In the hip-hop hype racket, it’s not uncommon for an album to see more pushed-back release dates than advance singles. Though it’s only coming out now, Long.Live.A$AP, the official debut from Harlem-based rapper A$AP Rocky, was one of the most anticipated records of 2012. Accordingly, last year saw three stellar singles and no fewer than four rumoured or label-sanctioned drop dates associated with the album. No matter: Long.Live.A$AP makes good on the quality of the initial material and justifies the delayed gratification.
The album is surprisingly downtempo, which is not to say A$AP delivers sad-sack after-hours slow jams à la Drake. Rather, he favours atmospheric arrangements that let his flow do the rhythmic heavy lifting, particularly on tracks like “LVL,” “Suddenly,” and the soulful “Hell,” featuring Santigold. But A$AP is at his best when things are banging: He and Drake drop fantastic verses around the Rick Ross–esque chorus of “F**kin’ Problems,” while “1 Train (feat. Kendrick Lamar, Joe Bada$$, Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson, and Big K.R.I.T.)” comes off like a lyrical swarm not seen since the Wu-Tang Clan stopped hanging out on a regular basis.
Despite his massive guest list, A$AP rises above the fray, using the deceptively laid-back intensity of his rhymes to muse on everything from fame-courting concerns to girl problems to fashion tips. Long.Live.A$AP occasionally gets bogged down in draggy beats, but it’s otherwise an all-encompassing showcase for a fully formed young rapper.
Playlist picks “1 Train,” “F**kin’ Problems,” “Hell,” “Suddenly”