Mackenzie Cummings-Grady Journal Staff
When “Purple Swag” was released in mid-2011, it was predicted that artist A$AP Rocky was to be another arrogant party animal with golden foil in his teeth. As the hype grew around the song, my friends continued to pressure me to listen but I continually refused or just acted like I was too busy to heed to the hype. When “Goldie” followed shortly after, it was effortless taking notice. Not because I found A$AP to be a particularly gifted rapper, but because the psychedelic drum line and Rocky’s slowed down vocals made me want to party. The video has a vintage black and white A$AP with his golden teeth sparkling. Like all other mediocre rappers today, Rocky continues to rhyme about his “swag” and how he has immense wealth.
After almost a year of touring, A$AP Rocky fell off the grid, submerging himself into the studio to work on his debut album, which he titled “Long. Live. A$AP.” We all predicted the same result, a party album that all college students could drink to. However, with the final piece upon us in early 2013, “Long. Live. A$AP.” has defied all expectations, and crushed any stereotypes towards A$AP as an arrogant artist.
Born and bred out of Harlem NY, Rakim Mayers (yes named after the famous emcee) began rapping when he was just 14. His lyrics focused mainly on the gang-related death of his brother, and the life-long jail sentence of his father. The therapeutic rapping eventually began to evolve into a career when he moved to New Jersey and formed the “A$AP Crew,” a collection of local teen rappers from around the Jersey area. A local record label took notice, and A$AP was soon signed and recording his first mixtape “LongLiveASAP.”
The album of the same name is an utter masterpiece. Songs like “Phoenix” and “I Come Apart” show A$AP still struggling with the death of his brother, and “Pain” shows him still furious at the abandonment by his father. The beats layered over these tracks (generated by Rocky himself) are some of the most unique to date; many of them recycled rhythms from the EDM genre. Collaborations with fellow famed artists Skrillex, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and 2 Chains on “Wild For the Night” and “Problem” let loose A$AP’s wild side, and will no doubt become radio friendly. The ghostly opener “Long. Live. A$AP” challenges Rocky’s competitors that no one will be as unique as him. In my overall opinion, his claim is spot on.
The album overall surprised more than just his anticipated fans and listeners. Dipping into different genres of R&B, dance and even rock, a well-balanced album of slow meaningful tracks and party anthems has emerged. The only flaw that keeps it from being Album of the Year is a story line to give us more insight into A$AP’s disturbing childhood, and how exactly he overcame his suicidal tendencies expressed in many of his songs. As years continue to pass, and Hollywood comes knocking, it can be assumed these background stories will surface, but for now the album from front to back is satisfying. I hope his sophomore effort, will yet again exceed expectations.