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

There’s plenty to discuss on Long.Live.A$AP, A$AP Rocky’s official label-sanctioned debut album, but the first thing that jumps out at me is this: The power dymanic in the rapper/dance music producer collaboration has utterly flipped polarities in the last 15 years or so. Once upon a time, say, Redman would, out of nowhere, start rapping over a Roni Size track on the last song of one of his albums, and it would seem like the rapper was taking a weird chance, running the risk of losing his audience by putting them onto this crazy British computer-music. But now, when the Skrillex collab “Wild For The Night” suddenly parachutes into the middle of Long.Live.A$AP, it feels like both a gift from Skrillex and a rare grab for something beyond a core audience. Skrillex, right now, is a star in ways that Rocky will never be, and other than maybe Drake, he’s the most famous person involved in the album. And Skrillex does all he can to meet Rocky halfway — starting things off with a smoky reggae skank, throwing in copious amounts of screwed-up vocals, never quite giving one of his monster bass-drops — but its physical intensity and angry-Decepticon voices immediately set the track apart. I think the song is a lot of fun (no surprise there), and its the only track on the album I could imagine setting off a bunker-sized Midwestern club. But it also jumps out because it’s the one song that doesn’t seem built specifically for the oversize headphones of anyone who happens to be riding a subway train from a weed-spot to a Fashion Week invite-only soiree.

Long.Live.A$AP is, by and large, another example of a young rapper getting major-label carte blanche to represent himself completely on something that will, I guess, take up Best Buy shelf space. In Rocky’s case, that means the album fills the same dazed headspace as his LIVELOVEA$AP mixtape: Wafting clouds of synth, lightly smothered Southern-rap hi-hat tics, voices swallowed up in bass, loving descriptions of designer streetwear. The entire thing feels stylish — studiously so, its bursts of gun-talk as carefully curated as the insanely expensive designer labels namechecked throughout. Rocky mentions 2PAC constantly throughout, but I get the sense that Pac’s fuck-the-world intensity isn’t what drew Rocky in; it’s the sense that both he and Pac could probably have made livings as models if they wanted. He withholds in ways that Pac never could or would, projecting images and ideas rather than freely rattling off ideas. Long.Live.A$AP is a very carefully planned-out album, and it works on those terms, smoothly and cannily embodying a very specific type of lifestyle-rap.

Long.Live.A$AP is, in fact, such a complete piece of lifestyle-music that it practically plays like mid-’90s trip-hop. But it’s not Tricky-weird or Portishead-sad. Instead, the album reminds me of trip-hop B-teamers like Sneaker Pimps or Morcheeba — groups who smartly fused slick prettiness with hints of danger, and who were, as a result, inescapable in every decent clothing store for a year or two there. I like those groups. They had their place. And Long.Live.A$AP will certainly get more than its share of love in Manhattan’s finer shoe emporiums for the foreseeable future. It’ll sound great there because its surface pleasures are manifold. The way Santigold’s usually-irrepressible voice sinks into the fog-bank sadness of Clams Casino’s track for “Hell”: Gorgeous. The way Danger Mouse, of all people, smooths and streamlines that haunted cloud-rap aesthetic on “Phoenix”: Sublime. The way Rocky’s voice effortlessly melts into a singsong Bone Thugs double-time whenever he feels like bringing it out: Deeply impressive. But if you’re looking for pleasures beyond the surface ones, you probably won’t find them here.

Rocky is certainly a skilled rapper: Charismatic and haughty and able to put songs together without letting anyone see the seams. But his greatest failure is this: He is severely lacking in the personality department. Beyond the slight hint of club-queen bitchiness he gives off, I can’t tell you a single thing about him as a human being. Everything about him is very studiously considered; he’s clearly put in a ton of thought into how much time he should be spending talking about drugs vs. clothes vs. sex. He never seems like he needs to tell us anything. Compared to the smartly curated roster of guests who show up on the album, he’s practically one big blank. It’s impossible to imagine him summoning anything like Schoolboy Q’s hornball bluster, Drake’s dorked-out big-dick glee, Gunplay’s barely-contained insanity. The lineup of the massive and excellent posse cut “1 Train” is just nuts; eventually, major labels will throw enough money at these seven guys to finance at least one Avengers sequel. And not too surprisingly, the song quickly becomes a contest to see who can overshadow Rocky most completely. And on bonus track “Jodye,” Rocky takes aim at friend-turned-foe (and genuine weirdo) Spaceghostpurrp, he does it by aping SGP’s rap and production style almost completely. He can’t even dis a guy without becoming that guy first.

Honestly, though, that carefully maintained blankness should be more of a problem than it actually is. On paper, for instance, “Fashion Killa” should be a complete abortion; Rocky spends the entire track reeling off designer names over new age vocal gasps. But he makes it sound cool, his voice floating with the track and dissipating beautifully into the air. And that’s mostly what you get here: An album that breaks zero ground, that reveals zero personal truths, that rarely does anything we wouldn’t expect, but that works anyway. It’s not fair to compare it to Take Care or Good Kid, m.A.A.d. City or even Future’s Pluto; those are albums that attempt difficult things and succeed anyway. Long.Live.A$AP aims low, but it hits its target. Now that I’m done writing this review, I probably won’t think too much more about it, but I will listen to it plenty more.

Long.Live.A$AP is out 1/15 on RCA.

Comments (52)
  1. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

      • “Fuckin’ Problems” may not be the most academic song ever, but it does what a first single is supposed to do. It has a big beat and it’s catchy. To overgeneralize the entire album based off of two lines (along with 90% of hip hop) is unfair. You said yourself that you don’t like hip hop, so your bias is apparent. Why don’t you leave pretentious, snarky comments to yourself so the rest of us can have an open discussion.

      • I’m glad you feel you can take the moral high ground on sexism, but clearly miss the ingrained racism that informed essentially everything you said in your first comment.

    • maybe the site should make a spinoff called “copy paster cat gum”… no hip hop, no frank ocean, and black artists only featured when making “white music.”

      • also, didn’t you just say last week that forgot about dre is a “legendary song?” and doesn’t that song include the line “fuck you too bitch, call the cops?”

        oh, i see… it’s okay when eminem says it.

        • Rap is a culture now more than anything…the lyrical slang is no different now than that of a country twang verse, or diva high note. It’s the beat more than anything. Personally, I am not goin expect our boy Rock to enlighten me with grandiose passages that allow me to look to the heavens for auditory spiritual support. Blunts an hoe’s be fine wit me.

    • a 13 year old black kid from SAN DIEGO? that’s the hood to you? LMAO

    • If a hip hop spin off site is ever made I hope you don’t hear about it.

    • You have a Minor Threat avatar, a band which I like but let’s not pretend that they don’t have a fair amount of stupid, non-poetic lyrics as well.

      Also, you might note that this was not exactly a glowing review of ASAP’s album, with the chief concern being the lack of personality and interesting lyrics.

      So calm down.

      • He’s exactly what he claims not to be…a troll. Do us a favor copy cat…head over to IMDB and bitch about how many times Tarentino uses the N word in Django Unchained. You’ll get far more recog.

        • Original poster has a good point. These lyrics are so, so, so bad. I actually cannot discern any meaning whatsoever. Shame to waste potentially cool beats on such inanity.

          When is the next Shabazz Palaces or Cannibal Ox coming out?

    • Rap is a niche genre? Isn’t everything covered on this site, with the exception of total pageview-bating coverage of Taylor Swift and her ilk, niche? That’s why we come here.

    • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • This is flat out one of the worst comments I’ve ever seen on this site. Sure, there have been some real dumb things said around these parts (some by me, I’m sure), but how clearly you revel in your ridiculousness it what really gets me about this one in particular.

  2. No reveal of personality? What about on “Phoenix” where he compares himself to Kurt Cobain and talks about suicide? That seems pretty personal to me. It’s not the only time on the album where he hints at depression coming out of the sudden fame, either. Maybe these notions get buried in the production and wonderful guest acts, but they’re definitely a part of the entire picture.

    • The Kurt Cobain comparison feels contrived to me (just cause it’s a cool thing to say as a “90s baby”). I’m not as big on ASAP as I am on say Schoolboy Q. The flow seems predictable at this point (even when he goes to that double-time rhyme thing), the content is the same, and the album lacks any cohesion.

      It’s an OK album to me at best. Has some bangers but just doesn’t do it for me overall. In my opinion, his previous mixtape was better.

  3. I would agree, A$AP is mostly style without much substance. The style is so good though. This album has a few great tracks and the production is rock solid throughout but outside of a few key moments, Rocky doesn’t open up much and it hurts him in the long run.

    1 Train though, that song is close to classic. It really perfectly captures an interesting moment in hip-hop and should go down as one of the most memorable posse cuts of this generation of hip-hop.

  4. summary of this review:

    “this is a bad record! this is bad! but it’s good. and i’m going to repeatedly listen to it.”

    • No where did the review say the record was bad, merely A$AP lacks enough personality for the album to be considered great, which I completely agree with. This problem was readily apparent from Live Love A$AP so this consensus is not surprising. I wasn’t expecting much more than a prettily produced, well rapped record, and that’s we got so I’m happy. Anyone expecting more was deluding themselves.

  5. This is almost exactly how I feel about ASAP, except I probably won’t listen to it that much. I’m just always left wishing that a rapper with something more interesting to say got all that big label money and those incredible beats and guest verses, instead of them just being wasted on this guy.

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  7. I listened to this through yesterday and did not like it. I’m just going to go on a rant about the beginning of the album real quick…

    You opened your album with a lightning storm? Really? REALLY?!!? WHY?!?! You going to build off of it into a concept? No? Just roll into a song? Pathetic. Wait. Remind me how you opened LiveLoveA$AP? You opened that album with a….

    Clams Jam.

    You’re going to follow-up your previous album that opened with one of the greatest Clams Casino beats…. with a lightning storm. Get out.

    Rant Over. Can somebody tell me which songs are the Clams Jams? It sounds like “LVL” is Clams and Tom mentioned “Hell”. Need to filter this album down to just the Clams beats. “1 Train” is cool and all. My vote it on Big K.R.I.T. as far as who did it best. The way he closes it and keeps spitting bars after he probably should have stopped? winner.

    Pretty disappointed with this album as a whole. It has its moments, but a very lame follow-up considering his debut mixtape.

  8. What do you mean we don’t know anything about Rocky, he’s a pretty mutha fucka and Harlem is what he’s reppin’?

  9. All my ASAP mp3s are worn the fuck out. I fuckin love em, but I really can’t describe his personality as much more than cool. Goddman though he just says cool things. Brags that are subtle and brilliant. The way the guy emphasizes rhymes and switches flows is real goddamn charismatic.

    Tryna cop that Benz Wagon, my bitch drive it, my friends crash it!

  10. Also – Clams Casino is an all time great producer name.

  11. Ok, I will listen to this album, despite the fact that LiveLoveA$AP got old pretty quickly. My thing with Rocky is that he never seems to really go anywhere as a rapper. Every track: “This is me. This is all you’re getting. Bass”.

  12. I dunno – I just listened – that Skrillex song? Shoulda axed that shit, Rocky. It would be tolerable except for the annoyingasfuck laser gun pew-pew Skrillex “chorus.”

  13. I feel like I should be crucified for asking but…

    What happened to that Lana Del Rey collaboration?

  14. At least a n***a n***a-rich

  15. Is it too late to name “1 Train” the best track of the year? Can’t help but get some old school Wu-Tang flashbacks

  16. Your evaluation stopped being vaild at the point you gave Future – Pluto props.

  17. Wow, I have yet to read anything that mentions Suddenly, which is easily one of the best and certainly most heartfelt things Rocky has ever done. Good work guys. At least someone in the comments mentioned Phoenix.

  18. I would like to contribute to this discussion by merely saying that I agree to some of the posts on here. The feeling I am getting from the album are good vibes. I don’t really expect a lot from A$AP Rocky because what he does is already a high expectancy and I know he is going to go out of his way and put his heart in whatever he does. He has this high-end fashion statement going on and he’s really into it. It’s his lifestyle not just something he does for fun. He is starting to direct his own videos now and producing them along with the beats.
    The album itself had gotten good sales even after the 1 month and a half album leak, but I’m not sure if it’ll go platinum. But what I do know is that the song “Fxxxkin Problems” went platinum. Most albums don’t even have a hit song like that. I congratulate Rocky on that. I know it seems like every rapper nowadays always talks about sex, money, and drugs, but when A$AP Rocky says those things he makes it clever and not sound so cliché.
    The post that got my attention was when the guy says that the album was what he could expect because he knows that A$AP Rocky isn’t very lyrical, but the things that he says gets your attention and you are able to vibe to it. Not saying that he will not get better in the future, because you have to realize, he’s still young and plus it’s his first album. He still has a lot of growing to do. I believe he can do even better with his future music to come. A$AP Rocky is trying to bring the eastside back of Harlem. I mean come on; we know that there hasn’t been a hit star from NYC in a long while. It would be pretty cool for Flacko to bring Harlem back. I know a lot of people probably don’t agree with the album being good as a whole but I know there are a couple of joints you can bounce and rock your heads to. So, let’s just stay positive and watch A$AP Rocky continue grow.

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