Album Review: A$AP Rocky – Long.Live.A$AP

Posted: January 21, 2013 in Dyscyplynary Action, Music Review
Tags: ,

LLA

Artist: A$AP Rocky

Album: Long.Live.A$AP

Release Date: January 15, 2013

Record Label: A$AP Worldwide/Polo Grounds/RCA Records

It was the summer of 2011 when Harlem-born A$AP Rocky randomly appeared on the scene with the videos for “Purple Swag” and “Peso”. With very little material beforehand, it immediately caught the attention of the Tumblr Rap conglomerate and hip-hop blogs all over. His overall appearance and approach musically was a far cry from the familiar New York Rap sound; His flow oozed with promethanzine cups of Houston lingo before blooming into the melodic double-time nostalgic to Midwest stalwarts like Bone Thugs and Crucial Conflict. Within all of that, he also incorporated the Based Blueprint innovated by Lil B, mixing bombastic swag rap with the ethereal soundscape of lo-fi production. All of that came into the forefront with his first full body of work, Live.Love.A$AP, which received critical acclaim and an alleged $3 million deal with Sony.

In the year building up to his major label debut, Long.Live.A$AP, the release faced a few setbacks. The rumored collaboration with Lana Del Rey was withheld for the album, only to not appear at all on the tracklisting. His momentum slightly stalled with a disappointing compilation mixtape with the rest of his A$AP Mob cronies. As messy and dull that project was, it led many skeptical on whether Rocky was worth the hype at all. Well fortunately for some, A$AP finds a way to make an album that keeps his name in the spotlight though not turning heads of detractors.

The thing about A$AP Rocky is that he’s no spectacular rapper by any means. With enough time on this record, his content proves to be terse. More often you’ll hear him being “that pretty motherfucker” and girls “popping on his dick”, which happens to appear on the opening title track. The song itself is an experimental triumph however due to its murky production and Rocky’s take on a Chris Martin-esque voice for the chorus. It’s one of the early highlights that put the album on its good foot leading to Hit-Boy’s wonder of “Goldie”.

The sound overall hasn’t changed much from its predecessor, though rather expands in the sake of a crossover effect. Clams Casino returns producing two solid tracks, including the heavy “LVL”. Delivering a beat taken from the factory of “Bass”, it gives Rocky a fluid platform to mold easily in triple-time Dipset flow (Wit a strap in a backpack/When they cap cap/leave you flat, better back back). A$AP also gives an ode to women clothing brands in the vibrantly witty “Fashion Killa”, being able to decipher Tom Ford from Thom Browne while helping potential Valentine’s Day shoppers in need. Rocky has always relied more on aesthetic and natural charisma than strong songwriting and for some reason it works. He gets exposed however in the presence of his more capable features.

The biggest case would be the star-studded “Fuckin’ Problems” with 2 Chainz, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar. Rocky’s verse is all but forgotten, overshadowed by Aubrey and K. Dot’s ability to simply rap better than him. The Tumblr Rap wet dream “1 Train” turns up flat, despite a laundry list of quality MCs in Danny Brown, Big K.R.I.T., Joey Bada$$, Kendrick Lamar (again), and Action Bronson. What Rocky does get in brownie points is rapping first in all of his songs, thus saving himself from slight embarrassment. Skrillex appears for a dubstep/rap hybrid in “Wild For The Night”, which doesn’t do much favors in bringing in a smash pop hit for 2013 (but it will probably happen anyway).

Not to be deterred by his faults, A$AP pulls the rest of the album together in an interesting fashion with the soul groove introspective “Phoenix”. Produced by Danger Mouse, Rocky lets us peek into his life briefly before opening even further on the chilling “Suddenly”. Calmly starting out with Rocky rapping about cook outs, dice games, and shootouts, the track explodes at the 2:30 mark into a super double-time rags-to-riches frenzy. Intriguing that Rocky didn’t dwell deeper into his personal life much sooner, but those last two could be a good sign for future projects.

While A$AP haven’t displayed much here to prove his doubters wrong, he’s talented enough to become a big star in the modern era of Hip-Hop. He seems to know what he’s doing in structure and piecing songs together in a meticulous way, incorporating various popular rap styles in the process. Hopefully Rocky begins to open himself a little more and shows that he is anything but a palette swap of “Trill”.

Rating: 6.5/10

Highlights:

  • Long Live A$AP
  • LVL
  • Fashion Killa
  • Suddenly
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