A$AP Rocky - Long.Live.A$AP
17 Jan 2013
"The sheer fun of it all is enough for us to wish Rocky well on his continued journey out of the Harlem neighbourhood that spawned him, even if he is more likely to occupy Macy’s than he is Wall Street along the way..."
Since A$AP Rocky’s fine Live.Love.A$AP mixtape came out in October 2011, ‘internet people’ have been getting all up in his grill (he has a lovely gold grill) over the fact that his debut album proper, Long.Live.A$AP, has taken a while to appear in its wake. But Rocky’s been in no rush, dropping enough collaborations, fights with photographers and fashion shoots here and there (OK, regular fashion shoots , everywhere), to ensure he’s never been far from our news feeds, even if he might not have been top of our ‘most played’ lists. Not hurrying the record was a shrewd tactic, as the extra time spent on it has really paid off – the thing sounds great. But his extra-curricular activities speak to another, almost wholly un-musical side of what Rocky’s aiming for with his wider career; this is a boy certainly as interested in being an all round superstar as he is in being superb rapper. Clearly, he doesn’t seem to think the two things are incompatible – and on this evidence, he might be right.
Long.Live.A$AP is just one part what’s to offer when you buy in to the A$AP brand, but given that I have no knowledge of the fashion world at all (as anyone who’s seen me will attest), the music and lyrics contained herein are all I’ll be focusing on. Thankfully, they give us more than enough to go on. If Rocky wasn’t such a “pretty motherfucker” (as he insists on reminding us, all the time), there’s certainly enough here to suggest that he could get by admirably just being, y’know, a rapper. But though his delivery is consistently mesmerising – ranging from manic to sleepy, from terrifying to genuinely funny – his topics of choice rarely get deeper than base concerns (as he puts it on ‘PMW (All I Need)’, “pussy, money, weed – all a n*gga need...”). The opening line of the album’s title track, and also it’s very first song (“I thought I’d probably die in prison”) is probably more thought provoking than any spoken in the hour that follows it. Thing is, once you’re over the idea that you’re here to have fun and not to learn anything, that doesn’t seem to matter. Because this thing bangs like a war.
Like all good hip hop records, its first few tracks (the unnervingly pitched down vocals of ‘Goldie’ and impeccable Clams Casino job on ‘LVL’ especially) are pretty impeccable, but it’s with the arrival of ‘Hell’ that A$AP delivers what could be his first crossover pop song. Yet it’s actually Santigold who comes across as the song’s real star, taking up far more time on it than Rocky himself with one of her finest, most melancholy choruses. In all other places though, Rocky makes sure it’s he who shines brightest, sparingly using guest appearances only when they make the most sense. ‘Fuckin’ Problem’, for example – one of those really disgusting, horrible rap songs that you really shouldn’t think is so brilliant – makes great use of the services of 2 Chainz, Drake and Kendrick Lamar because they all sound like they’re just friends having a total blast rather than a list of big names on the end of a track title, there for no other reason than to sell more records. Even a collaboration with Skrillex on party banger ‘Wild For The Night’ isn’t as hideous as it sounds (though the line “me and my n*gga Skrillex is exactly as hideous as it sounds).
Probably the track that sums the album up best is the sheer dumb fun of ‘Fashion Killa’, the culmination of everything ‘PMW (All I Need)’ aimed at – romping through those favourite subjects of his (she’s a fashion killer, and I’m a trendy n*gga”, he intones) – but fell just short of. He might be simply reeling off fashion labels over the smoothest, slickest, suspiciously stickiest of beats, but just listening to it makes you feel a bit prettier, richer, more famous. I’d imagine it’s the kind of thing that makes an excellent soundtrack to unhealthily thin people walking down catwalks, but am again at pains to stress that I have no idea what that kind of music actually sounds like.
So A$AP Rocky might not be drawing any lines in any sand, but in many ways, Long.Live.A$AP is quite an unusual major label hip hop album – there are no skits, no tracks you’ll be desperate to skip, no shout outs to God. The sheer fun of it all is enough for us to wish Rocky well on his continued journey out of the Harlem neighbourhood that spawned him, even if he is more likely to occupy Macy’s than he is Wall Street along the way.
Long.Live.A$AP is out now.