Sporting both the traditional, flossy nature of Harlem stars of past and the sleepy, screwed up drawl of the Midwest, A$AP Rocky stands as the one of the figureheads for the new makeup of rapper. With hood machismo and hipster swagger to appease both markets, the guerrilla warfare-like hustle of Rocky and his A$AP Mob caused a storm in 2011, leading to a publicised record deal, impressionable mixtapes and high profile collaborations from both the world of rap and pop – with the streets and suburban pop culture both clamouring for the 24 year old’s debut LP, Long.Live.A$AP.
The man known as ‘Pretty Flacko’ opens Long.Live.A$AP with his most personal record on the debut; and emphatic introduction transcribing A$AP’s determination to make his name eternal in a heroin riddled America rife with poverty, murder and hypocrisy. Musically attired with an abundance of confidence and charisma, A$AP spends a majority of the album bragging of the fashionista life now acquired.
The rapper’s hazy boasts of being fly and fresh mix Rocky’s habitual New York tones with the screwed and chopped Houston rhyme pattern, resulting in an infectious flow although void of much content. When provided by contagious beats however his rhymes are, for the most part, given a pass. The Hit Boy-produced “Goldie” celebrates his golden grill and ascendancy to popularity with a carefree spirit which transcends throughout the entire debut LP.
A$AP Rocky’s content might mostly stay in one lane but the mood and atmosphere, created by the beats on hand, are taken far beyond his east coast roots. Haunted by echos, tempo shifts and bellows, Long.Live.A$AP‘s labyrinth-like aura invites listeners to the warped, fiendish and comedic mind of the A$AP Mob leader, where everything seems to move in slow motion.
Championing his favourite pleasures with TDE favourite Schoolboy Q on “PMW (All I Really Need)” the musical styles of the Midwest are an influence, whilst “Fashion Killa” opts for a more quirky, indie pop production, providing A$AP with a potential crossover single. Much of the material unsurprisingly is suited for the underground, with coarse choruses and verses too dirty for a radio edit.
Even when sampling the vocals of pop favourite Imogen Heap on “Ghetto Symphony,” the addition of MMG’s Gunplay and Mob affiliate A$AP Ferg produce solid verses more accustomed to the hood than the charts. Collaborating with Hip Hop’s current trailblazers Drake, Kendrick Lamar and 2 Chainz on “F**kin’ Problems” engineers a bass heavy cut, with each artist boasting of their female conquests.
Long.Live.A$AP sprouts a diverse range of album highlights even though Rocky may not fare well when in the presence of other lyrical titans. The smoky, ’90s era posse cut “1 Train” exhibits smooth baton exchanges between Kendrick Lamar, Joey BadA$$, YelaWolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson and Big KRIT, who take charge of the track instead of the host rapper. When submerged into the more murkier sounds of long time producer partner Clams Casino, A$AP finds comfort in his sporadic spoutings as tracks “LVL” and “Hell” featuring Santigold provide sufficient surroundings for Flacko’s musings to be more effective.
ON Long.Live.A$AP, A$AP Rocky refrains from tailoring his sound for chart and radio recognition and instead plunges further into the murky, bottomless musical surroundings where his limited topics of rhyme are most effective. Regardless of his lyrical limitations, the diversity of the production credits provides a variety of appeasing listening experiences, ranging from the oceanic Clams Casino cuts to the ominous Danger Mouse applying his touch to Pretty Flacko’s bars. Although the featured guests do overshadow A$AP’s contributions to collaborative efforts, the abundance of charisma in his arsenal adds its own weight to material.
A debut which maintains the underground momentum carried throughout 2012, A$AP Rocky’s solid major outing should ensure his current reign in Hip Hop’s ranks is far from a short one.