ASAP Rocky delivers talent in latest album

by Kyle McGoey | 2/3/13 11:00pm

I know you, Dartmouth student. I know you better than you could possibly imagine.

"But Kyle," you might say, "We've never even met! In fact, I don't think I've even heard of you! And besides, you're just a dumb freshman!"

Well, first of all, we're called '16s. Get it right. And stop using so many exclamation points: it's tacky. In my short time here, random Dartmouth student, I've come to learn that, despite our many differences, we are all mostly the same. You work hard, sometimes a bit too hard. You are eloquent, socially conscious and self-confident, but not confident enough to keep you from wondering sometimes if everyone here is way better than you. And every once in a while by which I mean at least twice a week you want to cut loose, forget about your chemistry midterm and your FSP applications and just rage. Well have no fear, because ASAP Rocky understands, and the popular rapper has brought you a new album suited perfectly to your needs: "Long. Live. ASAP," which premiered on Jan. 11.

If you managed to suffer through my internal monologue and make it this far into this review, I would like to congratulate you. You probably need something to help you unwind and forget my terrible literary device. Good news: you are now ready to listen to "Long. Live. ASAP."

From the opening one-two punch of "Long Live ASAP" and "Goldie," it's clear what you're going to be getting from this album: one swagged-out "gangsterism" after another, delivered in Rocky's gleeful, effortless flow. Whether it's a double-timed laundry list of designer labels or a hedonistic mantra drawled by his pitched-down alter ego, Rocky, born Rakim Mayers, is cooler than you could ever be, and he isn't even really trying.

This exuberant hedonism pops up again on "PMW (All I Really Need)," featuring the ASAP Mob cohort Schoolboy Q, who matches Rocky's effortless cool with ease. His lead single "F**kin' Problems" takes things to another level, allowing hip-hop heavyweights Drake and Kendrick Lamar to check their emotional and artistic complexity at the door and join Rocky and 2 Chainz in an ecstatic boast about their sexual prowess, summed up perfectly by Lamar's last line, "Halle Berry, hallelujah, holla back, I'll do ya."

Admittedly, there are times when Rocky's lyrics seem at best unpolished and perhaps even trite and meaningless, but he positively shines as a curator of beats. The biggest talents in the game, from Hit-Boy to Clams Casino to Danger Mouse, are represented here, and they provide a fantastic platform that allows "Long. Live. ASAP" to really shine.

Whether it's the chopped-and-screwed Houston boom of "Goldie," the spacey echo of "Pain," or the nostalgic piano of "Phoenix," Rocky sounds absolutely at home in every track.

Perhaps the best moments on "Long. Live. ASAP," however, come when Rocky steps out of his comfort zone and tries his hand at something new. In "Wild for the Night," Skrillex's punchy rave-up forces Rocky to break out of his careless flow into a frenzied double-time, and the incredibly catchy synth stabs that serve as the song's hook prove that "Skrillex + rap" is a combination we could all use a little more of in our lives. "1 Train" is a classic posse cut in the vein of the Wu-Tang Clan's "Protect Ya Neck," down to the RZA-cribbing strings, and it allows some of the best up-and-comers in the rap game to make their case for stardom.

As Rocky's kingpin boasts drop into Lamar's screw-loose fury, which flows into Joey Badass' conscious letter to the ghetto he escaped, it's clear this track is something special, and it's not even halfway over. Yelawolf and Action Bronson prove that Eminem isn't the only white rapper who can keep up, and Danny Brown steals the show before Big K.R.I.T.'s measured Southern drawl brings things home. Rocky's album is a stunning showcase of the next generation, and it's not hard to imagine each of these rappers at the top of the game in the near future.

"Long. Live. ASAP" is not, however, without its missteps. Santigold's hook on "Hell" doesn't quite gel with Rocky's flow, and Clams Casino's simple beat doesn't have enough going on to mask the song's subpar lyrics.

"Fashion Killa" succeeds instrumentally, with a bed of echoing vocal samples weaving prettily through the beat's rolling cymbals, but Rocky's love letter never gets off the ground once it becomes clear that he's speaking not to a woman but to her dizzying array of designer clothing.

The album concludes with a pair of downbeat, contemplative songs that balance out the casual misogyny of the rest of "Long. Live. ASAP"and prove that there's a lot more to Rocky than his critics might have thought. Though he says, "Don't view me as no conscious cat, this ain't no conscious rap" on "Suddenly," his stark examination of his upbringing and the system that holds urban youths down shows otherwise.

For a debut rap album, "Long. Live. ASAP" is incredibly well -formed and listenable, and establishes ASAP Rocky as a real player in the next generation of rap superstars. Keep an eye on this kid; I expect big things from him.