Album Review: A$AP Rocky ‘Long.Live.A$AP’

nick porcaro lives long and prospers…

asap

A$AP Rocky may just be the luckiest man in hip-hop. Just over a year ago he signed a $3 million deal with Sony/RCA despite having nothing new to say as a rapper. Now he’s one of the most buzzed-about names in the game. So what’s the deal with A$AP Rocky?

 

It’s simple: the dude has a golden ear. His 2011 mixtape Live.Love.A$AP introduced people other than Lil B diehards to producer Clams Casino, an unassuming medical student from New Jersey with a penchant for flipping Imogen Heap samples into sweltering waves of gorgeous melancholy. Casino’s beats turned heads on standout tracks like “Palace” and “Bass“. They weren’t enough to make the mixtape a must-listen, though, as its latter half dissolved into a murky haze of weed tracks and bland brags. Live.Love.A$AP was too boring to justify a 54-minute runtime.

Fortunately for us, Long.Live.A$AP doesn’t suffer that problem. Rocky employs enough dynamic shifts over twelve tracks to forgive a lack of substance, if momentarily. The title track starts off strong with a thunderous rumble, as minor-key stabs sputter across the stereo while Rocky rips into consonants like he’s from Houston. First single “Goldie” is similarly impressive, with a gutter beat from latest go-to producer Hit-Boy and giddy, stream-of-consciousness raps from Rocky:

“Cristal go by the cases, wait hold up that was racist
I would prefer the Aces, ain’t no different when you taste it
A 40 ounce to chase it, that’s just a understatement
I’m early to the party, but my ‘Rari is the latest”

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The album continues in the murky, ethereal vein of Live.Love.A$AP until the single “Fuckin’ Problems” comes out of nowhere. Every major label debut needs its requisite club track, and this one comes complete with a phoned-in 2 Chainz hook (is there any other kind?) and solid verses from Drake and Kendrick Lamar. This posse cut serves as a fun commemoration of the Club Paradise tour but doesn’t really fit an otherwise hard-hitting rap album.

The album’s other blatant attention grab, “Wild for the Night”, is a real surprise from Rocky and one of the strongest tracks here. One would think a Skrillex production credit is enough to sink all but the mightiest of rap albums but Sonny managed to kill it on this one. The notorious “brostep” poster child slowed his frantic Birdy Nam Nam remix into a dynamic, bouncing beat that effortlessly compliments Rocky’s elastic flow. Reggae guitars creep in the background as Rocky ups his cadence until the floor drops out and Skrill’s trademark synth squeals decimate your eardrums. It’s like Rocky woke up from a syrup-induced slumber ready to destroy everything in his path:

“You don’t really want that Glock, BOY
You don’t really wanna feel them shots, BOY
You a B-BOY, I’m a block BOY, I’m a D BOY, I’m a hot BOY
Six shots got me feeling like Pac boy”

 

Elsewhere, “Fashion Killa” features a cute female vocal part contrasting Rocky’s distant confidence; the beat struts and sways to match its frivolous subject matter. “1Train” has a list of features that reads as the definitive who’s who of rising rap stars: Danny Brown, Yelawolf, Joey Bada$$, Kendrick Lamar, Action Bronson and Big K.R.I.T. all brought their A-game here. It’s nigh impossible to pick the “best” verse. The closing track “Suddenly” is a nice encapsulation of Rocky’s journey to fame, as he speeds up his flow on the second verse to reflect the dizzying pace at which his life has changed:

“I remember way back when
A motherfucker used to have to borrow cash from my friends
Friends, just to put a snack up in the fridge
When I’m on I swear to God to pay you back
Now the kids all look up to me, them bitches wanna fuck with me
My idols say ‘What’s up’ to me, from ugly to comfortably
Suddenly…”

The track’s elegant and restrained beat comes with the added bonus of being Rocky’s first-ever production credit. It makes sense he would dive into production, considering how Rocky’s music is largely memorable for sound rather than its content, and the rapper may have a promising career ahead of him as a beatsmith.

Overall these tracks are solid—not counting the back-to-back duds “Hell” and “Pain”—but the end result leaves something to be desired. Long.Live.A$AP has memorable guest verses, dazzling production and catchy hooks, but few of these things have much to do with Rocky as an MC. Try not to listen too closely.

3/5 stars

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