One of the many beauties of hip hop is its ability to adapt. Over my brief and wondrous life of 23 years, I’ve watched it change from a niche genre to one with international appeal, from a symbol of inner-city poverty to an emblem of urban wealth. Despite its radical transformation, I love to be a little nostalgic every now and then, ignore the blinding presence of Kanye or the splendor of Jay-Z and remember those that did all the dirty work to get rap music to where it is today.
A$AP does that wonderfully in his video for “Angels,” although probably not intentionally. He has all the hallmarks of the rap videos that would make your mother scoff and frown when she found you watching them on MTV. It has A$AP’s crew looking intimidating, shirts off, gold grills displayed, ridiculous gesticulations abundant. It has over-the-top self-promotion and illusions of grandeur pasted messily over images of urban decay. It has depictions of crime, counting money, and tons of drug references.
A$AP has taken all of these classic elements and removed the veneer of high production, adding a sense of realism that is, honestly, kind of scary for a little white boy like myself. Yes, this video lacks all the high fashion sexiness of Kanye, or the political rightiousness of Macklemore, but that, my friends, is exactly why we love it.