[A$AP Worldwide / Polo Grounds / RCA, 2013]
Jack McGrew, February 1, 2013
I didn’t have the fortune of being sentient during the East Coast – West Coast mid ’90s rap rivalry. I was approximately five, and anything I’ve taken in regarding Biggie or Pac has been pretty much entirely after the fact. To someone who wasn’t there, the whole thing seems mind-bogglingly stupid. These were the kings, why on earth wouldn’t they just team up and double their money and women? There’s always something to be said for friendly competition but it seems pretty clear in the long run it got taken way too far. 1996, god rest ye tortured soul.
A$AP Rocky (who will from whence be known as ASAP Rocky because oh my god fuck that stylization) comprises one-half of the power duo flirting with the possibility of being the next Biggie/Pac. Born Rakim Mayers, the 24 year-old Harlem come-up has been a blogosphere sweetheart for the last couple of years. After LiveLoveA$AP and signing a 3 million dollar advance contract with Sony last year, ASAP became a household name.
LongLiveA$AP is really the perfect sophomore album, even though it is technically his (major label) debut. It builds on a foundation of talent, improving multiple facets whilst also leaving a desire for more. If ASAP is indeed a Rookie Of The Year candidate metaphorically speaking, he has shown a good amount of tools while getting his fans ridiculously hyped for the future.
The first thing noticed when diving into ASAP Rocky’s newest joint is that the Clams Casino-style, ecstasy-laced big beats are mostly gone. A number of the newer songs, including standouts like opener ‘LongLiveA$AP’ and ‘Phoenix’ sound more in tune with Beach House or Youth Lagoon songs than they do with SpaceGhostPurpp beats. The whimsical, wavering MIDI sounds add to layered beats that evolve on ASAP’s known sound. The beats on this album are almost universally superb, even (read: especially) the Skrillex one.
The Clams Casino tracks ‘LVL’ and ‘Pain’ both play off the mixtape buzz, as does one of the strongest ‘Fashion Killa.’ The familiar slides and airiness appeals to long time fans while allowing ASAP to take more chances on different tracks. The dearth of these songs goes beyond the individual album and expands and adds to ASAP’s already deep catalogue.
Even with the collections of good backdrops, ASAP’s rhyming ability is really the highlight the album. He slips effortlessly from rhyming schematics, contrasting deeper ideas (“My Santa Claus was missing / Catch you slippin’ / Then it’s Christmas / Mother fuck a wishlist / My ghetto was ambition”) with broad based, puffed chest braggadocio (“They say money make a nigga act nigger-ish / But at least a nigga nigga rich / I be fuckin’ broads like I be fuckin’ bored / Turn a dyke bitch out have her fuckin’ boys”), but maybe the most important part of the whole project is the camaraderie. Not only does the ASAP Mob contribute on a handful of songs but big name guests litter verses throughout. Drake, 2 Chainz, Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Joey Bada$$ (again with the stylization), Skrillex, Yelawolf, Santigold, Big K.R.I.T., Action Bronson, and Danny Brown all contribute quality verses and beats to the project. With a rolodex that deep and talented, its insanely impressive how much ASAP himself sticks out. This is definitely his album, and it feels as such throughout.
ASAP Rocky had everything to be a superstar going into LongLiveA$AP. He acts like a headliner and has the pure tools to potentially own the game in ten years. By surrounding himself with future up and comers, and creating great club tracks to compliment his already seasoned slurred music, he’s primed to keep moving up. ASAP Rocky and Kendrick Lamar very well might be the most important thing happening in hip-hop currently.
And that’s one of the most fascinating parts of the Kendrick/ASAP battery. Kendrick speaks more on the conscious wavelength of an east coast kid, while ASAP slurs beats and words in a poetic style that feels inherently west. Even so, both are flexible , and ASAP has his fair share of thoughtful verses. He speaks against violence. He’s part of the new gen of rappers that speak about the violence they came up around as something separate from themselves. Even past all the ideas about getting mad drunk and high, there’s a definite moral finesse to the bangers being put out right now and ASAP is one the forefront minds of this movement.