The early 2010s were an era of hip hop I like to call “The Digital Renaissance.” At the forefront of this reinvigorating hip hop movement were rap collectives such as Odd Future, Pro Era, Black Hippy, and of course, A$AP Mob. Due to their internet popularity, all four of these rap groups managed to accumulate large fanbases despite their respective lack of radio songs and TV appearances. Now, many members from each of the aforementioned groups have changed hip hop forever and even crossed over into mainstream appeal. A$AP Mob in particular has always had mainstream appeal. Rappers have spent decades bragging about their money, women, drugs and fame, but few ever made their decadence or vices seem nearly as cool as the Mob did. Yes, most of the deserved credit for the Mob’s rise to fame is due to A$AP Rocky and his excellent debut mixtape LiveLoveA$AP, but Lords Never Worry is a pretty enjoyable listen and probably the most underrated project in the A$AP catalog. But since the Mob’s groundbreaking early 2010s run, they haven’t done much to progress past their original sound, with little more than a couple of lukewarm Rocky albums and a few extremely hit-or-miss projects from the Mob’s other standout—A$AP Ferg. I was beginning to wonder if the Mob were running out of fresh ideas and on their way to irrelevancy, but Cozy Tapes Vol. 1: Friends is a bit of a reminder of what made A$AP Mob great to begin with.
Cozy Tapes isn’t going to go down in history as a trendsetting album—it’s instead more of an album embracing some of the current trends in underground and mainstream trap—for the better and worse. This album has an abundance of highlight features from artists like Lil Uzi Vert, Madeintoyo, Playboi Carti, and Lil Yachty—rappers who are all very now. Not only do the features on this album play a big part in influencing the overall sound of the album, but most of the features outshine the Mob on these songs. There’s a reason I haven’t mentioned the other members of A$AP Mob sans recognizing Rocky and Ferg—they just don’t have quite the star power or hit-making ability to keep pace with Rocky, Ferg, or pretty much anyone else on this album. A$AP Nast and A$AP Twelvyy are fairly average rappers who don’t have the same charisma and creativity of Rocky and Ferg, and A$AP Ant raps over most of the Mob’s best production, but leaves a lot to be desired on the technical side of rapping. An advantage of any potential A$AP Mob project would be to follow the Cozy Tapes formula—predominately feature Rocky and surround him with fun non-Mob guests.
It’s not that the Mob doesn’t have good chemistry as a group, but for the most part Rocky is the difference-maker on Cozy Tapes that elevates this album above mediocre. Other than an ear for awesome production, Rocky has always been gifted at riding beats and inventing new flows. There are plenty of moments on Cozy Tapes where a vintage Rocky flow is being unleashed on a track, such as on “Crazy Brazy,” as Rocky takes the baton from Key! to spit a few off-beat tongue-twisting bars—(“Xan-man tan money bag, drag, slash bag man / Baghdad land / Talk back, get back slapped with a back hand”). Rocky’s voice, delivery, and glam rap moxie more than make up for whatever substance or even sense that he lacks in his lyricism at times.
Although Rocky appears to be in control of most songs on Cozy Tapes, there are definitely moments on this album that do well without him. “Runner” is a banger, largely due to Uzi’s hook-writing talents. “Young N***a Living” has the best Ferg feature on the album and the best beat—a brilliantly dreary cloud trap instrumental that needs to be played in your car stereo. “Put That On My Set” features the curious combination of a somewhat hostile verse from Skepta and the slowest and most subdued, but pretty instrumental on the album—but somehow it works. Skepta sort of came out of nowhere on a tracklist with mostly party songs to rap (“Man I’m ready to die, my soul’s in the sky / see the pain in my eyes”) with so much conviction that I sometimes still get chills listening to his verse.
Overall, Cozy Tapes may be unspectacular and have its fair share of filler, but it has some solid replay value and is approved for any turn up occasion.