For one of 2016’s most anticipated projects, Cosy Tapes Vol One: Friends has enjoyed a fittingly tantalising prelude. A scattering of singles, a visual project directed by A$AP Rocky that’s been bubbling on the periphery for long enough. Finally dropped on Halloween, Cosy Tapes has been on repeat since: an exhilarating demonstration of an adroit collective fulfilling its immense, often overwhelming, potential. It’s been four years since A$AP Mob released their debut mixtape, Lords Never Worry, and the difference in consistency is tangible. Lords was a project packed with talented rappers but lacking in focus; for each ‘Persian Wine’ there was a ‘Gotham City’, and production often leaned towards the generic trap aesthetic, flowing without provoking. Granted, it gave the world A$AP, but there was omnipresent impression that they could do better. Thankfully, Cosy Tapes delivers.
More recently, breakout stars A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg released their sophomore albums; again, they hinted at greatness, with both projects fatally undermined by the roaring success of their first studio records (however, Rocky’s At. Long. Last. ASAP debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, so it would be misleading to deny the album’s popular appeal).
Cosy Tapes manages to facilitate the impossible: give each A$AP a member a platform to shine without overshadowing their contemporaries. The feat is even more impressive when considering the calibre of guest artists.
Opening with the A$AP Yams tribute ‘Yamborghini High’, Cosy Tapes smoothly showcases the A$AP prestige, with Rocky operating as the near omnipresent lyrical anchor. ‘Crazy Brazy’ is testament to this effortless excellence. “Talk back, get back slapped with a back hand Black man, black hand side anti everything since Yams died” spits Rocky in microseconds, while A$AP Twelvyy follows it up with stellar verse, solidifying this sense of an album defined by unity.
‘Young N***a Living’ leaps out as a hazy, lean fuelled ode to life, Canadian producer DJ Smokey proving the chopped and screwed beat which simultaneously sedates and sparks. Twelvvy continues to enhance his rep with a hedonistic hook, whilst Ferg pointedly juxtaposes his words to the self-indulgence: “I want to be clean but the world is so tainted… Ain’t it?” ends his verse, the conscious, dichotic lyrics mirroring the fluttering duality of the beat.
A$AP Nast, arguably the Mob’s most natural rapper, continues to frustrate by sitting on material; despite headlining a world tour, his discography remains a list of features, albeit an impressive one. Sampling James Brown’s ‘It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World’ in the aptly titled ‘Nasty’s World’ is a masterstroke, and his rhythm is irrepressible. His second verse was heard in the A$AP ‘Funk Flex Freestyle’, and although it flowed over Biggie’s iconic ‘Who Shot Ya’, it excels in ‘Nasty’s World’: “My squad the best, a bunch of lyrical soldiers just Roc-A-Fella, Hov-a-sclupture”. Cosy Tapes closes with its tightest number, ‘Telephone Calls’ featuring no other than Tyler, The Creator. Growing out his verse with typical panache, the OFWGKTA (Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All) founder provides a suitably feverish end to what is a dazzling showcase of talent.