After nearly two years of patiently waiting, New York hip-hop is back in the form of rap newcomerA$AP Rocky's new Long Live A$AP solo album, finally hitting store shelves today (January 15).
A$AP's journey to a major record label deal and touring alongside the likes of Rihanna and Drake all started courtesy of a late 2011 spark.
Wealthy, impatient and not without a few rough edges, ASAP Rocky comes by his rap handle honestly. In late 2011 this young Harlem MC (born Rakim Mayers in a nod to the New York hip-hop icon) announced his arrival with an impressive mixtape, "Live Love ASAP," that married a streetwise lyrical sensibility to plush, pop-savvy beats. Now, less than 18 months later, he's releasing his feverishly anticipated major-label debut, "Long Live ASAP." It's similarly titled but considerably splashier than its predecessor, with input from A-list producers such as Danger Mouse and Skrillex and guest appearances by Drake and Florence Welch. And it reportedly earned ASAP Rocky a multi-million-dollar record deal -- the kind, he boasted to Pitchfork, that hasn't been handed out since 50 Cent's heyday a decade ago. (Los Angeles Times)
A$AP continues his trend of fly and flashy freshness which has made him a nationwide name at the start of his LP.
Rocky wastes no time identifying himself on the album titled intro track. The 808's kick in and ASAP weaves back and forth between his early struggles, the lavish life he lives now and where he wants to be in the future. The energy stays high throughout especially on "Goldie" and "PMW", but we also get a chill and philosophical and Rocky on tracks like "Pheonix". At only 24-years-old, you see Rocky painting a better picture of all sides of himself, more so than the stoner rap we've got in the past. (JS Online)
While he showcases his own talent from start to finish, the New York native relies on some hip-hop heavyweights to amp up the debut.
The Hit-Boy helmed "Goldie" was (hopefully) on everyone's 2012 year-end list, with this line alone worth the price of admission: "Cristal go by the cases/Wait hold up that was racist/I would prefer the Aces/Ain't no difference when you taste it." "Fuckin' Problems" with 2 Chainz, Drake and Kendrick Lamar is probably the most conventional track on the album (and closest to a radio single), but comes off as entertainingly slick and gives K-Dot a chance to pretty much blow everyone out of the water on his verse. The Clams Casino-produced tracks "LVL" and "Hell" both vibrate with a warmth that Rocky reciprocates with a syrupy flow, eventually spiked by Santigold's anthemic chorus on the latter. Then there's the already-legendary posse cut "1 Train" featuring no less than Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson and Big K.R.I.T. going H.A.M. over an extremely sturdy 36 Chambers-ish Hit-Boy beat. (Idolator)
Rocky establishes himself as a laid back rhyme spitter with his signature flow on the solo effort.
Let's talk about style for a minute, though. Like T.I. circa Trap Muzik or, shit, even pre-"retirement" Jay-Z, Rocky is one of those guys who just sound cool as hell at all times. Complementing this, naturally, is his habit of rapping about the other things that make his swagger so impressive, spouting sartorial endorsements (Margiela! Balenciaga! Audemars Piguet! More names with lots of vowels!) and describing the dozens of ways he fills his cups (cups which, staying true to his Houston influences, undoubtedly have Jolly Ranchers at the bottom). But, despite his insistence that he "ain't no conscious cat," we get glimpses of his humanity here, too. There are several references to suicide, both of the door persuasion and of the, uh, fatal kind. And on "Phoenix", we find Rocky sunk in philosophy, which, while maybe falling short in the profundity department, makes up for groaners like "Yes, I'm the shit - tell me, do it stink?": "It's a fine line between truth and lies / Jesus Christ never lied, still was crucified." (Consequence of Sound)
While praised by many, some music critics had issues with his redundacy in subject matter and experimentation.
Long.Live.A$AP struggles during moments when the beats are bland and Rocky seems to have nothing all that exciting to say. "Fashion Killa" opens with the lyric "rockin, rollin, swaggin to the max/ my bitch a fashion killa she be busy poppin tags." It's an incredibly mediocre line that immediately makes the track feel amateur. Even on songs when he has the opportunity to bring the gravitas, Rocky will rarely stray from the themes of ego, women, and success. (Pretty Much Amazing)
Although not a huge deal, the album does have some flaws when it comes to continuity. His experimentation on tracks like the Skrillex produced "Wild For The Night" and club banger "F***in' Problems" featuring 2 Chainz, Drake and Kendrick Lamar are big stretches to reach a varied audience. It's hard to fault the strategy because with the radio and club play both songs get in their respective worlds, it was a good decision. And even with those surprise turns, he still manages to be himself, while staying interesting. I would have been ok with "Fashion Killa" being a bonus track though. (JS Online)
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