The Trilluminati

A$AP Rocky – Long Live A$AP

Anybody familiar with the honey-dripped cloud rap of 2011’s Live.Love.A$AP should know that A$AP Mob leader A$AP Rocky was never going to stay underground. And unlike some of his contemporaries, namely Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean, his propulsion to stardom was not due to an ability to navel-gaze or set his heartaches to a smooth beat. Instead, Rocky relies on a bombastic personality, being a self-ascribed “pretty motherfucker,” and an all-star cast of producers including Hit-Boy, Clams Casino and … Skrillex? Wait, what?

Indeed, Skrillex’s siren-like electro salvo is the centrepiece of strange-but-captivating hip-hop/dubstep fusion “Wild for the Night”. This song, while being of a remarkably high standard, highlights one of the main issues I have with Long.Live.A$AP: Rocky plays like a guest feature on his own tracks on his own album.

One need only look at the featuring tag on the end of “1 Train,” a veritable rollcall of hip-hop talent, to see the tenability of this claim. Within the context of the song itself, it is clear that both lyrically and flow-wise Rocky languishes in the mid to low section of the class. Indeed, he even relates to the listener that it is his association with lauded rapper Drake that has provided the impetus for “6 girls in his bed”: “Ever since this new star fame came about / Or ever since me and Drizzy started hangin’ out.” It is at these times that Rocky seems almost unconfident, totally at odds with his near Lil Wayne sized ego and self-esteem.

This is not to say that on its own merits the album is terrible. In fact, it is one of these aforementioned star-filled tracks that serve as the highlight of the album, second single “Fuckin’ Problems”. Though once again overshadowed by his confrères, the song has vicious energy and an insanely catchy (though perhaps chauvinistic) hook: “I love bad bitches that’s my fuckin’ problem / And yeah I like to fuck I got a fuckin’ problem.” Even 2chainz couldn’t screw up that one.

At other times Rocky chooses more subtle arrangements, most notably on the opening track “Long Live A$AP”. The song starts ominously with the rumble of thunder and a stripped-down beat, leading to a marvellous Odd Future-esque falsetto vocal hook, accompanied very creepily by a choir of children. First single “Goldie” harkens back to his mixtape with sublime downward pitch-shifted raps that can be likened to those of a comatose patient. On “Phoenix”, Rocky laments his depression and the extremes that can be gone to in desperation, providing a somewhat refreshing foil to songs like “PMW” (which predictably stands for Pussy, Money, Weed).

It is thus unfortunate that most of these attempts to be reserved fall flat: “Hell” is a totally uninspired song that is completely forgettable, even with Santigold providing chorus melodies, and “Fashion Killa” is shallow, boring and almost laughable. It is abundantly clear that lyrically, A$AP Rocky is still finding his feet; you’d need all fingers and toes to count the number of times he refers to guns placed to heads, and his use of the word “nigga” can at times be totally insipid.

With all these criticisms, I must be honest and state that when I listen to A$AP Rocky, I listen more for viciousness than virtuosity, and in this aspect of hip-hop he excels. I hope he hones this facet of his craft, because there is obvious talent inside him. And I hope he does this ASAP.