Polo Grounds / RCA
The anticipation surrounding the release of A$AP Rocky’s major-label debut has been palpable over the previous few months. Hip-hop appears to be enjoying something of a renaissance moment currently, with the spectacular rise of Kendrick Lamar and various other contemporaries (Schoolboy Q, Danny Brown et al) marking something of a rejuvenation. New York resident A$AP Rocky has benefited from some of surplus energy created by this buzz, his debut attracting attention for its list of big name collaborators (Santigold, Florence Welch, as well as many of the rappers named above) and choice production talent (Clams Casino, Skillrex and Dangermouse). The key question then is does Long.Live.A$AP live up to its promise?
The answer is a straightforward “no”. There is no denying that A$AP Rocky is charismatic and has a good ear, as highlighted by the compelling pre-album single Goldie. However, while a compressed dose of A$AP in three minute song form comes across as exciting and energised, the cumulative effect of a 12 track album is a fatiguing one. By the time a listener reaches past the mid-point, the much touted collaboration with Skillrex Wild for the Night, the feeling is one of absolute boredom.
It doesn’t help that Skrillex has the rare ability to make every Skrillex track sound like a pastiche of every other Skrillex track.
Things pick up slightly on posse cut 1Train, its driving string sample and relentless clap-trap beat recalling the best moments of the Wu Tang dynasty. It is not enough though, and there is an abundance of half-realised tracks and poorly executed intentions. Fashion Killer is a prime example, a sort of weary romantic ballad filtered through hip-hop’s worst excesses of materialism and misogyny. Its chorus of “her pistol go” also produced the unfortunate malapropism “herpes to go” for this particular reviewer, a phrase it’s proving difficult to eradicate. Thematically A$AP Rocky’s lyrics fail to move much beyond the virtues of “Money, Pussy, Weed”, all of which seem rather juvenile when compared to the subtleties of contemporaries like Kendrick Lamar, or even the knock-down red-light district humour of Danny Brown.
The best beats are provided by Clams Casino, his slurring, thick production style a good counterpoint to the slurring A$AP. Unfortunately even at its best, Long.Live.A$AP fails to match the expectations it came bundled with. Perhaps it is unfair to draw in comparisons to A$AP’s contemporaries, given that the bar has been set so high in the past year, but the inevitable feeling is that this debut is not quite up to the gold standard, more an almost ran.
Words: Andrew Spragg