The Big Issue album review: A$AP Rocky — ‘Long.Live.A$AP’, February 2013

A feature album review for The Big Issue covering A$AP Rocky’s debut album Long.Live.A$AP, printed in issue #425 (early February) of the magazine.

Click the below image for a closer look, or read the article text underneath.

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LONG.LIVE.A$AP

A$AP ROCKY

[three and a half stars]

Perhaps the biggest question surrounding the release of Long.Live.A$AP is whether Sony got its $3 million worth. Such was the advance reportedly received by A$AP Rocky in October 2011, purely on the strength of two singles and blog-loads of hype. After the release of Rocky’s debut mixtape, Live.Love.A$AP, later that same month, the label would have stood behind its decision. The street album was roundly lauded by critics: a narcotic Southern haze belying Rocky’s Harlem origins and his taste for classy productions.

Perhaps the biggest question surrounding the release of Long.Live.A$AP is whether Sony got its $3 million worth. Such was the advance reportedly received by A$AP Rocky in October 2011, purely on the strength of two singles and blog-loads of hype. After the release of Rocky’s debut mixtape, Live.Love.A$AP, later that same month, the label would have stood behind its decision. The street album was roundly lauded by critics: a narcotic Southern haze belying Rocky’s Harlem origins and his taste for classy productions.

But 15 months later, and with Rocky’s major-label album now upon us, you could understand Sony getting cold feet. There’s a tightrope being walked on Long.Live.A$AP – a balancing act between what Rocky’s known for and what’s now expected of him.

Things kick off brilliantly. The stabbing title track vacillates between uncertainty – I wonder if they’ll miss me/As long as I make history – and falsetto boasts: I’m living forever. One of 2012’s best singles, the chiming ‘Goldie’ has barely lost an ounce of electricity a year on. ‘PMW (All I Really Need)’ is pure horsepower, Rocky locking horns with LA’s Schoolboy Q for some ferocious wordplay. ‘LVL’, the archetypal Rocky cut, finalises the opening salvo: bold double-timed raps struck through with producer Clams Casino’s mighty beats, the delivery cracked by self-doubt and a pitched-down voice acting as devil on the shoulder.

Long.Live.A$AP’s weakness lies in its middle section, fattened with predictable productions and egregious guest spots. Typically, Toronto’s Drake arrives to spray his scent all over ‘F**kin’ Problems’, while dubstep producer Skrillex helps deliver the diabolical ‘Wild for the Night’. ‘Fashion Killa’ is the nadir, a four-minute cornball curating of Rocky’s favourite haute couture. It’s embarrassing stuff.

There’s still plenty left in the kitty – the feature-rich ‘1 Train’ and the paranoid final brace of ‘Phoenix’ and ‘Suddenly’ – but the damage is already done. Making it worse is a slew of fantastic bonus cuts, further evidence of compromises made in pushing the record out the door.

In isolation, Long.Live.A$AP would be considered a fine debut. But it stands beside Live.Love.A$AP, a 16-track mixtape with an unerring artistic vision. If Rocky had been allowed to stay true to the fractious braggadocio that’s so far defined his career, the record would have had the potential to be one of the finest of 2013. Instead, the 24-year-old has made an admirable play at pleasing everybody, and in the process perhaps not entirely pleasing anybody.

by Matt Shea 

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