After building an incredible buzz with his online smashes, “Purple Swag” and “Peso,” A$AP Rocky has already earned himself a multi-million dollar deal on Polo Grounds, as well as co-signs from Drake, Mos Def and Jim Jones, but until now, fans haven’t heard more than a handful of tracks from the 23-year-old upstart. With LiveLoveA$AP, the rapper’s first full-length project, the Harlemite proves that he’s more than just a flash in the pan—in fact, he’s got plenty of heatrocks to spare.
Much of the success of the project is due to Rocky’s distinct ear for beats. For LLA, the self-described “Pretty Motherfucker” selected the trippiest, most zoned-out instrumentals he could find. New Jersey’s own, Clams Casino—most known for his work with Lil B—provided a handful of the moody, atmospheric sounds (he did five joints in total), and with almost no drums on any of his respective songs, it’s pretty amazing to hear A$AP seamlessly float over the beats and still keep heads noddin’.
Adding genuine Southern flavor to the mix is DJ Burn One (Yelawolf, Pill). “Roll One Up” is a warm guitar-twanging cut that would sound at home on any of the early Rap-A-Lot releases, while “Houston Old Head” sounds like a hip-hop lullaby. Beautiful Lou samples some Pulp Fiction-esque surf-guitar for “Trilla,” borrowing a helping of swag from Houston’s legendary Screwed Up Click, while Soufein3000’s drugged out, “Get Lit,” has an entire verse slowed down in true DJ Screw fashion—a trick that is employed on many of LLA’s songs.
The sole outright dud is the Lex Luger clone, “Brand New Guy,” which finds Rocky doing his best Rick Ross impression (“wooo” adlibs included)—unfitting for a rapper whose strong point is his originality.
Although the music is undeniably the most exciting part of the tape, A$AP does little to get in the way, oftentimes, enhancing the beats with his Bone Thugs-N-Harmony inspired flows. On the tape’s closer, “Out of This World,” produced by The Olympicks (the only brand name beatmakers on the project), A$AP even surprises with his lyrical wordplay. “They say Tyga and Diggy/But Rocky been jiggy/Curren$y from the Wiz ain’t enough to get me home/Can’t really hate, when they comparing me to Drake/Could’ve been J. Cole, if I met Jay Hov.”
Even without that meeting, A$AP Rocky has found a way to do just fine for himself. —Jesse Gissen