An echoing thunder resounds at the beginning of A$AP Rocky’s debut album, and sometimes his verses and hooks are just as loud.
With “LONG.LIVE.A$AP,” the rookie MC seeks the acclaim and notoriety Drake and Kendrick Lamar recently acquired. However, he has a down-home style that places him in a different category than other aspiring rap kings.
“Long Live A$AP” begins the album, and lyrics of failure and despair sound fresh and genuine over Southern bass and multiple voice-over samples: “I thought I’d probably die in prison, expensive taste in women,” Rocky spits in the opening lines. These lyricsgive a strange sample of if Notorious B.I.G. rapped over Outkast beats. As with a majority of “LONG.LIVE.A$AP,” the verses don’t overly impress, but the unique context they’re placed in does.
Rocky’s rhymes speed up on “Goldie,” and he willingly substitutes words that make sense for those that flow well; this technique confused at times but worked well overall. “PMW (All I Really Need)” represents the desired, holy hip-hop trifecta with a repetitive, catchy hook and spacy backdrop.
By track five, Rocky invites more rappers and songstresses to contribute soulful choruses and blazing bars than even Rocky can keep track of.
The number of prominent artists featured is the best indicator of Rocky’s potential. Electro-queen Santigold complements Rocky well on “Hell”; his verses, along with the instrumental, build until Santigold’s bridge, where her voice chimes like a bicycle trudging through lava.
“F**ckin’ Problems” reigns over all other songs, almost combined. Raindrops run down the speakers for a chilling effect,and Drake and Lamar outshine Rocky, which shows he must improve. Being featured on such a potential hit, though, holds huge ramifications, and standing next to such icons can catapult Rocky’s career, however malaise his efforts are at times.
By song eight, “Wild For The Night,” I realized something. A single feature used in nearly every song began agitating to the point I chuckled: a tampered, deep voice effect that spoke hooks and introductions on songs throughout “LONG.LIVE.A$AP.”
First heard on “Goldie,” song two, the obnoxious and emotionless voice ruins every section it’s featured on—sometimes entire tracks. Often inexperienced rappers ride the coattails of more experienced artists; that’s understandable. If Rocky must rely on such a poor element, a distorted murmur repeatedly chanting obscenities, to carry the load, however, his apparent talent is questionable.
After recognizing downfalls of “LONG.LIVE.A$AP,” appreciating triumphs is more difficult. Rocky’s debut album does end strong, and when not fearing the reappearance of an agonizing voice-over, his whitty metaphors and unique perspective is memorable. Rocky particularly branches out on “Fashion Killa,” where he references mommas, Madonna and Nirvana in one breath.
“LONG.LIVE.A$AP” may not reach the levels “Take Care” and “Good Kid, M.A.A.D City” have—two prominent, recent releases—but the album is a strong start for a flavorful, introspective MC. By working harder on spitting clever, detailed rhymes and less on corny gimmicks, Rocky’s skill will catapult him.
Final Rating: Three and-a-half Suns out of Five