Wednesday, 9 January 2013

A$AP Rocky - Long. Live. A$AP

A$AP Rocky has a lot to live up to. With his extensive mega-bucks label contract putting what he describes as "0s in my bank account", his cohorts producing arguably some of the most important music of 2012 (his cohorts being the accomplished Kendrick Lamar and ScHoolboy Q, not his rowdy a$ap mob) and an acclaimed mixtape in 2011 'LiveLoveA$ap', Rocky is in a tough position, albeit one cemented in dollars and his self-attained army of "twitter bitches".

The anticipation for A$AP Rocky's debut however was stunted mildly in 2012 with an ever-stretching target of release date. "Summer" turned to "Fall" turned to "The end of the year", and interest moved sideways onto the stars of the here and now like Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean, with Rocky simmering under with one great single ('Goldie') and a healthy dose of controversy in spats with SpaceGhostPurrp and apprehending foolhardy punters who had the audacity to try and swipe his Rolex at a show in London. But despite all the build up and doubts over the release, the rapper who has been accused of style over substance, apart from his magnificent talent to scout only the hippest producers like Clams Casino and Hit Boy, has delivered a major label debut to be proud of even if it is a tad self-indulgent and silly.

The title itself 'Long.Live.A$AP' shows a self diagnosed grandeur that A$AP Rocky revels in, as he spins rhymes away about the trials of becoming famous, and the obligatory quirks it brings. In fact, from the opening track A$AP immediately plots his manifesto for eternal life; "Who said you can't live forever lied, of course, I'm living forever now", although you get the sense this isn't an elaborate delusion, but instead a burning will to be remembered as one of the greats as he shouts out the likes of ODB and Three 6 Mafia. Rocky's desire however, although probably genuine, does seem a little bit try-hard at points on the record, such as the painfully drab ScHoolboy Q featuring 'PMW' where the two MCs resiliently brag about the benefits of copious drug use and fornication in a way that seemed played out about 2 or 3 years ago when Wiz Khalifa and the like came into prominence. Rocky also seems a little too eager to impress on the two Clams Casino penned tracks in the first half of the record, which largely flounder in comparison to older cuts like 'Palace' and 'Wassup' in memorability and beat emphasis. It seems as if Rocky only booked Clams Casino on the album to satiate the music purists who hailed his production as the best part of LiveLoveA$AP (which it arguably was) while being largely at odds with the rest of the largely fun album with the tracks drab progressions and lamenting often whiny lyrics. That being said, Santigold does a bang-up job on the chorus of 'Hell'.

Undoubtedly the best songs on the album, are the ones where A$AP Rocky eases up a bit, and has some fun. The album's two major singles, the infectious 'Goldie' and the OTT bravado of 'Fuckin' Problems' are highly entertaining and the latter even brings out some neat work from the usually lacklustre 2 Chainz. Similarly, 'Fashion Killa' which surely must be in line for the album's forthcoming single, is a somewhat clichĂ©d yet joyous play on A$AP's 'Pretty Motherfucker' tag with a ridiculous buy fun chorus and some laboured listing of fashion brands. The Skrillex produced track 'Wild For The Night' is incredibly dumb, but revels in it so much with the insanely loud siren like blares and commanding deepened robotic vocals it becomes nothing more than a celebration, and a track that lends itself perfectly to sweaty dance-floors. '1 Train' too hints at a bigger picture for the future of rap, with killer guest verses from Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Danny Brown and Big KRIT just for starters (let's ignore Yelawolf's contribution to the track). With Hit Boy's dramatic piano laded beat, it's a recipe for the closest thing A$AP Rocky has to a classic song.

Long.Live.A$AP in the end satisfies throughout, with its mix of heady bangers and restrained  more blog friendly cloud rap. It might not be an instant classic or a 'Good Kid MAAD City', but it is a fun ride. 


Toby McCarron

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