A/D Rocky – Ashton Davis
A/D Rocky – Ashton Davis – Album Review
“Do not go easy but stay constructive…”
Fuuuuuuck. Show me ONE person that wants to be told how to do the job they do every single day.
Anyhow. “Life’s A Bitch,” as A/D Rocky would tell ya himself, so I suppose I gotta roll with it. Love the way this record starts out with a purposeful ‘mistake’ threaded into the beginning as A/D Rocky gets the beginning of his brand-new album flowin.’ Solid jazzy beat to go with this autobiographical tale of what this dude’s been through in his childhood…which clearly ain’t pretty. “Fuck dependent women” he says, and I’m not quite sure what to tell ya other than I understand where he’s coming from as a dude that has had eight moms & dads within his lifetime. At least somewhat…I’d dial it out so that it’s not so gender specific personally and say fuck ALL dependent people, but maybe that’s just me. Sometimes you gotta write about what you’re going through in order it to get through it – I know I did – and I’ve yet to feel bad about the decision to put my truth out there into the wide open, so I can’t imagine why A/D Rocky would either. We live with consequences. With hooks and bass-lines on-point, there’s no doubt that “Life’s A Bitch” comes from a vitriolic place of anger at the end of the day, but at the same time, A/D’s got a genuine story to tell that’s legitimate…this track is the story of what he’s been through to get to where he’s at today. For those of you with broken families this is likely more relatable than you think.
“This dick isn’t fuckin’ free?” Good lord I miss being young. I’d definitely give my dick away for free, that shit has been USED, you feel me? The thing is like a beat-up jalopy model of what a dick SHOULD be at this point…but I’m old now. “Get High” works well…A/D Rocky will get you chuckling at the end of this track for sure if you haven’t been at points all the way through, as he confesses “I’m not a druggie. I’m just smokin’ all the weed so there’ll be none left for your niece. Thank me later. I am a goddamn hero.” You gotta respect the commitment y’all. This dude’s out there doin’ the WORK, makin’ sure to charge for some dick, smoke your stash out of respect for your family members…they should have a picture of A/D Rocky up in every city hall across America I tell ya…this dude’s made of the stuff of legends. While there’s probably more of a chance of the man being in character than he’ll let on, his faded style of delivery is more than convincing. If he IS that blasted AND that focused, he’s living the American dream of being able to do the job he wants to do while being wasted AF & I’d fully salute the man for it, 100%. For real…when this dude wants to be funny, he is beyond funny, and I am fully here for it when he is.
“I beat my dick to my reflection in the fuckin’ mirror…” Alright? He’s edging himself towards that space Lil’ Dicky has carved out in Rap, not that others out there haven’t attempted similar stuff in that regard. A/D Rocky is content with his ability to be shocking and shockingly funny too…the thing is, he’s effective. At the very least, he’s effective with the majority of his attempts, know what I mean? Shocking is as shocking does…and when you’ve lived as long as I have, you’ve pretty much heard it all in some way, shape, or form…but I’ll admit, I’m digging the spin A/D’s put on this material and the personality he’s putting into it. As “Fuck Love Freestyle” started up, I’ll say this…I’m not entirely sure that every track he’s gonna create NEEDS an intro…but that’s how he’s choosing to play it at the start, and how he gets psyched-up to deliver the goods. Hard to argue with what’s working…when he snaps into his bars on “Fuck Love Freestyle” you can tell he’s got an idea, the spark required to pursue it, and the skill as well. Like all things in life & music though, the more you diversify what you do, and do your best to avoid patterns, the better things are for all parties concerned and the longer we all stick around to enjoy it.
Case in-point, “Find A Way” gives that intro-heavy style he’s rocking with a break as he just launches straight into this next track. All-in-all, this is a solid cut…it’s personal, it’s real, it’s less reliant on the shock-value aspect of A/D’s music and much more within the realm of a straight-ahead cut that’s not looking to make jokes or crack wise. Giving ya the real goods, was a smart move…it’s tracks like these that’ll earn him a different kind of credit with listeners out there. You won’t find me complaining – like he’s done by dropping the intro, he’s diversified the material as well…moves like these all count at the end of the day, and given us folks on the other side of the speakers something different…it matters. The hooks and sound are smooth, the flow is fluid…”Find A Way” has everything it needs…it’s a strong cut.
“I Loved” starts kickin’ out the soulful sounds as it begins…and this would be one of the tracks that I remember from my previous experiences in reviewing A/D’s record called Walker, which as far as I can tell, was scrapped in favor of making this album his official debut. How on earth he didn’t end up taking most of my advice on what to change up in this track, I will never know, but at the end of the day, I’m just one guy on the other side of the planet miles away and another voice shouting out into the abyss of the internet. What the fuck do I know? I advised sharpening up the tone of the main hook for this track, and A/D chose not to…ain’t nothing I can do except point out the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over & expecting different results. I feel the same way about “I Loved” as I did when it was called “Love” before more or less…to his credit, he changed up one key line that I felt was coming out problematic before, which is good, but there was still more there to smooth out too tone-wise in the hook. He also did the right thing by cutting it down from a six-minute track too…but yeah…the chorus he’s rockin’ with is still 10% shy of the tone he’s looking for…and if this is the second attempt at it, I’d probably say “onto the next one” and leave it behind…we don’t always get everything right in what we create, and sometimes the parts we really want to connect most consistently elude us. There are lots of great things about “I Loved,” but when the hook is what’s holding you back, it’s harder to recover from.
“Another thing about autism is I don’t give a shit.” #Heard. I must admit A/D…I feel pretty much the exact same way about “Autism” – on a record with eighteen tracks on it, I’d have definitely gone with a lineup of seventeen instead and left this particularly forgettable moment on the cutting-room floor. It does have a few moments & lines here and there that show a bit of potential and life in this track’s veins – but I dunno man…it’s a weird cut in the sense that it sounds like A/D is actually performing this one half-knowing it’s lacking that undeniable spark we need to make it all worthwhile. So it’s like…yeah…I guess there’s a bright-spot here & there that feels like he’s engaged with it at times, like that first major transition between the first part & the second…but if I’m being real with ya, this track sounds like he’s reading straight off the page as opposed to genuinely feeling the performance…I ain’t feeling “Autism.” Even with his hazy & faded style, it usually still feels like Rocky’s got some kind of focused direction that he’s getting at…”Autism” feels aimless and wandering and not in gear like we normally hear the man in.
“Somebody,” featuring Jorell Williams on a Kendrick Lamar tribute…works well, and I’m sure people will have no problem getting behind it…they’re sticking pretty close to the script when it comes to the hook & the delivery, changing up the words to give it an A/D spin. No real complaints from me besides the hatin’ on gay people thing being way outdated. It’s backwards thinking, and that there’s a better way for Rocky to use his words & all…but I ain’t living his life – if he’s willing to take the heat on that, that’s entirely up to him. To his credit, I’m 100% on the side of anything being up to all of us as individuals to choose what we’re offended by in a world that supposedly celebrates freedom of speech – and I ain’t offended by this, I just can’t really give that much of a fuck about lyrics that tend to get their gay-bashing on either…there’s a better use of our time…especially if it’s not something he really believes in seriously. Other than that tiny fragment, I think “Somebody” is a cut people will dig on for sure…it’s just a matter of whether or not A/D pushes the envelope too far with what he says, which he’s bound to from time to time. That’s the nature of the game when you’re trying to be controversial, or trying to be hard, but the reality is, there’s never anything to be gained by punching down though homie, ever…punch up my man. You’ll learn later on that these lines are basically designed to get a rise out of you…which I’m not saying can’t have value of its own to a degree…I’m simply saying there are other groups that deserve the wrath much more than the gay community who has already had their fair share and then some on this planet.
Let’s get depressed! For real…I stand by what I stand about choosing to get offended or not – we’ve all got that responsibility to not just automatically freak out whenever someone says something we don’t like or that we don’t think is appropriate. You’ve got A/D joking about suicide straight off the bat on “Sing About Us” – is that okay? Is that not okay? Again, for myself personally, nothing’s off the table – this dude can rap about whatever he wants to rap about…I always assume that if you’re putting something out there, you’re willing to stand behind whatever that is…I don’t have to answer for what he’s choosing to be controversial about, that’s up to him. He doesn’t even need to respond! He can choose not to be offended by what is offending other people too! That’s the beauty of it all. Do you think Eminem is staying awake every night, rocking back & forth in the corner of his living room with all the lights on, afraid that cancel culture is coming for him? SPOILER ALERT – NO. No he is not. He says what he wants to say, however he wants to say it, and lets the chips fall where they may – and Rocky’s much the same in that regard. If you’re paying close attention, half the time this dude is LAUGHING – and probably not even with us, but at us…because as a society, we take shit way too seriously. He’s out here punching cupcakes, because “he’s a good person” at the end of the day…and honestly, if you can’t figure that out despite whatever the hell A/D chose to say next, then a record like this is flying right over your head. All that being said, I like the energy he puts into his bars on this track…I’m not entirely sure that “Sing About Us” has that distinct memorable moment that’s gonna bring us running back to it for another spin, but in terms of personality…c’mon y’all…lighten up…A/D Rocky is making light of the dark.
“Imperfect” is another track I definitely remember from the last time I listened to A/D’s music – and it’s still one of the best cuts I’ve heard from the guy. This is the point that I’ve been making over the past couple tracks – punch UP like he’s doing here…go after corporations and hypocrites and all that…that’s where a mind like Rocky’s can make a serious difference. And YES…I get it…that’s not really where he’s at in life for the most part…he’s still out there to cause a ruckus and have himself a good time by making the heads of the masses explode from the things he says…I know, I know. All I’m saying is, when you listen to how smart, clever, and all-out brilliant he can be when you hear something like “Imperfect,” you really want this guy to use his superpowers for good, you feel me? I believe, if I’m not mistaken, he’s smoothed out the couple of things that weren’t quite working on this track back when I first heard it – or at the very least, I’m not hearing any flaws in this now. “Imperfect” with its killer bass-lines, insightful lyricism, grounded theme & dreamy vibes…I mean…it’s as solid as a track could ever be y’all.
Alright…so…”Represent” proves the point I’ve been making all along. You’ve got your CHOICE about what to be offended by in this lifetime. If you CHOOSE to get all worked up about something, like what appears to be rampant homophobia on many of these tracks, prepare for A/D to rip the rug out from underneath you as he admits to touchin’ all kinds of dicks and enjoying it on this track. How mad are you now? Is A/D an ally now? Is he forgiven? Are you STILL offended? You couldn’t possibly be, yet you probably ARE, because that’s generally how people work. Look…I’ll be real with ya – I always am – on a personal level, YES, I wish we got more tracks like “Imperfect” where A/D takes on the system as opposed to rappin’ about dicks & pussies and all that…but what can I say? We all gotta write about something. Do I think Rocky is going to leave topics like that behind as he gets older and more mature or whatever? Sure. No joke though, it was actually very important for him to have made “Represent” so that anyone paying attention can get a grip on where he REALLY stands. A/D is here to distort your reality…to make you uncomfortable…to spit lyrics that make you think, or make you raise your eyebrows wondering if he just said what you think he did, and I’m sure that he probably DID. Dude’s got a crazy level of skill when it comes right down to it, and it’s clear that he’s crafting bars that are wildly complex – you can hear how tough it would be to rap like he does, and ultimately, that’s his main asset going forward right now. Being controversial will likely get him noticed – but what will make the most lasting impression is when people realize he’s got the skills to back up his attitude. Again – do I think he’s got another level that he could flex and get MORE out of the platform he’s spittin’ from? YES. Fuck – are you paying attention to what I’m saying? YES I feel that way…but things don’t work that way y’all – he’ll move on from dicks and pussies when he’s READY to…but it ain’t gonna be because some hack like me told him that’s a good idea to do, I can promise ya that. If he ever does flip the script even further & head straight into Conscious Hip-Hop though…trust me, he’ll be a verifiable force to be reckoned with.
Now…a track like “Walker 2” meets you a bit halfway. You’re still gonna find out how big A/D’s dick is, because that’s hard to escape and you NEED to know that information, clearly. On the flipside, you’ll hear this whole vibe runs deeper…and ultimately, in the hook, he’s expressing some serious insight too. It’s right on that line of about as serious as you can hope an A/D Rocky track is going to ever be…we can’t ask for too much, but when he wants to flip that switch, he obviously can. I’m all about a hybrid cut like this one that’ll give us what we need, and he doesn’t need to compromise too much either, you feel me? “Walker 2” is one of the best tracks on this album if you ask me…the music is straight-up stunning – the words ultimately are too. Maybe even more crucially, where a track like “I Loved” earlier on got just about everything right but leaves us wanting a bit more outta the hooks, “Walker 2” proves this dude can nail it & add the right hint of melody when he digs in and dials in on what he wants to do. It’s a good thing he’s a fan of Kendrick because you sure can hear his influence on this record, 100%. Great rhythm, stellar hooks, brilliant music, deeper theme…you’ll find no complaints from me here.
Dude’s got a completely underrated laugh too y’all. I mean, you might already think it’s awesome, but lemme tell ya, it’s one of my favorite things about listening to this guy spit…it’s crucial really – half of the time, it’s really the only thing that actually lets us know we’re even in on the joke. That being said, I don’t know what I think about “My First” – some of this I absolutely love, some of it I’m not as sure about. Mix-wise, it’s not my favorite. Structurally, it’s freakishly brilliant in the way that part one flows into part two. Lyrically, it’s some of the best. The background is extremely clever with all the messages coming and going as he’s rapping overtop. As for using “Thank You” by Dido…I think that raises the biggest question. Don’t get me wrong…it’s not that more than one person can’t use a sample – but let’s be real here…can ANYONE out there listen to “Thank You” in any way, shape, or form, and NOT think of “Stan” by Eminem? It’s a million times more famous than Dido’s original was! My gut tells me that no matter what you might be able to bring to this sample, you’re still competing with what people naturally think about…and I don’t think there’s ever going to be a time where anyone can use “Thank You” again and bring more to it than we’ve already heard – make sense? Even when you’re crushing it and holding your own like A/D is on “My First,” it’s like the point is completely moot y’all…it’s good game before the match even starts, know what I mean? Anyone out there could do their best and give these bars everything they’ve got, and it’ll still be lost in the fog at the end of the day…Eminem conquered this mountain as hard as it could ever be done, and that is solely what the people will always remember. If anything, Rocky is reminding people they wanna listen to “Stan” again, even if they like what he’s doing on this track. “My First” is a quality cut without question, and I guarantee it’ll get overlooked for all that it contains. I don’t blame the people for that…I blame A/D for using a track he really didn’t need to use.
I would put “Yall Some Pricks” up there with the best of the best on Ashton Davis, no doubt about it – in fact, I’d be going as far as to say he should be taking a real good look at this as one of the main singles for the record and getting it the official video treatment & whatnot. Another perfect example of how he’s able to meet us halfway between serious and joking, and deliver something extremely effective. I love the fact he goes after people that talk shit about other artists on this song…there’s so much of that in the scene, where some asshole like me is busy judging someone else’s art, and yet, where’s MY latest album? I haven’t done fuck all for about a decade as an artist…but on the bright-side, at least I’ve been there. A/D is taking on even BIGGER assholes that have never done a damn thing in their life, yet wanna talk shit about how long it takes him to put together an album or whatever the fuck…”Yall Some Pricks” bitch-slaps them into the backseat where they belong, in his rearview. I don’t know exactly where the sample comes from…it’s definitely got the Post-Punk vibe to it, which is basically what I’d be listening to in any spare time I had…so while I’ll admit, there’s a chance that this specific cut has a much better chance of reaching me and my own personal taste, I swear I’m hearing universal vibes here, straight up. If you don’t think that “Yall Some Pricks” is insanely addictive, then I think we just hear music different.
Alright…so…real talk, once again. All-in-all, “It’ll All Be Over” is right up there with the best of the best in terms of its potential…it’s very similar to how I feel about “I Loved” earlier on. When we’re talkin’ about verses, “It’ll All Be Over” is basically perfection…not a thing I’d change about those parts whatsoever. As for the main hooks…much harder to say. To me, he’s got the first-half of each one right on the money, and as the title comes in, the quality becomes more questionable in the tone, or perhaps could simply be 10% stronger. He’s SO CLOSE that it’s practically a hate crime to even mention it, but yeah…it needs another run through in the booth to get where it needs to be. What makes it tougher to assess is the very end…you get that admission of Rocky’s drunken state, which then makes you pause and think, well, is that a stylistic choice he’s making in the chorus then? I’ll answer that question with this – whether it is or it isn’t, we still hear it the same way…and we don’t wanna hear some drunken singing slurrin’ it up when we’ve got verses that are so brilliantly sharp, focused, precision perfect, and professional. That’s what’s surrounding these hooks that are slightly questionable y’all…and if you’re A/D, you wanna take our ability to question anything quality-wise away. I like it in the sense that the writing and ideas work 100%…it’s just a matter of hitting it a couple more times in the booth to make refine those hooks, or farm them out to one of those hooks-for-hire (is that a hooker?). He’s capable…I’ve got full confidence he could handle his own business, but he’s got options on how he could tackle that moment. As it stands, I’m still not giving it up as it is now…”It’ll All Be Over” is a genuinely essential jam on this record.
“Superficial Joy” is a track that proves this guy gets it and that life isn’t ALL just dicks and pussies. I really like the diversity of the beats he’s chosen throughout this record…a track like “Superficial Joy” basically reveals that A/D simply needs space. It’s clearly to his advantage when there’s big definition to the beat itself, as it would be for any artist, but really, he doesn’t need much surrounding him at all to get his rhyme on…that’s what I’m saying. “Superficial Joy” has more insightful lines in it than the majority of what’s out there in the scene right now, or even on this album when it comes right down to it – this is the smarter side of Rocky, with a genuinely mature look at the impact on money vs. time vs. self vs. society…it’s a track that’s about what we need vs. what we seem to think we need. It’s the side of this guy that I think we all need to encourage to come out a little more so that he has the opportunity to take that next step into a viable career where people won’t have a choice but to take him seriously. “Superficial Joy” examines what life would be like with a full-on record deal…would that be enough to make this man happy? I think he gives you a glimpse of how it wouldn’t be. In theory, it would solve all the financial problems…but if you’re the “richest broke-ass man” in the world, then what’s it all really for? I’ll concede to ya, “Superficial Joy” ain’t gonna be the happiest song you’re gonna hear this year, but it’s probably one of the realest. Is it gonna be for everyone? Probably not. Is it as accessible as it needs to be? I don’t think it quite reaches that level either. And that’s OKAY…not every track we’re going to write is going to be THE single, or have THE most accessible hooks…in the long run, music ain’t about any of that at all…it’s about expressing yourself as the artist you are, and this track does that for A/D Rocky. You gotta read between the lines of artists like this guy to know what they’re really saying.
That being said…the best way to reach the masses, no matter what you’re looking to communicate, really is gonna be through the songs that have the most hook to’em…that’s still the reality we’re facing, and finding the balance between saying what you wanna say in a way that people will hear it is the constant battle. I feel like A/D at least puts himself in good position with smart beat selection…the music he uses to rap with always brings something to your speakers…and after that, anything else he adds genuinely fits really well. Whether or not it’s always got a main hook to revolve around, or one that is going to resonate strongly enough with the people out there…that might be more up for debate. Like, “End Of Story” for example…great cut at the end of the day, but not one that has that dynamic & inarguable reason for the people to return to it, know what I mean? If they dig their narratives and their lyricism – which they SHOULD if they’re fans of Rap/Hip-Hop – then words always play to A/D’s advantage…but if they’re the type that still need that sing-along aspect of a hook to turn up a joint, then there’s potentially still room for Rocky to evolve in his craft even further in pursuit of finding balance. In the context of length, just be careful young blood…I have preached for years about records that are longer than twelve cuts and how you need to significantly beat the odds for a perfect album for anything over ten tracks…and whenever I see eighteen, my first thoughts are usually that more objectivity is needed. Put out singles, put out EPs, put out B-sides…there are plenty of options…but when it comes to a record, you wanna make sure every moment bangs from start to finish – and that’s never easy to do.
OMG lol…”Ashtons Gospel.” This is what I’m talking about…y’all choose to be offended by whatever you want…but personally, I never stopped laughing by what this guy was saying on “Ashtons Gospel.” Anytime you’ve got the BALLS to start something out with an “alright, this is the story of how 9/11 really happened…” you’re going to get everyone in the room paying attention right away. I practically spat my coffee all over my keyboard the first time I spun my way through this track, and I never found “Ashtons Gospel” any less funny each time I spun it afterwards…it’s genius. The mammoth BALLS this dude’s got to go with that big ol’ dick…I tell ya…he’s got every right to rap about it. “Ashtons Gospel” is dank-ass comedy y’all…where the moral of the story is “do not have a big dick” – with a sample of “Mr. Sandman” playing in the distance of the background to give it that extra charm. Don’t get it twisted y’all…I’m not saying Ashton has to hang up the dick & pussy jokes forever in favor of being brutally serious…humor is something he does extremely well – as long as the audience he’s playing for is in on the joke, you feel me? That’s basically the key. I’ve got my moments where a great dick joke is the perfect part of my day – it might not be every day, but even as a dude in his forties I still know how to fuckin’ laugh like I’m the most immature person on the planet, and I NEVER want to grow up beyond thinking shit like “Ashtons Gospel” is funny…that’s the facts. If he doesn’t end up with a career as a rapper, he’s definitely got one as a comedian as far as I can tell…y’all probably need to lighten up to enjoy it, but this dude is funny AF.
I even think the funniest thing about “Ashtons Gospel” and it basically being all about his dick makes it even funnier that the very next track is called “Enlightened.” Is that an accident? VERY doubtful y’all. A/D Rocky is anything but stupid…don’t let the haziness fool ya, do not fall for his faded style…this dude is in full control even when you think he ain’t. I’m gonna stick with what I was saying though…about eighteen tracks requiring a bit more objectivity & all…because I’m right on the fence with “Enlightened” too. When you consider the final three cuts…”End The Story” being alright, “Ashtons Gospel” essentially being a skit, and “Enlightened” being decent but not necessarily one of the record’s most outstanding cuts either…that’s when you really gotta get in the lab and potentially adjust. Length only matters in dick size homie, you dig? I gotta frame things in a way that I know will reach A/D. Eighteen inches would be fantastic…but eighteen tracks doesn’t have that same effect yo. In particular, you really want to make sure that however you end a record, you basically send listeners straight back to repeat what they were just listening to…and if anything, I think Rocky’s got some space to level-up his lineups in the future to follow. Don’t get me wrong, “Enlightened” is a decent cut…but does it rival the best of the best on Ashton Davis? I don’t know if that’s as up for debate as he might like it to be. While there’s no doubt whatsoever that the majority of the material on this record would exceed most anyone’s expectations or beat half of what’s likely on their playlist right now, there’s always room to evolve, grow, and expand your craft as an artist…and sometimes, by expanding, you shrink things back to be tighter with the less is more theory. A/D Rocky’s got a solid thirteen or fourteen cuts in this lineup, maybe a couple more on one side or the other that could have been cut or still been included…the point is, when you’ve got a long dick career like he’s got in front of him, you don’t need to say it all at once.
Spread that shit out like A/D Rocky spreads yo momma out on a Friday night y’all.
Find out more about A/D Rocky at his official channel at YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/@adrocky1236
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