I’ll still do some hip hop things here.
Let’s stay friends.
Long Live ASAP may not be the best rap album of the year, but it may be the most influential of the next five. Although ASAP Rocky has his shortcomings, give him this: he is one of the most versatile artists to ever do hip hop, and he’s only 24 years old.
Long Live ASAP is easier to understand if you view it as an art gallery. Rocky puts his commercial banger in the display window (“Fucking Problems”) to bring people in, and from there it’s a mixed bag. On one hand, you have your staples at the front that will appeal to your true fan base, noticeably “Goldie,” “PMW,” “Angels,” and a few others. But as you roam through the halls, you get to the experimental stuff that everyone is crowded around. Some people hate it, some people love it, but everyone is genuinely interested. For me, these tracks are “Lvl,” “Phoenix,” and especially “Suddenly,” where we see Rocky at his lyrical prime, displaying some rare and impressive storytelling over one of the weirdest ambient beats I have ever heard on a commercial rap album. Somehow, it works for me because the lyricism is so good, and it’s a song about reminiscing.
“Roaches on the wall, roaches on the dresser, everybody had roaches, but our roaches didn’t respect us.”
These are the exhibits that Rocky places in the center of the museum, and they only work because the first part of the album is so well crafted and familiar. Then we transition out of the experimental and into the dark. “Jodye” and “Ghetto Symphony” are both hood anthems, but they have Rocky’s signature grandiose nature to them. For fuck’s sake, there is a sample of a person screaming like a monster throughout the entirety of Jodye, and it takes that type of a song to a whole new level.
Then we need to get out of the exhibit because this huge production might be too much for us. Rocky guides us out with “Angels,” which sounds a little bit like Peso, and is definitely one of his easiest songs to listen to on the album. That being said, it’s also a banger, and I can see it having great replay value. Then we finish with “I Come Apart,” which is a really unbelievable song, mainly because Rocky fits so well into it. Somehow, Rocky can flow over classic hood anthems, drugged out ambient symphonies, bizarre audio experiments, and then a beautifully composed track with Florence Welch. This song feels like “Stan” (Florence>Dido in this case) to me, where we have two worlds combining so seamlessly that you have to admire it. Rocky doesn’t have a terrible voice, and it’s an incredible talent to be able to meld with an artist of an entirely different genre. If Rocky can make Grammy worthy collaborations like this, he’s going to have a great career.
Overall, I really like the album. Rocky lost me in the middle a bit, but I suspect that was the case for most people. It’s an album that’s changing the sound of hip hop, like Kid Cudi did with Dot.Da.Genius and his crew of producers. Rocky is trying to make hardcore hip hop an art form, you can see it in his music, and you can see it in the way he dresses and carries himself. I’m curious to see how his career plays out.
CLOSED CAPTION PORNOGRAPHY
As far as I’m concerned, this is one of the greatest debut albums of all time, joining the ranks of Illmatic, Reasonable Doubt, and The Chronic (among others). I don’t know if I have ever heard a better piece of storytelling in the genre of hip hop. while some artists are able to construct single songs that tell epic stories, it’s almost unheard of for a rapper to create such a comprehensive, epic narrative.
good kid, m.A.A.d city, which should be considered a concept album, tells the story of Kendrick Lamar and his journeys as an impressionable kid in one of the most violent neighborhoods in America. The device that takes us through these different chapters of his life is a van, the same van from the album cover, that he borrowed from his parents.
Interludes at the end of most songs help connect us to Kendrick’s different stories as he chronicles the good times (Poetic Justice, Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe), moments of brainwashing (The Art of Peer Pressure), the ensuing chaos (good kid, m.A.A.d city), the mistakes (Swimming Pools [Extended]) and consequences and redemption (Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst, Real). The cover art of the album is correct in the sense that this is more of a musical film than an album. Kendrick has all the lyrical skills of an inspired Andre 3000, the storytelling abilities and rawness of Nas in his prime, and the self-awareness of Common and Lupe Fiasco.
I’m not going to try and go track for track, because like a film, everyone is get something different from this album. I will say that one of the most impressive parts of this album is that Kendrick has managed to make both concept songs and radio singles and still make them fit into the greater picture of the album. I’m only one full listen through, so I’m not going to pretend like I have a full grasp on the album; however, I’ve listened to hip-hop for long enough to know that this should and will go down as one of the greatest albums in hip-hop history.
What do you all think?
Sign of a good song is when you hear the opening chords in your head months later.
Good Man (acoustic) -Raphael Saadiq