Long. Live. A$AP (Album Review)

A$AP Rocky

By Damanjit Lamba & Brandon Bastaldo

A$AP Rocky‘s Live.Love.A$AP bound us to every move by the A$AP Mob, and when “Goldie” dropped last April, fans were psyched for Rocky’s ascent with this very promising follow-up. Unfortunately, RCA’s numerous antics with the release date caused the young Harlem rapper’s hype to hit a plateau —Long. Live. A$AP was pushed from a summer 2012 release all the way to the New Year. With the release date finally upon us, we can confirm that A$AP Rocky’s debut studio album stands strong amid all the drama, even absolving RCA of its less-than-professional take on a PR stunt.

Opening with the title track “Live Long A$AP”, it’s clear that our boy A$AP’s got legacies on his mind. A$AP’s production budget clearly got a decent boost, and thankfully his penchant for experimentation didn’t falter as a result. Weaponized loops alongside a credible high-pitched chorus line makes for a weird kind of morbid bliss.

“PMW (All I Really Need)” plays out A$AP’s version of Kendrick Lamar‘s “The Recipe”, except instead of “women, weed, and money” A$AP’s top three motto is “pussy, money, weed.” While this 24-year-old’s subject matter isn’t ground-breaking, the smooth instrumentals and Schoolboy Q‘s bars make this track a non-offender.

“LVL” and “Hell” see the return of A$AP’s main beatsmith, Clams Casino. When he’s not knee-deep in textbooks, Clams likes to indulge in his ‘hobby’ and we love that he keeps with it. Clams’ signature celestial vision and otherworldly stutters mesh perfectly with A$AP’s easy exhibitionism. Their relationship has an affability you don’t see too often. “Hell” purposely sacrifices sonic clarity until the main hook hits and Santigold‘s capricious notes ignite the beat from within, brandishing a deceptively warm tinge to the track.

I wouldn’t be surprised if “Fuckin Problems” was crafted solely to dominant the club scene in 2013, and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Featuring a who’s who of hip hop in 2012, 2 Chainz serves up “complex” puns while Drake, Kendrick and A$AP reveal their disparate styles of bravado when talking-up the female form. The stand out credit on this track has to be the one for C. Papi, aka Champagne Papi, aka Drake’s producer alias. We can probably assume that Toronto’s favourite rapper benefited from “40’s hand holding in the sound booth.”

Drake in Fuckin' Problems

The video treatment of “Fuckin Problems” is probably the least interesting in the Long. Live. A$AP visual queue. Rocky and Kendrick show up on set as twinsies while Drake overcompensates with annoying hand gestures. Take in sped up footage rapid cuts that amplify every woman’s moves, and you have a headache-inspiring gem on your hands.

While it’s refreshing to see the Rocky is really trying to broaden his style with names of artists like Florence and the Machine front woman Florence Welch and Santigold in the album liner, but there are no words to describe Skrillex’s appearance on the track listing. A$AP’s known for making swaggy goon music– new age Dipset really– and Skrillex for rocking sold out stadiums crammed with 16-year-old’s on their first MDMA trips, so it’s only fair to say that their collaboration on “Wild for the Night” certainly turns out to be…interesting. Rapping in and out of voice distortion over the beat for Skrillex’s remix o fBirdy Nam Nam’s “Goin’ In”, I’ll admit that “Wild for the Night” turns out to be a successful amalgamation of Rocky’s thugged out, Harlemite-glitz and Skrillex’s ADHD, dub-step flow making possibly one of the first commercial “trill-step” tracks. It’s also the second song off of Long. Live. A$AP to be partly mixed by A$AP under his unabashed producer moniker LORD FLACKO.

As the simple, looped beat for “Train” rolls, and Rocky’s crooning-thug braggadocio bleeds all over the mic, it’s true that this track doesn’t immediately stand out as an obvious banger on Long. Live. A$AP. But if you check the liner notes, and notice that nearly every hip hop heavy hitter—except T.O.’s very own stud-turned-rapper Drizzy—has been packed into this six 6 minutes and 12 second flavour injection, you’d be smart to listen to Rocky when he warns “don’t be scared nigga, is you ready?”.

Chalk it up to the undeniable fact of Rocky’s bustling popularity, or him just knowing the right people, “Train” hears Compton California native Kendrick Lamar, Brooklynite Joey Bada$$, Alabama’s Yelawolf, Motor City’s ODB-reincarnate rapper Danny Brown, Queens representer Action Bronson and Mississippi’s “King to be Remembered” Big K.R.I.T. all on one track. Flipping back to a time when a major hip hop release wasn’t certifiable without a jam session by the most colourful and creative in the game, it’s the lo-pro beat and amped up lyrics on “Train” that this Hit Boy produced track easily one of the most impressive MC cabals since Ghostface Killah, Raekwon and Nas came together for “Verbal Intercourse” on Raekwon’s 1995 East Coast classic Only Built 4 Cuban Linx.

Screaming out “and I’m thinkin’ bout singning to the ROC/ but my niggas on the block/ still assigned to the Roc”, its young Joey Bada$$ who’s panache wafts the strongest on this concoction of talent.

One of the greatest triumphs that A$AP has had so far is generally rising above expectations of the would-be, mix-tape rapper only to prove that his self-proclaimed “jiggy nigga” steez can ride any beat. But as the heavily synthed, 80’s neon-sounding beat for “Fashion Killah” plays, we get one of the weakest tracks to hear Pretty Flacko wilfully rhyme over. We get it Rocky, you know all about high fashion. But while the rapper dishes about his dream designer girl and lists off names like Chanel and Isabel Marant left right and center, the A$AP lord ensures that this song will come back to bite him in the ass.

Considering Rocky’s still trying to clear up rumours about him wearing ‘a dress’ while on a visit to 106 and Park in late 2012, the title “Fashion Killah” may be more appropriate than ever. While I don’t agree with the hip hop community’s generally homophobic response to Rocky’s fashion choices, I do think that he should be promptly hiring a new stylist for 2013, because no matter how many “Fuckin’ Problems” you and Drake have, the truth is that “motherfuckers” do NOT “wanna dress like you.”

“Pheonix” hears Rocky getting all philosophical and has the self-proclaimed “Basquiat-Picasso” calling out names of dead celebs like Kurt Kobian and Michael Jackson on this track that sounds like hip hop infused recording of one of Rocky’s visits to the psychiatrist. Looks like Rocky was going for an emotional, heartfelt track reminiscent of the Notorious B.I.G.’s “Suicidal Thoughts”, but unfortunately for “Pheonix”, we only hear this Danger Mouse produced track dribble into a sloppy amalgamation of his demons and fears of failure. Worse yet, Rocky’s team up with Danger Mouse to make this sauntering, sensitive piece turns out as the inferior to one of the best existential hip hop tracks of 2011: Rocky’s own “Demons” prod. by his old faithful Clams Casino.

Probably the best thing about Long. Live. A$AP is that the album wraps up nicely, and Rocky’s final track “Suddenly” hears the Harlem rapper attempting some sort of conscious rap, even if he doesn’t want to admit it. Bragging “fuck the conscious crap/ a mack could push your conscious back” only to soon after thoughtfully preach “you my brotha/ you my kin/ fuck the colour of your skin.” As one of the heaviest, head bobbing bangers, co-produced by Rocky’s mob faithful A$AP Ty Beats, “Suddenly” elevates from an A cappella closer-track to being an eerie, swagged out expose on the differences between Rocky’s life, now and then. It’s the stark work on “Suddenly” that pushes Rocky’s track closer to being something of our generations’ “Memory Lane (Sittin’ in Da Park)” or “Juicy”.

With four bonus titles on the Deluxe edition of Long Live A$AP, Pretty Flacko brings the total track listing up to 16 and gives us our bang for our buck in this age when many rappers struggle to keep your attention after song five. But after listening to “Jodye”, “Ghetto Symphony, “Angels” and “I Come Apart”, the real deal behind this surplus becomes more obvious. Ranging from replications of the haunted-city rap we got on tracks like “Gotham City” and “Choppas on Deck” off of the A$AP Mob’s earlier 2012 release Lords Never Worry, songs like “Jodye” and the indie injected vibes of “I Come Apart” don’t quite sit flush with the ‘Harlem of the 21st Century’ vibe that the rest of Long. Live. A$AP boasts. But still, who ever thought we’d hear Gunplay on a song sampling Frou Frou? Now that’s amazing.

Daman’s Top Three Tracks

“Fuckin’ Problems”- The new “Rack City” — called it! So bad it’s good, the hook will stay with you a lot longer than you’d like to admit.

“Goldie”- In a single word, untouchable. Still incredibly fresh for a track we’ve been killing time with since last April.

“LVL”- The backing instrumentals are fighting just as hard for your attention, and they’ll likely win too.

Brandon’s Top Three Tracks

“Train”-Taking us back to the 90’s with this serious, hip hop king pin collaboration and does not fumble with even one lame verse.

“Wild for the Night”- Sure to replace LMFAO and Lil Jon’s “Shots” at every sorority and frat house in 2013.

“Suddenly”- A great example of the flare that has made A$AP the man to work with for 2012 and easily the best way that Long. Live. A$AP could have ended.

Long. Live. A$AP is available on ITunes today.




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