Ringleader of the A$AP Mob is back with his first full length LP, following up the renowned 2011 Mixtape Live Love A$AP. Rocky has never been celebrated for his groundbreaking lyricism (many detractors claim him a Spaceghostpurrp-lite) and this has not changed on Long Live A$AP, however the prevailing swagger and immaculate production across the board manages to carry it along. While Rocky’s flows are fairly basic, the cavernous,sweeping beats that at times resembles a Massive Attack instrumental meld into a dreamlike smog lulling the listener into a dazed stupor that lingers on for the whole 60 minutes.
Similar to his contemporary Tyler The Creator, Rocky’s tales of violence and debauchery are presented in a tongue-in-cheek almost jokey fashion with his gangsta fantasies resembling a weed hazed dream, with Rocky donning the persona of a stoned gangsta jester. Rocky doesn’t desire to be taken seriously, like his trendier-than-thou photoshoots he is shooting for maximum style and carries the songs along with his larger than life persona and never wavering coolness, like a modern day Snoop Dogg.
Standout tracks include ethereal opener which flows between Rocky’s trademark bold and abrasive rhymes and an entrancing mellow, floaty sung chorus. Fan favourite Goldie makes an appearance, both a party anthem and a tongue in cheek middle finger to haters. Standout club banger F***ing Problems is sure to be a radioplay regular featuring guest spots from Drake, 2 Chains and prodigy Kendrick Lamar, with it’s infectiously catchy beat and hilariously crass chorus this tune is sure to be stuck in your head for days. Sonny Moore collaboration Wild For The Night marries Rocky’s bouncy rhymes with EDM, with Rocky spitting over Skrillex’s reworking of a Birdy Nam Nam joint. But where the album shines both in production values and lyrical strength is actually marathon collaboration1Train, Rocky kicks the song off in style with a darker take on his technique, conjuring images of dilapidated late night subway rides filled with sketchy characters and growing up on the mean streets of Harlem. Rocky then passes the mic to Kendrick Lamar who shows his true lyrical skill with an exceptional verse that gets progressively desperate to the point of hearing his voice cracking as he gasps out the last lines of the standout guest spot of the album. The song also features Eminem protégé Yelawolf, young buck Joey Bada$$, the brilliant and manic Danny Brown, Queens heavyweight Action Bronson and rounded off by the irreplaceable Big K.R.I.T.
It doesn’t always gel this well however, while it is a welcome change of pace to hear Rocky’s sensitive side onFashion Killer it is ultimately a tribute to Rocky’s penchant for designer clothes rather than a moment of emotional openness and ends up feeling just a little shallow.
A$AP Rocky is as much a fashion icon as he is a musician, and if you buy into Rocky’s cult appeal you will probably get a lot more out of this record, however even without that level of context, Long Live A$AP is still a tremendously fun listen even though it is slightly lacking in diversity and definitely can’t match up to the depth found in other recent releases such as Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid M.A.A.D City. This may be a case of style over substance but like a recent Tarantino film this has it’s place and Rocky’s effort is authentic enough to make even the squarest of us feel supremely cool.