A$AP Rocky – Long Live A$AP – The STiXXclusive Review

           After pushing back his album date back more than once, it was bound to leak. I mean, it was already going to leak anyways, but this early?! Haven’t heard of a leak this early since Drake’s first album Thank Me Later leaked a month before its release as well. When you’re popular, people will grow impatient, but that should also be a message to artists – if you don’t want your stuff leaked…DON’T GIVE IT TO ANYONE! I’m just saying. With that being said, now that it has leaked, it’s given the people over the Holiday season a free listen at what everyone else will hear in the New Year. Your first album is meant to be memorable; you want it to leave an everlasting impression. A$AP Rocky came into the game on a reluctant note, bringing with him a vibe that was evident of a hybrid of Bone Thugs N Harmony, Wiz Khalifa, and many people went as far as saying Kanye West (fashion wise, maybe, but I don’t know about lyricism). This is the crown jewel to what Rocky has provided the people with thus far – from Deep Purple to LiveLoveA$AP & Lords Never Worry let’s see what Rocky was able to conjure up.

            Long Live A$AP – the title song in itself started off on a good note with his trill influence still evident in his rhymes. He’s not known to hit you with great punch lines, but his flow is what carries him with his luxury raps. Also, he tends to have great production behind him, so that always helps. Self-proclamation is the style that Rocky has built up for himself for as long as we’ve known about him (Not even 2 years yet), so all in all, his music will live on with or without him, which is essentially an explanation behind the hook. It’s also a ‘clever’ play on the ancient phrase ‘Long lives the King’, but I wouldn’t think that he would be calling himself the King of anything (although he called himself a Messiah…). It’s a good introduction, and with Goldie following it, the tempo was quickly pushed up with the much popular Hit-Boy produced track. It’s been around for a few months now (since we all thought this album was releasing in the summer of 2012 when it would have been pretty much perfect to do so), so it lingered, and it’s still a great track whether you’re at the club or enjoying it in the confines in your home. People know about the ongoing beef with SpaceGhostPurrp, so you could argue that some shots were fired subliminally, but again, there are a lot of people who don’t exactly like Rocky, so he’s saying, ‘Hey haters, you see me? You mad? Stay mad’, or along those lines.

As soon as I heard the first half bar of instrumental for PMW (All I Need), I said to myself “T-Minus. 100% T-Minus beat” (okay, so I knew ahead of time), and pretty much everyone would be able to tell you that it was a T-Minus beat. That’s besides the point; the point is that this track is overall SMOOTH! Like, it’s freshly-tiled-hardwood-floor-and-slide-across-it-with-church-socks-smooth. All of that emphasis was necessary. ScHoolboy Q is having a great year for features as well as his solo career continues to take the industry by storm. He and Rocky teamed up on 2 major hits, ‘Brand New Guy’ & ‘Hands on the Wheel’ (uhh uhh, FUCK THAT), and to add a third, they got this smooth track to go along with them. It literally feels like you’re floating when you listen to this, and you can hear so much Drake influence in Rocky’s verse, that I actually wanted to know what Drake would have done to this beat (*prays in secret for a remix*). This is going to be a club banger to start off the beginning of the year and it’ll last for months, because it’s that kind of song. SBQ killed his verse as per usual and straight up, this song is arguably one of the best songs on the album…and it’s the third track. It gave you hope for what else was coming.

Not a lot of people know about Rocky and where he was at before he got to this crazy success. He’s from Harlem and he did sell drugs – he’s not shy about admitting that either. LVL put into some perspective into how he’s feeling about his new lifestyle (more money, more problems) and how he’s coming to change the rap game in the forefront, as people have already claimed him to be the saviour of East Coast Hip Hop (many will say it hasn’t died; I’m just writing here). Clams Casino provided some gems (‘Palace’ being one of them) for Rocky on LiveLoveA$AP, and he was back with another one, which was good to know that Rocky kept around some good producers that contributed to his success. And would you look at that? It seems as if he did in fact proclaim himself as a King. Well then…moving on.

Hell was a bit different as far the sound went, and initially I didn’t like it that much; didn’t care for it, and even to this day, it’s still growing on me, but what I did find cool was that Santigold was featured, and many people don’t often use her on their projects. I’ve still yet to listen to her work, but I’m working on that. From the streets to the luxury sheets, Rocky takes it back to the days where it wasn’t as glorious to live in a rough Harlem area, and where the progression from wanting more in life has taken him to this point and that he still has more to do. Like I said, I didn’t like it at first and it’s still continuing to grow, but this isn’t all that bad of a track. There’s substance and a decent hook with it – it could have been worse.

I wasn’t all of that familiar with OverDoz prior to hearing this album, but I did listen to their mixtape and what started off a bit slow and dull turned into actual interest, but as far as West Coast groups are concerned, I’d still put Pac Div over these guys, but that doesn’t say that they’re terrible. On Pain, they actually held their ground and provided solid output for what was required of them. The ‘pain’ referenced here is that of the music industry. There are so many factors that could kill someone who sticks around too long (if they let it get to them): money, women, bright lights, groupies (not always women), and the fact that it could all end within an instant. That’s the life, and it’s not everyone; it could be quite painful.

This is also a single that has taken the industry by storm and has given the people yet another one-liner to play around with. Fuckin Problems isn’t anything special, and at first I cared nothing for it, but sometimes when you hear a song about 150 times, it just sticks to you, and how can anyone deny that hook by 2Chainz? Drake, Rocky & Kendrick Lamar on one track would drive the groupies insane, and indeed that’s what it did, since it really is a song for the girls to get their twerk on, but if someone says to you, ‘Yeah, I like to fuck, I gotta fuckin’ problem, then MAYBE…you should see a doctor. Kendrick’s verse was entertaining, although I didn’t like it at first because it’s way out of the regular style that you hear from him, but such is life. The best line on the track for me (and for many others) is: “GURL…I KNOW YOU WANT DIS DIHH” (seriously, say it out loud and that’s EXACTLY how he says it)

Now this song was unexpected as hell, I’ll tell you that much. Rocky is one to experiment, but I didn’t think that outside of Lupe Fiasco’s attempt with dupstep (Friend of the People), would anyone else go this direction. Leave it to Flacko to be the one. Wild For the Night seemingly started off as a regular rap song, but then the rest is for the ravers (A$AP does have a lot of white fans in their constituency; most are Odd Future castaway groupies – I joke, I joke), and the combination of Skrillex and Rocky on this was really out of nowhere. It’s funny because this reminded me of Kanye West’s ‘Hell of a Life’ from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy Personally, this is one of those songs that you’d really have to be in the mood for, unless you’re ready to go ape shit at any given point during the day. That’s great on you, but this is one of the ‘skip it-unless-you-love-it’ songs. I accredit the attempt, but dupstep is better served without rappers doing something over it.

When the tracklist came out with the production credits, the one track that stood out to me was 1Train. Kendrick Lamar, Danny Brown, Joey Bada$$, Yelawolf, Action Bronson & Big K.R.I.T on the same track. Oh, throw in the fact that Hit-Boy produced the song as well. INSANE! The hype was automatically built, but the question was, could it live up to it? Well after the track surfaced (ironically the day the album leaked) and it not only delivered, it exceeded expectations; this wasn’t your typical Hit-boy hit smash beat like he did for ‘Niggas in Paris’, ‘Clique’, and ‘Wish You Would’– this was a beat that had a raw, concrete, ‘black hoodie rap’ feel to it, and everyone (except Joey Bada$$ in my opinion) killed their verses, with Big K.R.I.T arguably having the best one, but it’s very arguable, because Yelawolf completely spazzed. I’ll let you debate, but what I liked about this song was that each rapper came with their own styles and they delivered, leaving the listener having to listen again just to decide ‘who was the best’. Hip Hop doesn’t get Posse Cuts like this anymore, so when we do get them, and they’re this good, they must be appreciated. For those who don’t live in New York (I didn’t know this either, don’t worry), the 1 Train is a subway in New York that runs from The Bronx to Lower Manhattan. It’s funny – as I’m writing this and looking up the stations, in 2011 when I was in New York, I took the 1 Train from 42nd Street (Times Square) to Chambers Street when I was going to see Ground Zero – crazy. When you compare riding in a Ferrari to public transit, I guess you could say anything is better than the 1 Train, but I’m from Toronto, where we have our own train issues *smh*.  Beyond that little nugget, this is a great track. It’s what the older hip hop heads will glory because it sounds at least something like the Golden Era of the praised genre.

Everyone knows about Rocky’s love of fashion, and in Fashion Killa it was pretty evident. The sample sounded something like The Art of Noise’s ‘Moments in Love’ and overall the song was ‘fairytale’ influenced. Besides the rhymes containing expensive designers and fashion icons like Madonna & Rihanna, you could see where this was going. It’s like you were shopping on Fifth Avenue in New York while wearing something that costs more than what you make in a year. Something you listen to that makes you feel broke and insignificant. Thanks, Rocky; I need to go rethink my life strategies now. This would probably be one of those songs that people would say “Rocky’s selling out”, but he’s always been talking about fashion, so this is pretty much expected. It’s bouncy and it has a bit of a retro feel to it from the 80s, so it’s not all that bad when you hear it a couple of times. At this point, I can envision hearing every song on the album in the club at some point – That’s just how it feels.

The Phoenix is a mythical bird that rises from the ashes, as we’ve heard throughout various songs and speeches over a stretch of time. How that relates to this song is Rocky’s rise to overcome things that could have burned him down to the ground. Having to overcome suicidal thoughts and growing up in a tough neighbourhood, he looks at his life and uses the examples of great icons that have passed like Michael Jackson & Kurt Cobain (not to be confused with the new people whose initial thought was Kirko Bangz). They died for doing what they loved and the world took over and it led to their demise. Rocky is doing his thing, and it’s a real emotional song for him because it shows you that he has to deal with a lot and even sidestep those whom he’s known forever because that’s just how life works. You have to rise above – like a Phoenix.

To end off the standard version of the album, Suddenly is probably in my top 3 songs for the album because I love the sample, and the fact I’m a sucker for the ‘then and now’ stories in songs. Having references to Puff Daddy & the shiny suits, No Limit, Bone Thugs and NWA, people his age of his generation can relate to what he’s saying, plus the imagery of inner city living: living in the hood, the block life, and the ‘simple’ struggle that was back in the day. It’s like he took you back to his humble beginnings and gives you his reasons of why he chose the rap life instead of the ‘other’ life. To give hope for those who are going through right now what he went through not that long ago. I also liked the message in the bridge as pertaining to race issues:

I only got one vision, that’s for kids in every color, religion
That listen, that you gotta beat the system, stay the fuck out the prisons
They try to blind our vision, but we all got children and siblings
You my brother, you my kin, fuck the color of your skin

This was already a great song, but when the beat kicked in and he started going off, it just went crazy. Anything can happen in a short period of time, because when you work hard for something, things will happen for you. This is Rocky’s tale of what happened, and it came together wicked; a fitting end to a pretty damn good first album.

BONUS

Now, the leaked album didn’t have all of the bonus songs on there, but for the ones that you do have, they were some gems in there as well that couldn’t go unnoticed.

Jodye ironically enough sounded similar to a SpaceGhostPurrp beat, and the majority of the track was sending shots repeatedly to SGP and the Raider Klan, since they were essentially the group that had a vastly similar identity to A$AP Mob, but it never worked out for them like that. It’s crazy that these guys used to be cool with each other, but jealousy breeds envy and when it gets the best of some individuals, things go south. I’m not an expert as far as ‘who did what, and who stole who’s style’, but I’ll leave that to you. Now, as far as the name Jodye is concerned, I don’t know whose name that is, but I’m pretty sure it has relevance between SGP & Rocky. This one was aggressive and certain darkness loomed over it (great production), which is the perfect combination for a dope diss record, or overall record.

Although Gunplay got his ass handed to him at the BET Hip Hop Awards and he was caught on camera threatening somebody with a gun, he still had some solid ass features in the year 2012, when you listen to ‘Cartoons & Cereal’ and the first verse of ‘Power Circle’. His mixtapes weren’t even half bad either. He’s making a name for himself, and in the year 2013, more people will surely know about him hopefully more so for his music than his public affairs. Ghetto Symphony is another one for Don Logan that people will hear as the standout verse of the track. The production was crazy, and even Rocky had a good verse. Ferg – not so much. Overall, the track was heavy and it’s another strong showing as a bonus cut for the album.

DISS ALERT! Yes, Angels was yet more shots being fired towards SpaceGhostPurrp (no love lost at all), and all of that could heard in the 2nd verse. After all of those subliminal tweets being said over the past few months with SGP actually going directly to him, and ‘apparently’ although I was told they squashed the beef, it didn’t seem like it on the 2nd verse.

Niggas got rips in they jeans man I started that
Hood by air man I started that
Niggas claim they the God of black
Well your name is purple I’m the God of that
Gave you my back nigga’ pardon that
Fuck that shit I brought mobbin’ back
I brought robbin’ back, I brought the Garden back
Motherfuck black land I brought Harlem back
That’s just me – if I’m wrong, I’m sure I’ll hear about it.

Who knows how long this feud between the two is going to go on for, but it’s not like the other industry beefs where it’s all for publicity (I could be wrong). These two legitimately don’t seem to like each other at the moment. It makes for some dope music, so I’ll take it, although I like both of their music (SGP more for beats, but he has some tracks).

This album is a good first, and here’s why; although there are the 1-2 songs that you could be like “meh” and skip them, for the most part, the production is great, the features (although it’s a lot for a first album) worked well, and there’s more than 1 song on the album that can be club hits that cross between different demographics. Kendrick Lamar had a great line from ‘Average Joe’ that can quaintly describe (almost) any rapper:

‘I don’t do black music, I don’t do white music – I do everyday life music”

For A$AP Rocky, this is his ‘everyday life music’: the fashion, the money, the excessive fashion, and an expensive lifestyle. That’s what he lives, but what I heard on this album was a clash of the old and the new brought together. You had the party songs, the glamour songs, and the songs that were gritty and painted a visual of his gloomy past. He painted a portrait, and I do believe he considers himself more than just an artist that makes music. He has a hand in a lot of videos, plus he produces. He tends to make his mark on pretty much everything, and you have to believe that he had that same mentality when it came down to making this album. It’s a piece of art, one for us to dissect and indulge in. To begin the year 2013, it’s definitely on a high note on what looks to be a promising year for Hip Hop. This is my opinion, this is my review, but for now

That’s My Word & It STiXX

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