A$AP Rocky, Long.Live.A$AP

Jordan Sargent

By Jordan Sargent

on 01.15.13 in Reviews


A$AP Rocky

If there’s an avatar for what rappers will look like in the future, it’s probably New York City MC A$AP Rocky. He was born in Harlem as Rakim Mayers, namesake of one of the most famous rappers ever, but that’s where his traditionalism ends. Rocky is the high-profile spawn of a mutating rap world that acknowledges no barriers between regional sounds, or the worlds of hip-hop and high fashion or the streets and Tumblr. His intoxicated, slow-mo major-label debut album is descended directly from Houston’s screw scene and its omnipresent purplish-pink mixture of cough syrup and soda — a heady brew that serves as the perfect emblem for an album with so many influences that you can almost imagine it as iridescent.

The high-profile spawn of a mutating rap world that acknowledges no barriers

Rocky spits with classic New York focus and ferocity, but that isn’t his main strength: You don’t listen to Rocky for quotables. This might seem like a problem, but the world of rap, now more than ever, often has little concern for how your lyrics read on the page. The game is now about branding and innovation — which, uncoincidentally, are the two things that really power Long.Live.A$AP. The album sticks to the cold, melted-down sound that helped push Rocky to prominence — a combination of screw music and the blown-out, haunted instrumentals of Internet stew-stirrer Clams Casino — while folding in productions from industry heavyweights like Hit-Boy (“Goldie”) and T-Minus (“PMW”). But even those beats are dunked into a double-cup and emerge steeped in Rocky’s aesthetic.

And at the center stands the man himself — icily cool, joined by a bunch of his famous friends and spouting off the names of fashion brands most of us can’t even spell. There’s often so much going on — from the ghostly, gasping vocals of “LVL” to Skrillex stomping through “Wild for the Night” — that it may seem like Long.Live.A$AP is about everything except A$AP Rocky. Yet, that’s the point — Rocky argues that there is virtue in being a magnet for the ephemeral world.