Following up the success of his 2011 mixtape Live.Love.A$AP was never going to be an easy task, but A$AP Rocky manages to build on that foundation with his 2013 debut record. Long.Live.A$AP proves that all those fires on the blogosphere were no accidents and all the hype over this young gun from Harlem was well-earned.
What’s perhaps most surprising about Long.Live.A$AP is just how working class it is. A$AP Rocky fluidly plunges from style to style, but he never sounds out of place and always holds his own. He even holds his own when he’s up against some serious competition, like Kendrick Lamar or the criminally slept-on Action Bronson.
Like much modern hip hop, the compendium of influences reaches beyond the traditional rap of the streets and ventures into some more adventurous territory. Dubstep is a logical exposition, of course, but the sharp samples from the soul and pure pop worlds cut cleverly to the heart of the matter.
A$AP Rocky has a lot to prove with his debut and he already has images to shake, as most young rappers do. He manages to carve out a compelling niche from the outset, digging into the rough stuff while driving alongside artists like Drake and Santigold without losing street cred.
The title track boots off the recording with a thunder clap and a slow-burn beat. The backdrop is ominous, operating off a barely-moving bass line and swirling effects. Rocky flows with just the slightest kiss of crazy, easing into the beats like pot smoke haze settles under a lamp. He still drills the rhymes with ferocity, though, and digs into bars with both hands.
With the standard set early, A$AP Rocky commences the exploration. He grooves with Schoolboy Q over the lazy grooves of “PMW (All I Really Need)” and clears the bases on two Clams Casino-produced cuts (“LVL” and “Hell”). And “Fuckin’ Problems” veers into addictive territory, channeling a Justin Timberlake vibe and utilizing Drake, 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar over clipped beats and clever samples.
The fun continues with Skrillex’s lasers on “Wild for the Night,” a club banger that benefits from the dubstep freak’s blasts and blares. A$AP Rocky sails smoothly through the party anthem.
Another highlight is “1 Train,” a Wu-Tang-inspired jam that unloads a pile of hot rappers over a slice-and-dice Hit-Boy jam. Featuring Lamar, Joey Bada$$, YelaWolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson (!!), and Big K.R.I.T., the track is a sky-high summit of talent and a near-master class in spitting bars.
There are other cuts worth talking about, like the tension-and-release that is “Suddenly” or the Danger Mouse-produced “Phoenix,” but I think the point’s been made. A$AP Rocky has arrived and his debut is a shot across the bow, a bold statement of arrival and intent that surely lives up to its title. Long.Live.A$AP indeed.