Release Date: Jan 15, 2013
Record label: RCA
Genre(s): Rap, Alternative Rap, Underground Rap, Pop-Rap
A$AP Rocky is proof of how much rap careers have accelerated: The 24-year-old Harlem MC is just making his major-label debut, but he's already facing the expectations and challenges once associated with second or third albums. Blame it on 2011's strikingly confident Live. Love.A$AP mixtape, whose pan-regional charm – a blend of syrup-slow Houston hooks, double-quick Midwest flows and Big Apple arrogance – made him a star.
A few months ago, A$AP Rocky's career seemed mired in purgatory. The 24-year-old Harlem rapper had a spectacular 2011, snagging a still-crazy $3 million deal with RCA based on early buzz and then silencing skeptics with his breakout LiveLoveA$AP mixtape. But throughout 2012, LongLiveA$AP repeatedly failed to materialize. It was slated for July 4th, then September 11th, October 31, and eventually, sometime in December.
A$AP Rocky :: Long. Live. A$APRCA/Polo Grounds MusicAuthor: Jesal 'Jay Soul' PadaniaMajor label debuts are a tricky thing to pull off, and there are many ways to approach such a daunting task. You could load it chock full of singles just to get a foot in the door; create a respected concept from start to finish; focus on getting the production right as a safety net… And some prize versatility above all, viewing the album as a showcase for their talents, a curriculum vitae for their entire pre-label come up.
If you're looking for spellbinding technical rapping on LongLiveA$AP, you'll find it. It just won't be dripping from the mouth of the album's gutter-flamboyant host, whose appeal lies not in his double entendres, but in his dozy/cocky aesthetic. You'll love this album, but you won't learn much from it — "Pussy, money, weed/that's all a nigga need" goes one refrain.
While his lyrics are thug-informed and filled with a snotty swagger, rapper A$AP Rocky cloaked himself in the crackle and reverb of witch house, and then connected the dots to hip-hop's druggy past, offering chopped (cut-up) and screwed (slowed-down) hooks that recalled the hypnotic world of DJ Screw, Three 6 Mafia, and Swishahouse. Mixtapes and the Internet were his platforms, while goth and Masonic designs were his imagery, and then somehow, some way, this polar opposite to what was poppin' in 2012 wound up in a Lana Del Rey video, performing next to Rihanna at the MTV Video Music Awards, starring in an EA Sports video games commercial, and on the RCA label with a three-million dollar contract. The reason is, he can create a batch of tracks as solid and addictive as the ones found on Long.
No matter what folks think of A$AP Rocky—not grimy enough for New York, not Southern enough for the South, too focused on weird fashion—the 24-year-old has music fans talking. After dropping the well-received mixtape LiveLoveA$AP in 2011, Rocky’s proper studio album debut LongLiveA$AP finally arrives (via leak to some) after a handful of delays. The heavy and lumbering intro/title track serves as the tone-setter for this project—both in terms of sound and subject matter.
It's hard not to be impressed by the ambition A$AP Rocky has for his debut album. Even in the world of hip-hop – not a genre whose practitioners are much given to promoting their albums by mumbling that they just make music for themselves and if anyone else likes it it's a bonus – there's something quite striking about the former Rakim Mayers' objectives for Long Live A$AP, which seem to involve bringing about global unity. "I want to be the first guy to help people accept everybody for who they are," he recently told a journalist.
Review Summary: Ridin on my enemies, this my Ghetto SymphonySince taking the blogosphere by storm with 2011's Live.Love.A$AP A$AP Rocky has been almost solely responsible for the new found relevancy of cloud-rap. But where his mixtape emphasized reverb-drenched production typical of Clams Casino, his RCA debut predictably caters more to the mainstream. That's not to say it's a bad thing by any means.
A$AP RockyLong.Live.A$AP[RCA; 2013]By Chase McMullen; January 14, 2013Purchase at: Insound (Vinyl) | Amazon (MP3 & CD) | iTunes | MOGTweetIn the compressed world of modern hip hop, stars are not born. There are no sudden explosions, no mad dashes, no emerging from the woodwork through pure velocity, as, say, one of young New York MC A$AP Rocky’s principal inspirations, DJ Screw and the SUC collective managed through his unique, slowed down Houston sound. Yet, in Rocky’s world, a star is essentially raised in a vat, a genesis free for all to watch, poke at, and ultimately, judge.
There are few debut albums that come steeped in as much hype as A$AP Rocky’s major-label debut. After releasing his critically-acclaimed mixtape Llive.Long.A$AP in 2011, the Harlem rapper was shortlisted for BBC Sound of 2012 and was considered by many music critics to be the next big thing. Another year has passed since then and another list of artists set to dominate the New Year have materialised, but finally – after several scrapped release dates – A$AP Rocky’s debut has arrived.
So the story goes that when A$AP Rocky (real name Rakim Mayers) was a baby, his mum saw legendary rapper and namesake Rakim at some traffic lights, ran over, and asked him to sign her child’s nappy. Thanks to lucky ink, or perhaps nominative determinism, the 24-year-old Rocky is now leading a self-styled “new Harlem renaissance” with a $3million record deal and one of the most anticipated albums of 2013.Quick recap. 2011’s mixtape ‘LiveLoveA$AP’ shot Rocky into the critical consciousness.
Debut albums rarely arrive as fully-formed as A$AP Rocky’s Live.Love.A$AP, let alone mixtapes. Cloud rap had been piquing the interest of blogs and websites for a while, but Live.Love.A$AP was the first release to, if not fully break into the mainstream, begin to permeate the consciousness of the indie music press. It was exhilarating and infuriating in equal measure – its woozy, dark production was unlike practically anything else in hip-hop, and A$AP Rocky announced himself as an emcee with a great flow.
As much as any major label debut in recent memory, what angle one approaches Long. Live. A$AP from will pretty easily color how one judges it. A$AP Rocky just sort of appeared two years ago, springing out of YouTube into collaborations with Main Attrakionz, Juicy J and Smoke DZA. He put a tidy ….
Just a few years ago it would have been difficult for a still-emerging major label rap artist to get away with what A$AP Rocky has. He's all aesthetic, and his aesthetic is breaking all the rules. Rocky's first major label release reflects this. It's a flamboyant, confident debut from an artist whose entire career is defined by a post-rap sensibility.
Working closely with talented producers like Clams Casino and Hit Boy, A$AP Rocky has cultivated one of modern hip-hop’s most singularly entrancing sounds, a hazy, numinous aesthetic built on fantastically off-kilter beats. Yet for all the effort expended in laying this groundwork, A$AP himself often doesn’t seem up to the occasion, routinely underplaying material that demands a strong anchoring presence and refusing to push his lyrical focus beyond the usual hackneyed tropes. It’s an issue that continues on Long.
“Harlem’s what I’m reppin’,” said ASAP Rocky over and again on 2011’s LiveLoveASAP mixtape. Okay, but the defining narrative on the 24-year-old so far has revolved around his penchant for embracing sounds with origins everywhere but his native New York. That tape, his breakout, often found Rocky amid a seamless composite of disparate pieces: hooks built from codeine-lubricated vocals traceable back to DJ Screw and the S.U.C.; a pliant flow seemingly derived entirely from Wish Bone’s verse on Bone Thugs’ “East Eternal 1999”; and beats from or in the vein of Clams Casino and the New Jersey producer’s diffuse grandeur.
"That pretty motherfucker" is how A$AP Rocky chose to distinguish himself on his debut mixtape LiveLoveA$AP, bursting into the public eye in 2011 with mob in tow. A harmless enough adlib in itself, of course, but Rocky’s biggest struggle ever since has been to prove that he’s anything more than just a pretty face. It’s not like he hasn’t been given the opportunities; the unwavering attention of the press, his pick of beats from some of the most seductive producers around, and a cushty major label contract reportedly worth $3 million.
“Kneel and kiss the ring,” A$AP Rocky demands on “LVL”, the fourth song on Long. Live. A$AP, the New York rapper’s major label debut. This precise lyric brings to mind a Raekwon song from 2009. Is it braggadocio sui generis or a knowing nod to an influence? There’s no way of knowing ….
The roundtable in hip-hop’s current kingdom reserves most of its thrones for MCs like Drake and Kendrick Lamar — self-flagellating rappers who storm the battlefield with a quiver full of emotional arrows. Comparatively speaking, Harlem mixtape hero A$AP Rocky is a court jester, defiantly celebrating champagne and strippers. In his hands, though, those radio-baller clichés evolve into contagious comic relief: When Drake drops by on ”F—in’ Problems,” it sounds like he hasn’t had this much fun since the last Degrassi wrap party.
Long live the overwrought rap album intro. That crucial opening track has been, since time immemorial, the home for cinematic skits, for call-outs to the haters, for profane shouts to the wilderness and the ether that the star of the album is not what you’ve designed him to be, that in fact the natural rules of death and grief and humiliation do not now apply to him nor have they ever, and that he has come to take what is rightfully his, which is the game and sex and money and the world and immortality. It’s a clarion call to himself, and it’s right and just that it is.
What are we supposed to make of this: a New York City rapper with a sound more Houston than Harlem, affiliated with a vaguely violent namesake crew, comfortably conversant in the chic fashion fringes, seemingly enamored of unconventional productions and downright improbable collaborators? The most nebulous major-label rapper in recent memory, A$AP Rocky has accomplished so much without the benefit of a neatly summarized narrative. Neither the borough's best emcee nor anywhere near its worst, his rise appears based on some gaseous confluence of lofty A&R hopes, social media savvy, and fortuitously unchecked hype. After a handful of mixtapes - both solo and with the A$AP Mob - and now an official full-length debut, Rocky remains enigmatic to the point where one might feel compelled to question whether there's any substance there at all.
No rap movement from 2012 captured the hip-hop world better than “Always Strive and Prosper.” A$AP Rocky is living proof of his own words, building an aesthetic that stems from syrupy Houston bounce with an appreciation for New York rap. The 24-year-old Harlem rapper’s worldview—consists of high-fashion trends by Jeremy Scott, Raf Simons and Rick Owens—follows the lineage of Harlem’s flashy roots, channeling an immaculate taste of hypnotic-cloud raps. It earned him a fat $3 million deal from RCA, while his lauded Live.Love.A$AP mixtape showcased the crew’s lifestyle beyond its music.
Rakim Mayers was never meant to be underground. He doesn't have the penchant for introspection or self-deprecation that one finds with rap's cult figures. What he does have is a magnetic persona and a knack for crafting dreamy hip-hop anthems – tracks that might seem underground on paper but ultimately have the unmistakable feel of a hit. It is unsurprising then that his time in the limbo between underground notoriety and a three million dollar record deal was practically non-existent.
A$AP Rocky is the ultimate internet rap success story. His career took off in 2010, when his business partner A$AP Yams started realniggatumblr. The blog built a brand by covering street rap from all regions from a distinctly New York perspective and by being basically the gulliest voice on the internet. Journalistic integrity wasn’t a strong suit; the business connection between Yams and Rocky wasn’t always apparent even as it began pushing Rocky as an artist.
In hip-hop’s ongoing battle between style and substance, Harlem rapper A$AP Rocky is a convincing argument for style as substance. With his Alexander Wang-styled videos, his penchant for drop-crotch pants, his ear for opulent beats and his constant insistence that he is, in fact, a “pretty motherfucker,” he’s turned taste into a higher calling. An often bland cipher of a personality, he’s not so much interested in representing a world view, telling a story or expressing an emotion as much as he wants to assemble an identity through the process of curation.