After months of push-backs and more than a year’s worth of anticipation, A$AP Rocky’s studio debut Long.Live.A$AP has finally hit stores, and it's one of the most creatively balanced rap albums in recent memory.
Most of the album's best qualities are present in the intro and and title track: catchy hooks, hard-hitting lyrics, confidant flows, obscure topics and absolutely amazing production.
A$AP Rocky’s Houston-inspired production is obvious in the deep, roiling baselines throughout the project. However, the bass is not the star component of these beats. Under Rocky’s executive production, Hit Boy, Jim Jonsin and a host of other talented producers mixed those ever-pleasing bass thrums with brooding synthetics and dark samples.
The beats clearly share an over-arching thematic sound, but manage to veer from the repetitive. The generally fringe topic of high fashion on “Fashion Killa” fits in sonically but sounds completely different from “1 Train,” which is one of the best posse cuts of the last few years.
Long.Live.A$AP is also a lyrically dense album. That’s not to say the bars are bursting with double entendres and metaphors, but Rocky’s deliberate flow and unforgiving perspective make for some interesting imagery. “Phoenix” and “Suddenly” are chief examples of this. Songs like “Fuckin’ Problems” and “Wild for the Night” are forays into typical lyrical tropes, but never to the detriment of flow or delivery.
Rocky also took care with features on Long.Live.A$AP. While several big names pop from the credits, many of them are packed onto only a few songs. “1 Train” alone features Rocky alongside six other artists, while “Fuckin’ Problems” features three. Still, the features make sense. 2 Chainz and Drake compliment the club record “Fuckin’ Problems” while Joey Bada$$ and Big K.R.I.T. (to name a few) show off in the lyrical workshop that is “1 Train.”
The album is relatively free of glaring issues of craft or construction, though “Wild for the Night” and "I Come Apart" are definitely hit-or-miss tracks. Rocky’s eclectic style and subject matter could potentially turn some fans off, the same way Kanye West's The College Dropout, Kendrick Lamar's good kid m.A.A.d. city and other debut projects did.
Long.Live.A$AP is something of an everyfan’s album. Normally, this is a recipe for both critical and commercial disappointment. Rappers that try to appeal to traditional hip-hop heads, the mainstream, their label and other commercial influencers tend to fail. They either resonate with only one group or straight up alienate all of them. Rocky, on the other hand, seems to have an uncanny and uncommon ability to successfully offer something for everyone.
Long.Live.A$AP continues to build on the collection of excellent rap that permeated 2012. If this debut is any indication, 2013 is shaping up to be another big year for boldly creative and experimental hip-hop, with Rocky at the forefront.