A booming crash of thunder rumbles then fades. A mysterious, foggy landscape is painted. The beat kicks in accompanied by a haunting synth melody and a violin section straight out of Psycho. As A$AP Rocky’s larger than life vocals soar on the hook, Long.Live.A$AP is off to an amazing start. Unfortunately, Rocky fails to maintain this level of greatness throughout the entire album, but his enigmatic charisma and drugged out soundscapes keep me coming back for more.
For the most part, Long.Live.A$AP’s production is on point. Lead single ‘Goldie’ is a banger, boasting an atmospheric synth lead that hangs lazily in the back, clearing out some much needed room for A$AP Rocky’s laidback flow and pitch-shifted chorus. Producer Clams Casino returns with a pocketful of ambience and works his magic on ‘LVL’ and ‘Hell’. Gnarls Barkley’s Danger Mouse also lends a hand on the introspective ‘Phoenix’, while Rocky himself crafts a charming piece of vintage street soul on ‘Suddenly’. But Long.Live.A$AP is no 50-minute stroll in the park. ‘Fashion Killa’ is vapid; I literally skip over it every time it comes on. The dubstep-influenced ‘Wild for the Night’, featuring Skrillex on production, sticks out on this record like a sore thumb. I can appreciate creativity and experimentation, but it has to be well-executed, and this song sounds like it was thrown together at the last second.
Speaking of guest features, Kendrick Lamar sounds so out of place on ‘Fuckin’ Problems’ it’s cringeworthy. This is not the alluring, thoughtful mastermind behind good kid, m.A.A.d. city I’ve come to know and love. I mean, 2 Chainz sounds better than him! As well, Santigold attempts to round out ‘Hell’ (but to no avail) with a flat, uninspired chorus, and OverDoz is satisfactory at best on ‘Pain’.
Some features do work, though. Posse cut ‘1 Train’ is the album’s highlight, showcasing a spooky violin loop, an eerie piano accompaniment, a stripped-down beat, and seven rappers. Yes, SEVEN. Not quite Wu-Tang style, but pretty damn close. Gunplay also drops a couple of entertaining lines on ‘Ghetto Symphony’, and ScHoolboy Q is flashy as usual on ‘PMW (All I Really Need)’. Even A$AP’s rapping has improved, and I’m glad he pulled it off without sacrificing a drop of his lazy, intoxicated flow.
It’s a pity, because I really do enjoy a handful of these tracks. I must’ve played ‘1 Train’ at least a hundred times. It boils down to inconsistency, and Long.Live.A$AP is patchy at best. Nevertheless, I feel that A$AP is satisfied with what he’s accomplished, and as the record closes with yet another thunderclap, I’m genuinely happy for him. This high-on-life, self-proclaimed “artiste” has a lot to look forward to, and he isn’t disappearing anytime soon. An appropriate album title, now that I think about it.
Tags: A$AP Rocky