap bars with each other on the previously-mentioned ‘Way Hii’, and the result isn’t as cluttered as it could be on paper. United by their mutual love of marijuana, Khalifa’s slides comfortably into the Mob’s agenda.
Shouting out his often-referenced, much-missed Grandma, ASAP Ferg attention-grabs on ‘Young Ni**a Living’.
Spitting dauntlessly over the tune’s grinding, mid-tempo beats, Ferg gives ‘Young Ni**a Living’ a shakedown - he wakes it up a little. ASAP Twelvyy and ASAP Ant on the other hand are admittedly easier to overlook.
Backed by New York hip-hop group Oynx on its chorus, ASAP Nast gladly takes centerstage on highlight ‘Nasty’s World’.
‘Nasty’s World’ kicks off with a goofy, very animated recording of the guys on the streets of New York, trying to figure out the best way to cause the most mischief that night.
Making use of an Outkast sample and James Brown classic ‘It’s A Man’s World’, the old-skool feel of the tune is easy to get on board with. Its instrumental is built, multi-layered and reinforced by Nast’s wilder, coarse rap delivery.
A possible indication of his ever-growing creative confidence, ASAP Rocky commendably steps out of his comfort zone for ‘Put That On My Set’.
He never sounds as settled over the cut’s sedated beatwork as guest London grime star Skepta does. Yet, there’s definitely something inviting about the track’s grinding, creeping, trouble-free aura.
ASAP Rocky returns to what he knows best on ‘Money Man’. With the lyrical focus firmly on cash and fine females, the emcee is poised over it’s comparatively uncomplicated, piano-licked beatwork. This track feels especially tight.
Touching briefly upon the apparent similarities between New York’s Harlem and London, the Mob re-affirm their love for England’s capital city on ‘London Town’.
It remains to be seen if Atlanta’s Playboi Carti can carry his showmanship through an official long-length release, still, he impacts unmistakably with just a brief verse on ‘London Town’.
Lil Uzi Vert is the breakout star of ‘Runner’, the Philly-born rapper is quick and speedy over the tune’s tougher instrumental.
The song is repetitive, like a chant - and Lil Uzi Vert basically spends three minutes psyching himself up.
As he rhymes about chasing paper and messing around with lesser guys’ women, the emcee’s confidence is palpable. ASAP Ant’s weighty, more stabilised rap presence is needed towards the song’s climax though, he unintentionally grounds ‘Runner’.
The video-game loops that dance within the background of deep-rooted trap highlight ’Bachelor’ provide the cut with an playful immediacy.
On a side note, Lil Yachty and MadeinTYO sound way younger than they actually are on the tune. Yachty’s dispassionately bizarre, off-key bars slide over the track’s zany, perky instrumental particularly well though.
Successfully balancing ASAP Rocky’s dizzy, murky, hedonistic lean, Migos’ Offset injects biting rap delivery into ‘Bachelor’.
The vibey, loose ’Telephone Calls’ is split into rough sections that are separated by nonsensical, off-the-cuff quips and unpressured banter from A$AP Rocky, who impacts a little too relaxedly during his first verse.
Filling one of the track’s guest spots, Tyler, The Creator’s intense and alerted rap tone boldly slices through the tune’s cut-and paste insanity.
Most of ‘Telephone Calls’ feels spontaneous. While Tyler, The Creator and ASAP Rocky puff their chests, Playboi Carti and Yung Gleesh spend most of it chanting feverishly.
‘Telephone Calls’ can get disjointed, however, it becomes clear early on that the cut is not interested in playing by any of the rap, trap or hip-hop rulebooks.