17 January 2013

[Album Review] A$AP Rocky – Long.Live.A$AP

posted by: Jordan Album Reviews | Reviews

A$AP Rocky’s long waited debut has finally arrived. Long.Live.A$AP is here, and *SPOILER ALERT* it’s here to stay. Sunset writers got together again for another group review of one of the bigger releases to start off 2013. Peep it after the jump!

LydiaThere’s this feeling I get when I listen to A$AP Rocky…it’s a bit like I’m suddenly not a 5’1 blonde white girl who lives in a fairly nice area of town. Suddenly I’m this super fly bitch who’s hanging out with A$AP Rocky and his crew on the reg. It’s so true, I even dreamt about it after listening to Long.Live.A$AP. Suddenly A$AP Rocky and Danny Brown were at my door, wanting to hang out and pop some molly. For some reason, Danny and I didn’t get along that well (which absolutely wouldn’t be the case in real life – my laugh sounds more like his by the day…I’m working on it), but A$AP and I fell in love. What, you don’t like that? That’s your fucking problem.

So. Long.Live.A$AP, huh? The bar was set pretty high with Live.Love.A$AP, but A$AP brought the flame this time around, and the difference was that his sound has grown into a fuller sonic range that begs more replays than his older songs. It’s worth mentioning that A$AP snagged some of the best features he could have asked for at this point in time (Kendrick, Joey Bada$$, Danny Brown, KRIT, Action Bronson, ScHoolboy Q, Skrillex…the list goes on). Those are some of the hottest rappers on the market right now, and A$AP pulled them all on, which of course just draws more attention to his album.

The part that caught my attention the most about this album is the variation of sounds. You’ve got songs like Fashion Killa and Phoenix, which are slower songs that fringe hip-hop listeners will love. Then there are songs like Jodye, that heavy, grimy hip-hop that’s gunshot-laden without any melodic pattern to cling onto. Let’s be real…you won’t be hearing this at any white people’s dance parties. And in the middle of it all, there are songs like Long Live A$AP, which goons who pretend to like hip-hop might listen to and pretend to like because it sounds cool, but really they’re waiting for that crooning hook.

The bottom line is, you still have to be a true hip-hop fan to appreciate the good in Long.Love.A$AP. Luckily, I’m one of those people. I hear the impressive range of flow that A$AP puts out in each song, the ear he has for hooks and songs that will appeal to the masses, and the style he’s bringing to the game with his stories. Of course, I think the album has its shortcomings here and there. There are times when I am left wanting more stories like he tells in Phoenix, where he thinks a bit beyond the ladies he fucks, the weed he smokes, and the money he makes. Maybe I’ve been too spoiled from the introspective piece that is good kid, m.A.A.d city, but I think A$AP might have a bit more in his head that he could be telling us. Overall, though, it’s an incredible album that I’ve had on replay and will continue to bump to for the rest of this year until it ends up on my Best Albums of 2013 list in December. Because more likely than not, it’ll be there. But hey, I’m open to surprises!

Favorite Song: Phoenix

Arjun: With this album, A$AP builds upon that “New God,” larger-than-life hip-hop aesthetic that Kanye probably started. The production on this album alone is chock-full of new, weird, giant, loud sounds that work to push the boundaries of hip-hop instrumentation. This ethereal soundscape is accompanied by some of A$AP’s best (and worst) verses of his career. I can’t help but be critical of an album so polarizing on first, second, and third listen. It’s disconcerting at times, but ultimately, I think this is less of a cohesive album and more of an array of songs with gems scattered throughout and no over-arching theme. To me, this album can be split into three parts: great songs, not great songs, and “Wild for the Night.” The album’s title track “Long Live A$AP” begins it on a superb note, perhaps acting as the antithesis to last year’s perfect mixtape opener, “Palace.” Rocky’s second verse on “LVL” is exciting, “Fuckin’ Problems” is super fun, and if nothing else, “Fashion Killa” is super educational (and incredibly catchy). The final songs, “Phoenix” and “Suddenly,” humanize this god-like persona. I think Rocky’s first verse on “Phoenix” is the best of the album, with the second verse inexplicably rhyming the n-word with the n-word way too much. I hate that. “Ghetto Symphony” outshines the rest of the bonus tracks. And “Wild for the Night” hurts to listen to (sober).

P.S.: A$AP and Schoolboy Q should do a joint album. RT RT RT.

Favorite Song: Long Live A$AP, Phoenix

Jordan: It’ a new year. My new years resolution is to be more critical of albums. So here we go: I’m not sure if I’m qualified to do this review because my appreciation for A$AP didn’t really begin until “Goldie.” Of course I’ve heard the highlight tracks off of Live.Love.A$AP, but never truly experienced a full A$AP project. With Long.Live.A$AP being my first taste, there’s times the album leaves me quite satisfied, wanting more in fact, then there’s the times where I’m like ehhhhh, I’m not sure. Tracks like Goldie, Fuckin’ Problem, 1-Train, LVL, Long Live A$AP, Wild For The Night, PMW, & Angels have me screaming for more. Like, if I love a song on this debut, then I really fucking love it. That’s how good it is. Then there’s the rest of the album which I think is either okay or it’s passable. There’s no questioning A$AP’s ability. Lyrically, he’s a fiend, the features are top notch, and great production for the most part. There’s also no questioning the replay-ability, at least for me. It’s a solid debut from A$AP and an excellent start to 2013.

Favorite Song: LVL, PMW

D Prep: I have been, and will continue to be, a huge fan of A$AP Rocky. In a time of stagnancy in hip hop, A$AP and his peers (featured incredibly on “1 Train”) are pushing limits, creating novel sounds and keeping the scene interesting and progressive. It shouldn’t be news to anybody that expectations for the album are high: LiveLoveA$AP, Rocky’s debut mixtape, was a massively strong initiation both for Rocky and for the man who immediately became his trademark producer, Clams Casino. In fact, that initial offering had all the makings of a commercially successful album: while songs like “Out of This World,” “Bass,” “Peso” and “Brand New Guy” had a certain level pop appeal and replay value, songs like “Palace,” “Leaf,” and “Demons” seemed massive; even today, they have a unique sense of epicness.

As a listener, I became a fan a few months before LiveLoveA$AP dropped. That being said, my review might be skewed. I have always liked him and have always wanted him to be successful. I was the first to post his music on Sunset, the day he signed to Sony for $3 million and dropped “Bass” in celebration, and that felt like some strange sort of vindication for liking him. At the time, he was controversial in the blog game. People either viewed him as the next big thing or as some perverse fad the industry was going through at the time, like a ghetto Lil B. That was a truly exciting moment for me.

I have no qualms in saying that this is not, and shouldn’t be considered, a classic.  It’s probably not even one of the top 10 hip hop albums released in the past 10 years. What it is, however, is an incredibly strong follow up to LiveLoveA$AP. If nothing else, it is appropriate for A$AP, and it is damn consistent. In my opinion, there is not a single throw away track on the entire album; something I cannot say for Good Kid M.A.A.D. City, for example (I could do with never hearing “Now or Never” and “Real” ever again).

Rocky is able to successfully dip his toes into the commercial arena in songs such as Goldie and Fuckin’ Problem, both of which have massive, widespread appeal. Even while  “Fashion Killa” immediately sets an amateurish tone (“Rockin, rollin, swaggin to the max”?) and “Wild for the Night” sounds forced, Rocky is able to accomplish a product rich in replay value, perhaps the most vital aspect for an artist’s success in this day and age.

But the parts where Rocky really works on this album are when he’s either going at heads or inside his own. In songs like Jodye and Ghetto Symphony, two of the stronger cuts off the record, Rocky is going HARD: you can feel the emotion with which he is spitting, the raw anger and intensity.  And, in songs like Phoenix, you can almost hear his heart pouring into the track. This is perhaps the most open we have ever heard Rocky–his answer to Kanye’s “All Falls Down,” if you will. He speaks on his self-antagonizing, the pressure of delivering when everyone expects him to be the next “Basquiat,” and the self-doubt and suicidal tendencies he struggled with throughout the production of the album.

Throughout the record, Rocky’s production almost perfectly compliments both his flow and his subject matter, something not frequently seen in hip hop. When he’s stunting, the instrumental of the beat alone would make you meanmug: his vocals over those instrumentals, such as on Goldie, Long Live A$AP, and PMW, just complement the vibe already set in place by his producers. The same could be said for the more introverted tracks, such as Phoenix and LVL. The Danger Mouse and Clams Casino instrumentals by themselves set a thoughtful, pensive tone. Rocky walks along and complements the road already laid, and I think he does so uniquely well.

I Come Apart is the most disappointing track on the record. That is not to say, by any means, that it is the weakest track; simply, it has the most undelivered potential. This could have been a beautiful song, but was poisoned by Rocky’s aforementioned, and thankfully infrequent, abecedarian tendencies. His singing is off point, and his “always come back cuz you wanna fuck” shenanigans poison the track with unnecessary, untimely crassness. Florence sounds beautiful, per usual, and Rocky should have left her to the singing and picked up the slack on his verses. He did neither.

1 Train is the greatest song on the album. A$AP said he wanted to recreate the classic possy cuts of the late 80’s and 90’s with his class of up and comers on this cut. Hit Boy delivers the perfect beat over which to do so, and everyone on the track delivers. I loved seeing the 17 year old Joey Bada$$ on here–his timeless Brooklyn flow more than holds its own on the track–a standout among some heavy hitters, in fact. Yelawolf MURDERS it, Bronson does his thing, Danny flows likely only he can; “bitch pussy smell like a penguin/wouldn’t hit it with my worst enemy’s penis”; and K.R.I.T. delivers one of my favorite verses of his to date (“I been in the business of sinking ships”). The crowning gem of an incredibly strong freshman effort.

A$AP is here to stay, and as he proves here, he has every intention of keeping it trill.

Buy the album. Rocky deserves a shot. Listen to it in full, in order, from the start of Long Live A$AP to the end of I Come Apart. Whether or not you like it, you will have just heard the entirety of the debut release of Rakim Mayers’ first album immediately after it was released; one day, when he becomes the legendary rapper that I can almost ensure he will become, that will mean something.

Top Three Tracks: 1 Train, Phoenix, Long Live A$AP


Andy: So I’m gonna be totally honest with you guys: I’m not a huge A$AP Rocky guy. That doesn’t mean that I don’t listen to a few tracks of his ad nauseum, but I can’t sit down and enjoy a project of his front to back. If we’re talking Live.Love.A$AP, the reasoning is that I’m not a big fan of the slow, Houston-inspired sound. If we’re talking Long.Live.A$AP, the reasoning is that it’s just an okay album.

I sat here and tried to write a nice, long, in-depth review like Lydia Tha Gawd did, but it’s almost impossible to do when you don’t love a project. Which I didn’t. But if you enjoy Rocky’s sound and the type of music that he makes then it’s going to be a while before you take this album out of rotation. Its two singles, “Goldie” and “F*ckin’ Problem” are two of the obvious standout tracks from the album, the former perfect for blaring in your car on a warm day and the latter perfect for any party you’re attending. Aside from those two, “1Train” stares you right in the face and dares you not to listen to it with its who’s-who of features (Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, YelaWolf, Danny Brown, Big KRIT) and “Fashion Killa” has one of the catchiest hooks you’ll hear for a while.

Overall, Long.Live.A$AP has its bright spots (“Goldie,” “F*ckin’ Problem,” “1Train,” and “Fashion Killa”) that make it worth your attention. Beyond that, it’s a hundred percent up to you. If you still constantly listen to Rocky’s old stuff, you’ll drop $13 on this without a problem. If not, you’ll come into it excited and probably leave it fairly underwhelmed.


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