Long.Live.A$Ap is the major label debut from A$AP Rocky, a man who has made his name as much for his music as for his quick-with-the-fist lifestyle. Most fledgling artists treat industry showcases like SXSW as an opportunity to break into the big time. A$AP treated it as an opportunity for a scrap. Now, after something of a logistical struggle (it was originally supposed to have been released in September of 2012), RCA have managed to pull his first major studio album out of the bag.
It's a game of two halves, in more ways than one. Stylistically, the album plays out like a teenage tantrum. A$AP starts out bragging and hollering, on the title track, mainly about how he once didn't have a "pot to p*ss in," but now has a "kitchen full of dishes." It's a neat metaphor. It's neatly framed with a softly-sung refrain about living forever. It's ruined by a backdrop of violence and misogyny. It's worth noting at this point that every track on A$AP's is marked as Explicit. This is not an album for the easily-offended. In fact, even for the disaffected, the numb of sensibility and the open-minded, A$AP's gonna make you squint in disgust, at some point, you can pretty much bank on that. Like all the best tantrums, though, the braggadocio peters out in the end.
By track thirteen on this sixteen-track album, you'll most likely be wondering what all of the fuss was about, what you were so offended by and why you're still listening. Sixteen tracks is a big ask for a relatively new artist, to maintain quality over that length of time. Sixteen tracks is a big ask for an established artists, come to think of it. And sixteen tracks of A$AP Rocky is a big ask for the listener, too, whether they're a dedicated fan of Rocky or not. And somehow, we can't envisage your stereotypical A$AP Rocky fan having the most impressive attention span. Either way, by the end of the album, it feels as though A$AP Rocky's finally been sent to his room and is thinking about what he's done and trying to find a way to apologise, in order that he doesn't get grounded for the next month.
The closing track, 'I Come Apart,' featuring Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine is rich with religious fervour, a bolshy confession and is one of the strongest tracks on the album. When A$AP drops his guard and lays off the machismo, he makes some pretty palatable tracks. The wordplay, when it's not drowned out by phoney gunshots, is impressive, his rapping style undulates, a little like Lil' Wayne at times. For the most part, though, if you listen to what he's actually saying, you're f*cked. His vocals work, instrumentally, they work as part of the track and to listen from a distance, you can soak it up.
These aren't words without meaning though. They don't simply serve as a sonic accompaniment to the music. And when he's telling "that bitch, hop up on my d*ck," he's probably just lost the attention of anyone with a modicum of self-respect. In fact, for the most part, A$AP's lyrics can be sub-divided into "inventive sex references" and "less inventive sex references" or, if you like a decent countdown 'A$AP Rocky's Top Ten Misogynistic Moments.' He says himself that "Pussy, Money, Weed, is all a n*gger needs" and that seems to be the over-riding feeling of the album. Get lobotomised, enjoy the album.
Continuing in the vein of an attention-seeking teenager, the best tracks on Long.Live.A$Ap are the ones where his collaborators come to the fore, like the kid who plays up all week, but behaves when the babysitter comes over and actually gets on and does his homework. 'Hell,' featuring Santigold is an album highlight, a monotone rap, pierced with Santigold's tropical pop, a welcome relief from getting your senses bludgeoned.
If it was in any way possible to extract the dubious meaning and message from A$AP Rocky's music; it would make for a rousing listen. You can't un-hear misogyny though. You can't un-hear the bravado or the machismo and that's what lingers, not the production, or the flow, or the craft.
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