Rap artists nowadays seem like stars before they release a single song, let alone an entire album. With all the hype that surrounds the “new great rapper”, it would be understandable for those more jaded rap fans to be sick of hearing about the “next big thing”. But I don’t really care about the jaded rap fans. A$AP Rocky is the next big thing, and if his first album is any indication, he is here to stay.
The first time we heard Rocky was on Life.Love.A$AP., a great mixtape that had such good production, such good rapping, and such great songs, that it felt like a bona-fide album. The mixtape featured the producer Clams Casino, (who formally only created beats for artists like Lil B and Soulja Boy) making some of the best beats of the year. The mixtape even had a hit in “Peso”. After the mixtape dropped, Rocky was quickly scooped up by RCA to the tune of 3 million dollars. All of this lead to people claiming that A$AP’s new (and first) album would transform rap and be an instant success.
Now that’s a lot of pressure, especially for a young, 24 year old rapper. Yet with Long Live A$AP, Rocky has most certainly lived up to it. Unlike Life.Love.A$AP., Rocky’s debut album relies much less heavily on Clams Casino. In fact, the beats on Long Live A$AP are much more varied and diverse than those on his mixtape. Instead of the hazy, relaxed, Houston Trill oriented beats Rocky used to depend on, producers such as Lord Flacko, Hit-Boy, and yes, even Skrillex, bring a much more eclectic mix to the table. That being said, it is the Houston oriented beats that A$AP does his best with. “LVL”, “Pain”, and “Suddenly” find A$AP at his most comfortable.
That being said, A$AP Rocky is great even when he’s not comfortable. “F***in’ Problems” finds Rocky in a track with 2 Chainz, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar, a place where Rocky needs to bring his best to still be relevant. Yet that track is one of the best on the album, and is a whole lot of fun. A song with A$AP Rocky and Skrillex sounds like a terrible idea right? Well on Long Live A$AP, the two gel to form one of the best songs on the album. Skrillex is much less ADD than normal, providing an actual melodic beat for Rocky to rhyme over. That’s just the kind of album Long Live A$AP is. Everything seems to go right, and the results are spectacular.
On the song “LVL” Rocky has a line that is indicative of his rap style: “This is boom-bap mixed with new raps”. A$AP is constantly in the business of reminding you that he is a member of what he and many others prefer to describe as the “new-school” of rappers. If you are unaware who these rappers are, than look no further than A$AP’s own “1 Train”, a song that features no less than 6 other rappers, all of them big young rappers who will eventually become the new rap main-stream. Artists like Joey Bada$$ and Action Bronson drop some of their best verses of their careers on this track, and it becomes a short of showcase for the youngsters.
Now to be fair, Long Live A$AP does have its flaws. There are a few filler tracks, including the title track, that just feel under-performed. One of the standout tracks on Life.Love.A$AP, “Brand New Guy”, had an amazing cameo from rapper Schoolboy Q. On Long Live A$AP he is featured again on “PMW” with much shoddier results. Yet over all, Long Live A$AP is an outstanding freshman album, and finds the self-proclaimed leader of the new school dominating other, older rappers. I look forward to seeing more from A$AP Rocky in the years to come.