Last year, A$AP Rocky swarmed comfortably into the game with the striking visuals for “Peso” and “Purple Swag” from his mixtape Live.Love.A$AP. Soon enough, the whole game was latched onto his each and every move. A bunch of kids from uptown introduced high fashion swag, gold teeth, Jeremy Scott Adidas and 40 ounces to a viral generation. A Houston influence of purple syrup dripped into the Harlem streets and all over your Macbook screen. And even after all that influence, we still expected Rocky to drop an album within that box. Without a doubt, it’s exceeded our expectations even if there’s a few missteps along the way.
Rocky’s first offering, “Goldie,” and the album’s second single, “Fuckin’ Problems,” which features a signature hook from 2 Chainz and verses from both Kendrick Lamar and Drake, gave something to the 106 & Park teeny bopper audience. We hadn’t heard anything of substance until the recent leak of “1 Train,” an ode to the ’90s when rappers like LL Cool J, Redman, and Big Pun would rip a collab record to shreds. Both original singles pretty much fell on deaf ears, lacking the proposed gas that would’ve taken this album up a few more notches, but “1 Train” is where things truly get intriguing. Rocky gathers a group of the most sought after current emcees (Joey Bada$$, Action Bronson, Yelawolf, and Big K.RI.T) and lets them unleash their signature darts on a simple gritty violin loop from Hit-Boy. Rocky has a touch for reaching both mainstream audiences and underground listeners, but at times he doesn’t quite reach his goal. His brimming confidence is similar to that of his predecessors, but the gun talk is hardly believable and more of an out for the steam within his chest.
Same as the early 2012 mixtape, Rocky’s production pallette on Long.Live. A$AP is pretty much flawless, grabbing everyone from frequent collaborators Clams Casino, Joey Fatt$, and A$AP Ty Beats to club maven Skrillex and Danger Mouse. Most tracks feature more than one producer, a nod to Rocky’s persistence for proper production, notably on “Fashion Killa,” where he get’s listed under the alias Lord Flacko for a production credit. While the album’s true grit does rely on guest appearances, Rocky decorates the house for the visit with mellow yet hard hitting production and features from everyone including the likes of Overdoz, Santigold, Gunplay, Florence Welch and Schoolboy Q.
Most of the album catches the Harlemite in his current day steez of “fuckin’ bitches,” mobbing with his friends, and bringing Harlem back, but Rocky gives a little more detail on his origins over a soulful loop that is “Suddenly.” The young lord is at his best reminiscing on hip-hop as a true scholar of the game for a new school version of Biggie’s “Things Done Changed.” He vividly spits, “Roaches on the wall, roaches on the dresser / Everybody had roaches but our roaches don’t respect us.” On “Angels,” Rocky finds time to lash at his former homie SpaceGhostPurrp, while on “Phoenix,” he laments on his suicidal tendencies. The meat of the album is dispersed on those tracks, but the rest is still a parade of bone thugs, laced melody, and swag that drips from one record to another. It’s infectious in melody for what it lacks in depth.
Long.Live.A$AP finds A$AP Rocky approaching as one of the key up-and-comers in the game with a knack for overall production and presentation. He’s done a nice job of presenting a cohesive package to a hip-hop generation living after the crack era who listens to indie music at house parties. Though his sonically brilliant debut leaves a lot more to be said, it will be likely be more approved amongst electronic fans verses hip-hop loyalists anyway. But the key to absorbing this offering is throwing preconceived notions out of the window and embracing Long.Live.A$AP for what it is — slick talking over ambient production.
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