Posted January 16, 2013

RCA buzzmaker A$AP Rocky has released his highly-anticipated major label debut, LONG.LIVE.A$AP. Included on the album are DJBooth-featured selections "Goldie," "F*ckin Problem" and the set's recently-released title track.

Making guest appearances on the LP are 2 Chainz, Action Bronson, Big K.R.I.T., Drake, Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Yelawolf and more, while Hit-Boy, Jim Jonsin, Noah "40" Shebib, T-Minus and other A-list producers check-in with production credits.

LONG.LIVE.A$AP. Album Review

One-hit wonders and overnight successes are not a new phenomenon. From The Three Chuckles in the ‘50s, to Skee-Lo in the ‘90s, to Kreayshawn in the 2010’s, music has always seen artists seemingly explode out of nowhere, only to return to that same nowhere as fast as they came. But it is true that in 2013, thanks to that little thing called the Internet, that phenomenon has accelerated to dizzying speeds. One minute you’re a South Korean rapper, the next a sixth of the world’s population has watched your video.

So in fairness, when Peso blew up sometime circa the summer of 2011 (has it really been that long), we could justifiably wonder if A$AP Rocky would be a one-hit wonder. A young Harlem rapper trafficking in Houston’s syrup-soaked sound? It was intriguing enough to check out on YouTube, but there was a snowball’s chance in hell it would last…and then Rocky went to work. In the almost two years since Peso first dropped that pretty mofo has worked tirelessly to expand as far beyond his “Harlem doing Houston” roots. Tours with Drake, avant garde fashion collaborations, songs with everyone from ScHoolboy Q to Rihanna, it really wasn’t long before he proved that he had the vision and talent to stick around. And that was before he dropped his proper major label debut album, Long.Live.A$AP.

It’d be wrong to say that Long.Live.A$AP is the future of hip-hop, that would suggest that most other rappers will copy his sound, and the truth is that most other rappers aren’t good enough to copy his sound. But in many ways Long.Live.A$AP is an album of the present. The new generation doesn’t think there’s anything unusual, or even particularly remarkable, about owning an iPod packed with equal parts Tupac, Steve Aoki and Mumford & Sons. But I haven’t really heard that ecclectism successfully translated into an album, until now. The aptly-titled Ghetto Symphony brings in the borderline-insane Gunplay for a verse that’s as street as stoplight, and then a mere two tracks later Florence & The Machine front-woman Florence Welch is providing an airy and haunting hook for the romantically inclined I’m Apart. Similarly, Wild for the Night takes its beat from EDM-producer extraordinaire Skrillex and also brings in French DJ crew Birdy Nam Nam for good measure, while Hell grabs Santigold for one of the more unlikely “get money” hooks in recent memory. Crucially, none of these feel like guest features for the sake of guest features, and despite the wide range of influences, even the most genre-bending selections don’t have a “look at me, I’m so eclectic!” feel. I guess when you get your big break by breaking away from your hometown’s traditions, breaking boundaries is just part of your DNA.

But at his core A$AP Rocky is still a rapper, and so he makes sure to include no shortage of more straight up hip-hop. Ask anyone who’s been in a club when Goldie comes on, that sh*t just bangs, and while you could criticize F**kin' Problems for being predictably mainstream, it also proves that Rocky can succeed with a more predictably mainstream sound. Speaking of which, is there a true, smash hit on this album? The aforementioned I’m Apart certainly has crossover appeal, and Fashion Killa is certainly at least designed to appeal to the ladies, but for all the pressure he must have had on him to create something easily digestible, Long.Live.A$AP consistently veers in the opposite direction. The line-up on posse cut 1 Train suggests that if Rocky sees his fellow rhymers as peers, then he sees himself as an outsider, and darkly personal and minimalist cuts like Phoenix and the dystopic Jodye reveal an artist who, for all his talk about prettiness, isn’t afraid to let his music get ugly. This isn’t an album from an artist looking to blow up, this is an album from a serious artist demanding to be taken seriously.

If there was still any doubt about A$AP Rocky’s longevity, they should be put to rest by Long.Live.A$AP. Like it or not, the man’s not going anywhere for the foreseeable future. So now the question is just how big Rocky can get; are we witnessing the emergence of a future superstar? As good as this album is that still seems like a bit of a reach, but lord knows Rocky’s proven them all wrong before. Don’t be surprised if he does it again.

DJBooth Rating - 4 Spins

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Posted January 16, 2013
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