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Album Review | A$AP Rocky lives up to hype with debut album

‘Long.Live.A$AP’ accessible, challenging

Published: Thursday, January 24, 2013

Updated: Thursday, January 24, 2013 08:01

A$AP Rocky, a 24−year−old Harlem rapper, is just now re−emerging after his initial stardom to the delight of fans and critics alike. Lauded by many as a promising rapper to watch in coming years, Rocky has not disappointed with his most recent release, “Long.Live.A$AP.” An album marked by clever beats, lyrical dominance and unique style, “Long.Live.A$AP” is the long awaited album following Rocky’s mixtape “Live.Love.A$AP” that was released to rave reviews in 2011.

Indeed, it was this first impression that caught the attention of RCA Records and culminated in RCA offering Rocky a $3 million record deal based on the early buzz surrounding him. After this vote of confidence, the music community patiently awaited his full−length album. However, after a series of pushbacks and new schedules, the album began to seem more like an empty promise. Indeed, the frequent delays lent legitimacy to the claim that A$AP Rocky was just another hip−hop gimmick capitalizing on the flippant desires of an eager and, oftentimes, fickle public.

In the face of these doubts, “Long.Live.A$AP” was released early this year, defying conventions by capturing the attention of critics and hip−hop lovers alike. A product of his Harlem upbringing, Rocky represents a flashy and ambitious faction of New York rappers. Heavily influenced by The Diplomats, a Harlem based hip−hop group, “Long.Live.A$AP” can most readily be compared to Rocky’s musical time capsule, showcasing the different influences of his 1990’s Harlem youth.

It is the triumphs and traumas of his early upbringing that come to define the album. “Fashion Killa” and “F**kin’ Problems,” two popular tracks on the album, are identifiably within genre, with allusions to women and wealth. These tracks represent Rocky’s flash, fervor for the spotlight and commercial appeal. Simultaneously, the album contains tracks like “Phoenix” and “Suddenly” that are hauntingly stark depictions of poverty, monotony and struggle. In “Suddenly,” lyrics like “Everybody have roaches, but our roaches ain’t respect us,” are piercing reminders of A$AP’s Harlem origins.

At once commercial and shocking experimental, “Long.Live.A$AP” represents a unique and special hybrid as it manages to be simultaneously accessible and challenging. If the collaborators are any indication — collaborators range from trending rappers like Drake and Kendrick Lamar to more quizzical choices like Santigold and Florence Welch on the hook of “I Come Apart” — this is an important and influential album, and it is carefully engineered throughout. Rocky is a clever collage artist, bringing together diverse styles and sounds and creating something entirely new and exciting. “Long.Live.A$AP” is a fluid and dynamic exploration of the hip−hop genre of the past and its current manifestations. Rocky seems unafraid of breaking musical convention while remaining respectfully aware of his many influences, bringing hip−hop into the future.

The past year has been filled with transformation for the hip−hop community as a whole. With 2012 came the emergence of burgeoning hip−hop talents like Frank Ocean and Azealia Banks who defied both musical and sexual conventions. These artists represent a new generation of rap and R&B, challenging the musical stereotypes of their respective genres. Ocean, Banks and Rocky can be listed among the musical mavericks of hip−hop past and present. They use conventional hip−hop methods to create vigorous and rebellious new sounds.

The fanfare for Rocky is certainly not unjustified. Rocky seems to be ushering in a new generation of rappers who are technically brilliant in addition to being lyrically ambitious and self−aware. A$AP Rocky combines commercial accessibility with experimentation, generating some killer beats while also mixing in melodic riffs and shiny synth. The hype is true, homies: A$AP Rocky is the rapper to watch.

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