January 24, 2013 9 comments
As of the date of this review, A$AP Rocky’s major label debut, LongLiveA$AP is over a week removed from its release date. And, technically, it should probably be marked as a 2012 album considering how early it leaked. Regardless, with full awareness that the LP of topic here is probably well traversed by our audience at large, I know how I feel about the album in its originally packaged form: slightly below mediocre. But, where LongLiveA$AP confounds me the most is just how easy of a fix that mediocrity is. The benefit of the timing of this review is that I can say with full confidence that LLA (as I’ll now refer to it because “Shift + 4” is such a pain) is a good album… If you’re willing to get creative.
Opening with the punching, spacey title track and following it with lead single “Goldie” is just what a rapper like A$AP Rocky needs — fresh off of a buzz-filled year touting high profile features, widespread radio exposure, and continued praise for his breakout mixtape, 2011’s LiveLoveA$AP. An amalgamation of the tendencies, sensibilities and dynamic flows that Rocky can trigger at the drop of a hat; all affixed into one opening, two song suite. Now, to preface my next point, the only two songs on LLA I see as too weak, or plain bad, to be present here are “Hell”, featuring a lost and phoned-in Santigold, and the seemingly purpose-less “Fashion Killa”. So, a song like “PMW (All I Really Need)”, being the solid album cut it is, has its place, just not as the third track to ease out of a stellar intro. It seems like a nitpick right now, but the persistence of this issue becomes this albums identity.
LongLiveA$AP is one big sequencing nightmare.
The most unfortunate part of this mess is that most of these otherwise decent to great tracks are made less effective because of their placing on the tracklist. The Clams Casino produced “LVL” screeches the album to a halt with its skipped and jarred synth line, the aforementioned “Hell” takes another Clams beat and goes nearly nowhere with it, and the mid-album hyper lull is capped off by “Pain”, featuring smoked-out Cali crew OverDoz. None of these songs are that overtly offensive on their own but, in context, they belong nowhere near each other. It’s not like A$AP hasnt had this issue before. That “Houston Old Head” to “Acid Drip” to “Leaf” section of LiveLoveA$AP wasn’t exactly the most enjoyable episode of his catalog, but nothing like this. And, the even more glaring problem is that, even with a budget that allowed for 18 features, none of the guests here really take the A$AP archetype and run with it. Most of the featured vocalists get buried in the aesthetic, which is remarkable because, again, the songs still aren’t too abhorrent on their own. Whether it be Drake and Kendrick Lamar tagging each of their verses with an inexplicable “beast” on everyone’s favorite 2 Chainz hook, or Skrillex toning things down to from audio meth to audio nitrous for “Wild for the Night”; because the mold of A$AP can be so predictable, none of his co-stars have to really shine, they can just kind of show up.
Which brings us to “1 Train”. Hit-Boy sets the stage for the semi-underground (’cause what’s really underground still?) rap fan’s dream lineup. Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, YelaWolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson, Big K.R.I.T.; all on one track to, well… I don’t actually know what they’re all there for. The bars here are okay, and no one really ruins it — although someone might need to take YelaWolf aside and speak to him about his apparent identity crisis — this all just seems like pomp and circumstance. A statement of affiliation rather than an attempt at entertainment or art. And yet, for the love of all things Based it doesn’t suck!! And, just when all hope is threatening to be restored, another three-song arch of dreary beats and plaintive melodies comes knifing through to slash the remaining tires of this project.
The standard edition of LLA closes with “Fashion Killa”, a name-drop-athon of clothing lines that features “Rockin’, rollin’, swaggin’ to the max/My bitch a fashion killa, she be busy poppin’ tags/She got a lotta Prada, that Dolce & Gabbana/I can’t forget Escada, and that Balenciaga.” Seriously? Then, the closing couplet touts a beat from Danger Mouse that Cee-Lo probably scolded him for with “Phoenix”, and the meandering “Suddenly” to close the affair out. “Suddenly” is actually a standout for me, but the exhaustion of reaching the final track is so daunting that it almost seems cruel.
LongLiveA$AP is a bad album, but not because it has bad songs, which is probably the least astute criticism I’ve ever given (0 for 1 in 2013 as far as incisive, poignant analysis goes, but oh well.) So here’s what I did to make things tolerable for myself: First, get the deluxe edition, because “Jodye”, “Ghetto Symphany” (featuring the ever-manic Gunplay and the ever-offbeat A$AP Ferg) and “Angels” are a stronger trio than any triple song set on the original pressing. Keep the two-song opener and annex “Angels” into the three spot. While we’re making changes, delete “Hell” and “Fashion Killa” (surprise!) and drop “Ghetto Symphony” and “Jodye” in their spots, respectively. I promise you a much smoother listen with these alterations. But, honestly, you can mix, match and remove at your own preference, the point is: I rearranged half of the album and got something that I still enjoy to this day. I’m not completely sure what that means, but I am certain that, in its intended state, LongLiveA$AP simply isn’t worth a full run through. Some assembly is definitely required.
Lyrics with verified explanations from A$AP:
1. ASAP Rocky – Long.Live.A$AP Lyrics
2. ASAP Rocky – Goldie Lyrics
3. ASAP Rocky – PMW (All I Really Need) Lyrics
4. ASAP Rocky – LVL Lyrics
5. ASAP Rocky – Hell Lyrics
6. ASAP Rocky – Pain Lyrics
7. ASAP Rocky – Fuckin’ Problems Lyrics
8. ASAP Rocky – Wild for the Night Lyrics
9. ASAP Rocky – 1 Train Lyrics
10. ASAP Rocky – Fashion Killa Lyrics
11. ASAP Rocky – Phoenix Lyrics
12. ASAP Rocky – Suddenly Lyrics
13. ASAP Rocky – Jodye Lyrics
14. ASAP Rocky – Ghetto Symphony Lyrics
15. ASAP Rocky – Angels Lyrics
16. ASAP Rocky – I Come Apart Lyrics
ASAP Rocky – Purple Swag (H-Town All-Star Remix) Lyrics
ASAP Rocky – 1 Train (Remix) Lyrics