The amount of hype that has been building around rapper A$AP Rocky, since the release of his first mixtape Deep Purple, is enough to crush the creativity of a lesser artist.
A$AP Rocky was signed to the majors almost two years ago and has been riding a wave of discouragement ever since. Projects were scrapped, release dates were pushed back. The one shining moment was the release of the single “Goldie” last April, which reminded listeners of what the man was capable of; that is, if the business could ever get sorted out.
The album that arose from all this confusion was not the mired, conglomerated, and “Goldie”-centric mess many were expecting. Long.Live.A$AP is diverse, deep, and focused. The songs are wild and ig’nant, well-structured and potent. A$AP Rocky comes off as charismatic and confident. He sounds driven. The album does nothing but embellish and upgrade his already intriguing persona and sound.
A$AP Rocky has never been the most lyrical rapper, but at times on Long.Live.A$AP the man spits like he has things on his mind that need to be heard. “Suddenly” is the most striking example.
The song has no beat, just Rocky’s free-flowing rhymes describing his upbringing in Harlem. A$AP stops one step short of establishing himself as an enlightened socially-conscious rapper:
“Don’t view me as no conscious cat, this ain’t no conscious rap,
Fuck the conscious crap, my mac’ll push your conscience back.”
And yet he goes on to deliver a brilliant, thoughtful, and rallying message anyway:
“I only got one vision, that’s for kids in every color, religion
That listen, that you gotta beat the system, stay the fuck out the prisons.
They try to blind our vision, but we all got children and siblings,
You my brother, you my kin, fuck the color of your skin.”
He’s got to keep up the bravado even though he’s becoming a capable and talented rapper.
Seriously though, A$AP’s lyrical skill is maturing. A$AP Rocky holds his own on the posse cut “1 Train” which features every extraordinarily talented and slightly-under-the-radar rapper in hip hop right now. He still can’t touch Kendrick Lamar or Big K.R.I.T., but damn if he didn’t show a lot of the others up. That may have been the idea behind inviting all those rappers onto his album: A$AP can add some good content from those he can’t outrap, and gain some new respect by surpassing rappers that many consider lyrically gifted (i.e. Joey Bada$$ and Yelawolf).
The beats on Long.Live.A$AP are as ingenious as those on his previous mixtape. There are two Clams Casino beats on the new album which fit perfectly, as they should. A$AP Rocky and Clams Casino go together like a dry white wine and clams casino. That’s my quotable. There are also two beats from Hit Boy who just can’t miss right now. Just look at the string of wins: “Niggaz in Paris,” “Mercy,” “Clique,” “Backseat Freestyle,” and now “Goldie” and “1 Train”. Incredible.
The most surprising production feature comes from Skrillex on the track “Wild For The Night.”
A$AP Rocky really reaches outside of his comfort zone there, and it really works. I can’t wait until that song starts playing in all the clubs and bars. That beat will knock socks, tops, and bras off. Blogger Big Ghost Fase in his track-by-track review of the album said it best: “That WI WI WI WI WI WEEEOOOOOUUU WI WI WI WI WI WI WI WEEEEOOOOOUUUUU shit should be gettin on my nerves n instead I wanna wild the fuck out n throw a sofa at a muthafucka for no reason b. Shit is the future.”
One of the only missteps on the album comes in “Fuckin’ Problems” where A$AP teams up with two already well-established big players in the mainstream right now: 2Chainz and Drake.
The chorus is whack; there’s no other way to say it. The only way the songwriters could make it interesting at all was chop it up in bite-sized sections and have each of the three rappers finish each other's dim-witted sentences. A$AP’s verse shows off all his trademark vocal gimmicks, none of which bother me individually, but when they’re all thrown into a single 16-bar together they get very grating. Even a Kendrick Lamar verse, which has saved many a mediocre song, cannot save the record. In fact, Kendrick’s verse may be the weakest of all of them. It flows like he wrote the thing while slugging down Robitussin, but that doesn’t make sense because we know the man doesn’t mess around with drugs, as he stated so eloquently on his own nearly perfect major label debut good kid m.A.A.d. city.
The song shows the problem and pitfalls that rappers can have moving into the mainstream. The quality plummets. They dumb it down. Mainstream rappers can get a song on a radio with a sloppily written verse as long as it drops the names of a few luxury car manufacturers.
“Fuckin’ Problems” aside, the remaining entirety of the album is well-crafted and awe-inspiring. With Long.Live.A$AP, A$AP Rocky simultaneously debuts and cements his position as the most promising voice to lead mainstream hip hop today.
Score: 8.9 styrofoam cups and designer jeans out of 10.