A$AP Rocky – Long. Live. A$AP

written by: January 17, 2013
Album Cover Long. Live. ASAP Release Date:


Substance versus style is an age old debate going back somewhere near the dawn of time. It all probably started back when some flashy kid named Icarus decided that he only cared about looking cool, flew too close to the sun, got burnt, and ended up smashed on the rocks below. This debate continues, and it’s one of the major dynamics alive both in this album and A$AP Rocky’s young hip-hop career.

If there’s one thing you can say about Rakim Mayers, better known as A$AP Rocky, it’s that he’s got style. The stelf-stylized “pretty motherfucker” knows how to dress, knows how to look good, knows how to sound good, and wants you to know about it. He raps about it or at least mentions it in nearly every song on this album and his 2011 breakout mixtape Live. Love. A$AP. It’s his gimmick, his schtick, as it were. It’s what he’s known for. He’s also known for picking some of the most interesting beats of any MC out there. Live. Love. A$AP was filled with quality beat after quality beat. Five of them coming from underrated underground producer Clams Casino. These beats provided a depth to each song that you’d be hard to find in A$AP’s actual lyrics. His rhymes were more of a gloss that put that final sheen on everything and made it look like a million bucks.

In this long-awaited follow up that just doesn’t feel like the case. Most of the beats are once again very solid platforms with a lot of depth for listeners to dive right into. Especially the two tracks provided by beat prodigy Hit-Boy, “1 Train” and the monster first-single “Goldie.” It makes you wonder if Hit-Boy has any clue how to make an uninteresting beat. Other tracks provided by the likes of wonder producer Danger Mouse and Skrillex add an interesting mix of soundscapes you just don’t find on most hip-hop albums. Clams Casino’s two tracks that come one right after the other on the album, “LVL” and “Hell,” are both very good by normal standards, but feel somewhat simple when compared to earlier work from the producer. The album has a very enjoyable overall sound and musical flow, but definitely isn’t as interesting or as fun as Live. Love. A$AP. Which is why you’d expect something else like A$AP’s lyric’s to pickup the slack of the album.

But, it’s really the lyrics where this train just seems to come off the proverbial tracks. A$AP references two of the most creative and influential MCs to ever put rhymes together, Andre 3000 and Ol’ Dirty Bastard. The former he name drops in the tracks “Wild for the Night” and the bonus track “Ghetto Symphony.” The latter is referenced in the title track and the second single “Fuckin’ Problems” by his use of ODB’s famous phrase “shimmy, shimmy ya.” If what he’s trying to do is put himself in that accomplished pantheon of hip-hop he’s got a lot more work to do, and he’s going to have to become more than a one track pony continually rapping about the same topic, how good he looks, over and over again. There’s so much self-aggrandizing of his own fashion and style that it’s hard to even take him serious on tracks like “Phoenix” where he delves deeper into the hard life he had growing up in Harlem. On Hit-Boy’s second addition to this album, the classically fresh sounding “1 Train”, A$AP breaks one of the unwritten rules of hip-hop. When someone out raps you on your own beat normally you try to stop that from ever seeing the light of day. A$AP actually lets 6 MCs do this with 6 consecutive versus from these MCs: Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson, and a thoroughly impressive verse from Big K.R.I.T. to cap it off. By the end of the song you’ve completely forgotten A$AP was even on the track at all. Maybe these are signs of inexperience, but being a one-topic pony and getting severely out classed on your own songs does not make someone the “trillest.” (Trill is a combination of the words true and real, and A$AP’s favorite term for himself.)

There’s a track on the album, the second single, “Fuckin’ Problems,” that features four of the current age of hip-hop’s top players in the game, A$AP, Drake, 2 Chainz, and the young rising supernova Kendrick Lamar. The track kind of shines as a glaring example of what hip-hop is and most likely where it’s headed. Drake is there bragging about sleeping with more chicks, 2 Chainz is yelling an ignorantly clever yet somewhat funny hook, A$AP is once again discussing how good he looks, and Kendrick, nowhere near at the top of his craft, completely out classes everyone else on the track like he was just taking the day off and decided to murder some beats for sport. You can almost hear the laugh in his voice from the first line. “Yeah ho, this is the finale. My pep talk turn into a pep rally.” As if to say, subtly, “You’ve just heard them rap, and this is what I’m up against in the hip-hop game? I got this.”

It seems very clear to me that if A$AP wants to truly be the legend he keeps saying he is then he needs to take some notes from his friend Mr. Lamar on wordplay, entendre, and metaphor. Nobody has a better ear for hot beats or as cool a style, but those things only get someone so far, and without better raps he’ll just be left smashed on the rocks below like some other flashy kid who thought he was flyer than he really was.

A$AP Rocky Long. Live. A$AP Tracklisting:

  1. “Love Live A$AP”
  2. “Goldie”
  3. “PMW (All I Really Need)” (feat. Schoolyboy Q)
  4. “LVL”
  5. “Hell” (feat. Santigold)
  6. “Pain” (feat. OverDoz)
  7. “Fuckin’ Problems” (feat. Drake, 2 Chainz, and Kendrick Lamar)
  8. “Wild for the Night” (feat. Skrillex and Birdy Nam Nam)
  9. “1 Train” (feat. Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, YelaWolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson, and Big K.R.I.T.)
  10. “Fashion Killa”
  11. “Phoenix”
  12. “Suddenly”
  13. “Jodye”
  14. “Ghetto Symphony” (feat. Gunplay and A$AP Ferg)
  15. “I Come Apart” (feat. Florence Welch)