By Brandon Kesselly, Staff Writer
If you have listened to mainstream hip-hop within the last year, chances are you have heard the name A$AP Rocky. After the success of his mixtape LiveLoveA$AP – featuring the hit single “Peso” – the Harlem native released his debut studio album, Long.Live.A$AP, early last week. Featuring notable guest appearances from artists such as Drake, Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, and 2 Chainz and star producers like Hit-Boy, 40, Skrillex and T-Minus, Long.Live.A$AP strikes a balance between heavy-hitting party raps and trippy, wonky songs that will constantly have you guessing what comes next.
A$AP Rocky’s choice of instrumentals is truly extravagant. Every beat serves its purpose – the bass-heavy “Goldie” (produced by Hit-Boy) gives listeners the feeling that they are truly living life like King Midas, while the synths on “Hell” and “Pain” feel like something expected of Tyler, the Creator (in a good way). A$AP Rocky isn’t a rapper well known for his deep lyrics, but his personality on the mic is definitely noticeable on this album. He shines mostly on experimental tracks such as “Wild for the Night,” which features remixing by Skrillex; this loud, electronic instrumentation meshes well with his style of rapping. Despite this, his performance on posse cuts such as “F***in’ Problems” or “1Train” also stand out simply for his flow and cadence.
Rocky’s instrumental ear is complemented by his choice of featured artists; despite a diverse sampling, the album remains focused, and when featured artists – Danny Brown, Action Bronson, and Joey Bada$$ – do appear, they remain a welcome surprise.
Unfortunately, his greatest assets on the album tend to be his greatest detriments as well. At times, tracks seem to drag on, or the instrumentals become too distracting, making it difficult to fully enjoy his performance. Also, by featuring so many artists, their vocals may become more memorable than Rocky’s at times. In fact, Rocky’s lyrics often play out as filler on some parts of the album: tracks such as “PMW (All I Really Need)” and “Fashion Killa” point out how repetitive some hooks can become. Even the current hit “F***in’ Problems” suffers from the issue.
Despite its shortcomings, Long.Live.A$AP is a welcome addition to the genre as the first major release of 2013. The production is top-notch, the pacing is enjoyable, and the features truly help to make gems out of some potentially skip-worthy tracks, even if they do take the spotlight off of the album artist. Give this album a listen if you enjoy hip-hop music.