January 6, 2013

Album Review: A$AP Rocky's Long.Live.A$AP

It's a vicious cycle in the world of rap and hip-hop: A rugged new talent is uncovered, he or she releases an acclaimed mixtape, along comes a major label throwing a boat load cash advance their way to sign them, and yet, after all the hype and blogger darling press, it takes what feels like a lifetime before their formal debut hits iTunes. File A$AP Rocky as the latest rhymer caught in the cross-fire of an often broken industry system. In 2011, the leader of the rising A$AP Mob collective leveled the playing field for the east coast with his free-release Live.Love.A$AP, a mix that not only established Rakim Mayers as an important piece of the game's future, but also introduced the music world to his production collaborator constant Clams Casino as the alternative to Noah "40" Shabib and the Weeknd. Long.Live.A$AP, Rocky's first output that's part of his astounding $3 million dollar payday for signing with Sony / RCA imprint Polo Grounds Music, really should have been out in 2012, but push backs of the LP led to a drawn out release of great singles throughout the year had some doubting whether NYC's next big thing would make a final impact or be the latest victim of buzzkill. It turns out that it's better late than never, as Long.Live.A$AP is a small triumph for an artist whose execution outweighs hitting style points and outliving expiration dates, even when it's apparent he's aware they exist.

His bank account has grown by the tenfold and making the assumption you already know his name, A$AP Rocky doesn't need to reprove his value to listeners on Long.Live.A$AP. As far as cocky Rocky is concerned, the anointed one's seat is his given the flawless flow in an opening threesome of declarations in the album's title track, "Goldie" and the Schoolboy Q-featuring "PMW (All I Really Need)," in which the self-proclaimed Lord Flacko confronts his rising stock and fame with collected unsurprise. After getting that out of his system, Long.Live.A$AP amasses an impressive army of collaborators and guest spots that proves just how far up the ladder the Harlem rapper has climbed in the past year while showcasing his vision of the future. "LVL" and "Hell" are two cuts where Clams Casino's hard-laced 8-bit trap production feed this soundtrack, with Santigold's guest hook in the latter providing redemption for the fellow NYC hip-pop artist's lukewarm showing on her sophomore effort last year. A$AP Rocky's adventurous pairings with producers-in-demand Skrillex and Danger Mouse ("Wild for the Night," "Phoenix") result in beats that fit his rhyme style just fine without either side compromising their signature sounds. It's the crew anthems that steal the show on two separate occasions, however, without necessarily stealing Rocky's spotlight on boys night out club banger "Fucking Problems" (featuring Drake, Kendrick Lamar and 2 Chainz) and the menacing symphony swag of "1 Train" (again with Kendrick alongside Action Bronson, Big K.R.I.T., Joey Bada$$, Danny Brown and Yelawolf) in which A$AP and his cohorts flex the depth of hip-hop's new wordsmiths.

Proceeding a year that broke new rap and hip-hop heavyweights with new classics from Kendrick Lamar, Killer Mike and Frank Ocean, it’s natural to want to size up A$AP Rocky’s major label debut against those of his young blood spitting peers. Long.Live.A$AP actually brings to mind the first transitional steps in Drake’s career between 2009's So Far Gone mixtape and his debut Thank Me Later, an attention-grabbing entrance into the fray that similarly took the long-term momentum plan to deliver on its promise, succeeding by sticking to rhyming basics, capitalizing on cutting edge production efforts while flirting with radio hooks to broaden the Toronto rapper’s appeal. Take Long.Live.A$AP not as a game-changer, but merely a coronation ceremony for NYC rap scene's biggest hope, fueled by just the right amount of confident bombast and flashy sounds that not only entice expectations right now, but those being set in the years to come during A$AP Rocky's calculated climb atop the hip-hop throne.

A$AP Rocky's Long.Live.A$AP will be released January 15, 2013 on RCA Records / Polo Grounds Music.

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