Reviewing the debut studio album by A$AP Rocky
This album was the pinnacle of my middle school experience. It was around this time that I truly became indoctrinated into the rap atmosphere and its nuances. A$AP Rocky had the one of the most addicting flows of any rapper out in that era - a sort of nonchalant, "jiggy" type of rap that would prove to be popular for a short time. LONG.LIVE.A$AP was the height of this type of music for Rocky and why it will always hold a special place in my heart.
This album is essential when talking about the evolution of east coast rap over the past decade. I believe it led into the looser style exhibited by modern rappers - apparent in the style Young Thug introduced in the same time frame. This album took braggadocio and the lifestyle to another level. High quality lyricism is beyond prevalent in this album, but the somewhat odd features/choruses may throw some off. Songs like "Hell' and "Pain" aren't exactly the best on the album but aren't bad per-say because in their case, Rocky's lyricism saves the songs.
There are so many elite songs on this album that it's hard to pinpoint just a few to breakdown. However, segmenting the track list makes it a bit easier.
From the very jump, the three track run to open the album doesn't miss. In the first track, we have an excellent showcase of Rocky's ability to flow from bar to bar without sacrificing quality. This song also exhibits qualities as to why this album can be so addicting to listen to. The presence of the elongated speech - a natural phenomenon in north eastern US dialect - makes it easy to emulate when you're singing along; as a result, it is easy to memorize these songs. "Goldie" was one of the most popular songs on the album for the aforementioned reasons but with a better chorus. This song was the epitome of "I'm the shit and I know it". Closing out this trio of elite album openers, is PMW. This track features ScHoolboy Q, the beginning of a very fruitful relationship for all of the A$AP Mob. A common theme throughout the album was the presence of a pitched down voice delivering a steady, and almost relaxing, chorus. This, infused with the west coast stylings of Q produced one of the most popular songs of the album.
The next three songs prove to be mediocre compared to the opening. It includes "LVL" (the best of the three), "Hell", and "Pain". As explained earlier, the latter have odd choruses and seem really out of place in combination with Rocky's verses. The features from Santigold and OverDoz were kinda a miss. While this section is lacking, the next more than makes up for it.
The following three songs are feature heavy. "Fuckin' Problems" featured Drake, 2 Chainz, and Kendrick Lamar. Alongside "Goldie", it was the most commercially successful songs in part due to these high-powered features. "Wild for the Night" featured dubstep style production from Skrillex. Now, I'm not sure if this is a first but it certainly wasn't common for rappers to collaborate with niche producers but somehow it produced a rave anthem. While it may be a skip to some, I find it admirable how they somehow made a cohesive songs with these two drastically different artists. Next up is my favorite song that is still in my playlist 8 years later - "1Train". This songs features Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson, and Big Krit. While these aren't all superstar names, they certainly aren't lacking in ability and lyricism. In fact, these artist are most heralded for their lyricism above all else. That's what makes this song 6 straight minutes of pure heat. While it feels like it can't be topped, the album does continue after this song as "1Train" is about the halfway point.
The very next song, "Fashion Killa", is either your favorite song or you absolutely despise it. There isn't really an in between. It's almost frustratingly catchy and is a break from the lyric heavy approach to this album. This song is one of the first notions of vulnerability and will open the door for slower, more emotional songs for the rest of the album.
"Suddenly" is considered by some music critics as the best song on the album. You could certainly make this case as Rocky delivers eerily calm and diverse set of bars with an up-pitched voice singing soothingly in the background. The flow is much slower here since the halfway point; however, it doesn't really take away from the quality of the album. Paying homage to DMX in "Jodye", the song seems a bit more intense. Rocky seems to be speaking harder and with more malicious intent than the previous lightheartedness of the album.
Following with "Ghetto Symphony" with fellow A$AP member, A$AP Ferg, you can sort of tell the end of the album is approaching. It sort has that end of the game or end of an era feel to it. While Ferg and Rocky never miss on a track together, this album could've ended a few songs and been just as good, if not better. This isn't necessarily an indictment on Rocky, but it feels this album may be just a couple songs too long.
Lastly, are "Angels" and "I Come Apart". The first sticks to the lyrical skillset we've become accustomed to seeing at this point. Capitalizing on braggadocio and NY swag, this song is fits in perfectly with the rest of the album. While the second seems to be an attempt to go out with a bang by combining genres with a pop-soul chorus feature from Florence Welch. It's not really bad, but it's not that good either - I could definitely go without.