opinion reviews

What’s the Perfect Number of Artists on an A$AP Mob Track?

Will we ever get tired of collaboration tracks? No? Good.

I think the most magical thing in music is a collaboration track. Sure, individual performances of musical talent are cool, without a doubt. But there is something special about a group of musicians doing a fusion dance and creating musical history. A collaboration track is supposed to combine the best aspects of each artist into a conglomeration of perfection. It’s like designing a 4-course meal that utilizes every food group without making you want to die at the end. It should satisfy every part of your being, bringing in different musical tastes and styles.

There is a tipping point to collaboration tracks that artists must be wary of. A track can be overloaded with too many artists, making it feel clogged, causing the song to choke itself out. On the other side, a song can be missing critical pieces that could be filled in by one or two more artists. It is tragic when a song misses out on its potential and all it needed was another artist to deliver a stellar verse or another person to do the hook.

A$AP Mob is a New York-based rap collective. They were started and led by the late A$AP Yams and are now spearheaded by fashion icon and rapper A$AP Rocky. The collective is made up of 15 guys, all having different hats in media. But that’s not the important thing here. The important thing is that they have two official studio albums, Cozy Tapes, Vol. 1: Friends and Cozy Tapes, Vol. 2: Too Cozy. Both of them are really good projects in which A$AP Mob calls upon a number of different artists to help create their art. From frequent contributors Lil Uzi Vert and Playboi Carti, to one off features Jaden Smith and Gucci Mane, they always seem to utilize other rappers talents to their greatest potential. In combination with their own in house talent, A$AP Mob has mastered the art of the collaboration track.

But when do they do it best? As life goes, some tracks are better than others. On both Cozy Tape volumes, the group enlists a varying number of artists to rap on the track. In this article, I’m going to determine what the perfect amount of rappers on an A$AP Mob track is. This will be done by going through both of their official studio albums, looking at all of the songs and splitting them up by the number of artists on the track. By looking at the quality of the songs, we will determine what is the perfect number of artists for an A$AP Mob track.

Number of Artists: 2

Tracks: “Runner” – A$AP Ant & Lil Uzi Vert, “Black Card” – A$AP Rocky & Smooky MarGielaa, “Coziest” – A$AP Twelvyy & Zack, “Nasty’s World” – A$AP Nast & Onyx, “Put That on My Set” – A$AP Rocky & Skepta

These tracks structured more like a standard feature track. They are usually led by actual member of the A$AP Mob, and they are accompanied by a featuring artist. “Nasty’s World” serves basically as an A$AP Nasty track, with him delivering two solid verses in between choruses. The chorus is rapped by Fredro Starr of the legendary rap group Onyx, so that’s fun to still see the group that gave us “Slam” still making appearances. Could it have used another verse? Maybe, but Nasty did his thing. On “Runner,” Lil Uzi Vert says the word runner a grand total of 28 times. Take that how you may, but the song featured one of the weaker verses Uzi ever delivered, and A$AP Ant would not have been able to salvage it even with a good verse. “Put That on My Set” featured the leader of the group, A$AP Rocky, and one of the best things to come out of England since Harry Potter. Rocky brings one of his best verses and Skepta serves as a perfect foil to Rocky’s laid back style with his gritty, heavy-handed grime style. “Black Card” features one of my favorite artists ever, and also A$AP Rocky. The song only goes for 2 minutes, basically serving as a showcase for Smooky MarGielaa, who gave a really good verse to open the track. He then passed it to Rocky, who then proceeded to mail it in compared to the 15 year old Bronx Native. With “Coziest,” we were gifted a full song from the best rapper in the group, A$AP Twelvyy. Featuring artist Zack was basically non-existent, only providing ad-libs. That’s fine though, because we got a full Twelvyy track.

For tracks that have two artists, A$AP Mob uses them more as solo records for their members. That’s cool and all, but there is definitely an element missing when they only enlist a pair of rappers for a song. There is not enough cushioning for a bad performance, that is too much to ask of only one other rapper. This is not the perfect number of rappers for an A$AP Mob track.

Number of Artists: 3

Tracks: “Crazy Brazy” – A$AP Rocky, A$AP Twelvyy & Key, “Young N***a Living” – A$AP Ferg, A$AP Ant & Twelvyy “Money Man” – A$AP Rocky, A$AP Nast & Yung Lord, “London Town” – A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ant & Playboi Carti, “Please Shut Up” – A$AP Rocky, Key & Gucci Mane, “Byf” – A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ant & Smooky MarGielaa, “Frat Rules” – A$AP Rocky, Playboi Carti & Big Sean

This is where A$AP Mob begins to have more fun on their tracks. With the addition of another artist, there is a greater range of styles on the song. On “Crazy Brazy,” we get a fast paced display from two of the Mob’s finest, producing maybe the best song on Vol. 1. Twelvyy solidified himself as the best rapper in the group on this track, with Key providing a fabulous ear worm of a chorus. Two things about “Young N***a Living”: (1) it starts off with two amazing samples, Todd falling off the map in Mario Kart on N64 and Yoshi getting hit by a shell in Mario Kart, (2) Ferg, Ant, and Twelvyy all did a really solid job with their verses. Could have added another person for the chorus, but it was still good. On “Money Man,” A$AP Rocky carried most of the track, taking up about 1:59 of the song’s 3:32, leaving less real estate for Nasty and Yung Lord to operate. With “London Town,” we got a solid effort from Ant, an abridged, lackluster verse from Playboi Carti, and an okay one from A$AP Rocky to create an average A$AP Mob track near the end of Vol. 1. “Please Shut Up” arrives with lengthy performances from all 3 artists on the track. None of them go out of their comfort zone, resulting in a fun, safe track. “Byf” once again features my adopted son Smooky flawlessly gliding over the track after Ant starts it off with a half decent verse. Rocky only does the hook, so I guess that’s fine. “Frat Rules” has a Big Sean verse, so it’s automatically wack.

The 3 artist track is where A$AP Mob begins to hit their sweet spot. As I said before, adding one more artist can do wonders for the Mob. If the combination is correct, this set of songs are among the best. But again, a bad performance can sink the track. That being said, 3 artists is not in the running for the perfect number of artists on an A$AP Mob track.

Number of Artists: 4

Tracks: “Way Hii” – A$AP Rocky, Wiz Khalifia, BJ the Chicago Kid & Buddy, “Bachelor” – A$AP Rocky, Lil Yachty, MadeinTYO & Offset, “Telephone Calls” – A$AP Rocky, Tyler, the Creator, Playboi Carti & Yung Gleesh, “Perry Aye” – A$AP Rocky, A$AP Nast, Playboi Carti & Jaden Smith

While writing this article, it dawned on me that Cozy Tapes, Vol. 1 was very A$AP Rocky heavy. I guess they felt as though they had to jam him onto every track because that was the name that people would gravitate towards. But they seemed to chill with that on Cozy Tapes, Vol. 2, which is definitely a positive because they are chockfull of talent. But anyway, “Way Hii” incorporated more vocal talent with Buddy and BJ the Chicago Kid, adding a welcomed sense of variety and range. It added another dimension to their music that had not been seen before. “Bachelor” had two members of the 2016 XXL Freshman class and Offset to help A$AP Rocky on the track. The Yachty verse was a little light and underdone, but the MadeinTYO verse was dope as the beat seemed to be made for him. Oh, and Cardi B’s husband did some ad-libs. “Telephone Calls” is the favorite track off of Vol. 1 for many A$AP Mob fans, as it features a lengthy Tyler, the Creator verse, which provides the devastatingly fun duo of Tyler and Rocky. The track finishes off with Yung Gleesh doing his now viral Gleesh Walk, which is music to this DMV native’s hears. “Perry Aye” was the first actual song from Vol 2., with Jaden Smith delivering a distorted chorus, bringing about a darker tone. Not much went into this song, with very short verses from all involved.

Usually, the A$AP Mob formula is: more artists = better songs. That rings true here, as they ventured outside of their in-house talent, widening the scope of their music. It brought in new styles, adding new dimensions to their music. The diversity of style brought to these songs made them better than songs that had 2 artists. It is in the running for perfect number of artists on an A$AP Mob track.

Number of Artists: 5

Tracks: “Blowin’ Minds (Skateboard)” – A$AP Rocky, A$AP Nast, A$AP Ant, Chief Keef & Playboi Carti, “Walk on Water” – A$AP Twelvyy, A$AP Ant, A$AP Nast, A$AP Ferg & Playboi Carti, “Feels So Good” – A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg, A$AP Nast, A$AP Twelvyy & A$AP Ant, “RAF” – A$AP Rocky, Playboi Carti, Quavo, Lil Uzi Vert & Frank Ocean

Quick side note here: I have typed Playboi Carti’s name almost as much as I have typed A$AP Rocky’s name. He has to be the most featured artist for any A$AP Mob song, like ever.

Cozy Tapes, Vol. 2 most frequent number of artists used is 5. It served them well, as some of their strongest songs are in this category. “Blowin’ Minds” was not one of them, as the highlights were the Chief Keef ad-libs and the A$AP Nast verse. “Walk on Water,” which is one of the hardest songs I have ever heard, is a prime example of the potential power of a 5 artist track. It featured three of the best rappers from group, Twelvyy, Nast, and Ferg, with haunting production combining with unmatched confidence to create a top-notch track. On “Feels So Good,” we get a more subdued collaboration. The track acts as low-fi hip hop track, changing the tone of the album, displaying the range of members. “RAF” may be the perfect example of what happens when you use everyone’s talents to perfection. Only featuring one member of the A$AP Mob, they call upon rap superstars to round out Vol. 2. Each member killed their verse, with the highlight being the Frank Ocean verse(s)*, who quietly is one of the best rappers in the game.

*Depending on if you listen to the single or album version. The album version has an extra Frank verse in between Lil Uzi Vert and Playboi Carti.

5 is a really good number for A$AP Mob. There are enough artists to fill any potential holes left by less than stellar performances. When each artist does their job, they produce some of their best work. 5 artists is in the running for the perfect number of artists on an A$AP Mob track.

Number of Artists: 6

Tracks: “Yamborghini High” – A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ant, A$AP Ferg, A$AP Nast, A$AP Twelvyy & Juicy J, “FYBR” – A$AP Twelvyy, A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ant, A$AP Ferg, Key & Playboi Carti

We’ve reached a zone where the number of artists seems a tad ridiculous. You would think that when we reach 6 or 7, a track would get choked and crowded by the sheer number of bodies on it. But that is the magic of A$AP Mob: they seem to get better as their numbers grow. “Yamborghini High,” the magnum opus of the Mob, the tribute track to their late superior, is a celebratory track. It is one of the best ones that have done, and it does its job and letting the prominent members of the group pay tribute to A$AP Yams. Each rapper had an ample amount of time to showcase their skills. “FYBR” is a remix of Twelvyy’s song “L.Y.B.B.,” the prophetical track about never being broke again. It was alright, and it served its purpose as a bridge towards the last part of the album.

“Yamborghini High” is a perfect song, this much is true. But “FYBR” is well behind in terms of quality. There are only two tracks that have 6 artists, and even with the strength of “Yamborghini High,” it is not enough to carry the category to victory. 6 artists is not the perfect number of artists for an A$AP Mob track.

Number of Artists: 7

Tracks: “Get the Bag” – A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg, A$AP Ant, A$AP Nast, A$AP TyY, Playboi Carti & Smooky MarGielaa, “Bahamas” – A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg, A$AP Twelvyy, Lil Yacthy, Key, Schoolboy Q & Smooky MarGielaa, “What Happens” – A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg, Joey Bada$$, Kirk Knight, Nyck Caution, Meechy Darko & Zombie Juice

The more the merrier for sure. When I was going through this article, I truly thought that the perfect number would be three or four artists. But now we are here at 7, which makes a strong case for the top spot. On “Get the Bag,” we get a sneak peek into the very best that each rapper has to offer. The 4:17 allows for each verse to be fully developed, giving each rapper the room to work. There is something magical about having all of the members of the Mob on the track. They  all go in over a foreboding, trance-like beat. Structurally, it is like each rapper is a leg in the 400m relay race. With “Bahamas,” we get 50m sprints from each artist. Even with the shorter song length, we are still blessed with the full scope of each rappers’ talent. It doesn’t feel like we’re missing anything, with a number of different styles and flows taking shape over the bouncer beat. “What Happens” may be the most New York track they’ve ever made, calling on Pro Era and members of Flatbush Zombies. What is fun about this track is that a couple of artists are able to perform multiple, unique verses, filling up the entire song. There are no holes in this track due to the repeating appearances.

It seems as though the old adage that less is more does not apply to the A$AP Mob. The freedom to call upon more talent serves them well. They restrict themselves with their creativity and range by using less artists. Why wouldn’t you invite all of your talented friends to the party? 7 artists is in the running for the perfect number of artists on an A$AP Mob track.

The choice for perfect number of artists is between 4, 5, and 7. Other collaboration attempts by other rap entities have shown that more artists lead to a crowded track (see “Champions” – Kanye West, et. al). But A$AP Mob has proved differently. The tracks with 7 artists display their best variety and range. It allows them to use all the best parts of their friends and own talent. Giving them ample room to work is the key. If you leave each rapper with enough space, they will be able to adequately kill it. It is like when you have 7 talented players on the soccer pitch. You want to give them enough space to work, and you would rather have all the talent available to you then only have a few. Out of all the songs on the two albums, the tracks with 7 are the best quality on average. Therefore, 7 artists is the perfect number of artists on an A$AP Mob track.

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