A$AP Rocky | Long.Live.A$AP

A$AP Worldwide/Polo Grounds Music/RCA Records (2013)
By MICHAEL C. WALSH  |  January 16, 2013
2.5 2.5 Stars

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A$AP Rocky is a living, breathing Tumblr aggregator. Anyone familiar with his 2010 debut mixtape Live.Love.A$AP can attest to as much: a penchant for Lil B-indebted swaggadocious raps and a Bone Thug-in-training ability to snap from incline into doubletime, all swathed in a stylistic coating of Houston purple. In fact, if there's a knock to be had against the Harlem rapper, it's that he lacks an original presence. So it's curious that for his major-label debut he's opted to further venture down the rabbit hole of references, loading Long.Live.A$AP with a bevy of guests with personalities far more distinctive than his own. There are legitimate geniuses (Kendrick Lamar, Santigold), a couple of upstarts teetering on the brink of genius (ScHoolboy Q, Danny Brown), and some characters that my 17-year-old cousin believes to be genius (Skrillex, Drake). Unfortunately, the decision to put himself in the midst of this cavalcade was likely his only option given the cutthroat nature of the record biz, where you're liable to suffer through a series of release delays until you land that world-beating radio smash. Luckily, Rocky happened upon one with "Fuckin' Problems." But the track's success was due more to 2 Chainz's husky hook than to the routine 16 bars from Rocky that it buried. Same with "1 Train": Rocky launches the "Symphony"-esque posse romp with perhaps his toughest verse on the album, but it's eventually swallowed by a pack of up-and-coming roughnecks, each taking full advantage of the high-profile opportunity to traipse all over producer Hit-Boy's orchestral swirl. It's only when Rocky opts to eschew verse-chorus structure that he shines. Clams Casino's overdose headrush on "LVL" affords Rocky the ideal backdrop to casually trip through the proceedings, altering his flow and our consciousness in the process. And "Suddenly" sees him abandoning his unflappable boasts in favor of a personalized tale of comeuppance. It serves both as the album closer and as an overdue glimpse behind his construct of cool. Long live more of that version of A$AP, please.

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  Topics: CD Reviews , A$ap Rocky
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