Published on January 24th, 2013 | by Chris Orzeske, Culture Editor
A$AP Rocky – LongLiveA$AP
It’s hard to believe that only two years ago, A$AP Rocky was entirely unknown outside of his hometown. Thanks to the smash hit 2011 mixtape LiveLoveA$AP, the Harlem rapper has quickly become one of the biggest names amongst hip-hop’s rookies.
His whirlwind-of-a-year 2012 capped off with performances at the Pitchfork Festival and at the VMAs alongside pop star Rihanna. Not bad for a rapper only in the game for under 5 years.
Pretty Flacko’s first album, LongLiveA$AP, has been hailed as one of the most anticipated hip-hop releases of the first quarter of 2012. Unlike his aforementioned mixtape, which was mostly produced by either Clams Casino or one of Rocky’s A$AP mob, LongLiveA$AP showcases the rapper waist-deep in a swamp of assorted genres and styles.
The biggest name that may jump out on the production list is brostep sensation Skrillex, who handles the boards on “Wild For The Night”, a thumping club banger featuring the electronic wizard’s signature wobbles. Much talk has been had about the song, both for being an unusual collaboration and for supposedly “selling out” on Rocky’s part.
The part about selling out might be able to be argued if Rocky himself wasn’t lighting up the charts even more than Skrillex. Second single “F**kin’ Problems” is a top-20 hit on Billboard, and features with Rihanna and Usher have seen similar success. Rocky’s newfound mainstream status clashes with his gritty lyrical content at times, but, overall, it fails to affect the album in any major negative ways (i.e. no Party Rock Anthem clones).
Lyrically, Rocky manages to live up to the lofty expectations set by his mixtape bars. On the Hit-Boy produced “Goldie”, the ever-humble rapper brags that he’s “early to the party, but [his] Rari is the latest.” Unlike many a mixtape star, there isn’t a drop off in quality between the tape and the album.
In fact, Rocky’s in rare form on LongLiveA$AP. On “Hell”, one of only two Clams Casino beats on the disc, the PMF himself declares that “heaven need[s] a new villain like hell needs a new idol.” Bold boasts such as these aren’t exactly rare from Rocky and the rest of the A$AP crew, but they’re not exactly unfounded.
Of course, the album does have a few issues. The extra-long posse cut “1Train” features one or two too many rappers over one of Hit-Boy’s most lackluster beats, though Danny Brown does manage to deliver one of the best verses of the album.
“I Come Apart”, a bonus track featuring crooner Florence Welch, comes off as a well-intentioned mistake; perhaps Rocky wasn’t the best choice for this brand of pop-rap akin to “Love the Way You Lie” or “Airplanes”.
The rapper sounds entirely out of place on his most mainstream-sounding attempt yet. That, of course, isn’t necessarily a bad thing; the track isn’t good, and hopefully the negative reviews will steer Rocky away from its like in the future.
Overall, as with the mixtape before it, LongLiveA$AP is an impressive show of lyrical skill over some of the most inventive beats in the hip-hop scene today. Rocky is well deserving of his press, not only living up to the hype but exceeding it. At this benchmark in his career, however, it’d do him well to take the advice of fellow up-and-comer Macklemore; “make the money, don’t let the money make you.”
It’s an age-old adage, but it perfectly fits Rocky at the beginning of what may well be his biggest year as an artist thus far. While it’s important for him to keep his head straight in the world of bottle popping, he’s shown enough signs of greatness thus far that it’s hard to even worry.