Arts

ALBUM REVIEW | hip-hop

Production lifts A$AP Rocky’s ‘Long. Live. A$AP’

Rapper A$AP Rocky performed during BET's 106 And Park 2013 New Years Eve Party at BET Studios on December 17, 2012 in New York City.
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images
Rapper A$AP Rocky performed during BET's 106 And Park 2013 New Years Eve Party at BET Studios on December 17, 2012 in New York City.
A$AP Rocky "Long. Live. A$AP”

Harlem’s A$AP Rocky finally delivers his long delayed major label debut, and while it builds on his mixtape legacy and emphasizes his strengths as an inventive stylist, it also amplifies his flaws. The MC, who draws from numerous influences, including chopped and screwed, rarely evokes classic brittle New York hip-hop and is buoyed by masterfully produced tracks here. “Hell,” (featuring a haunting hook from Santigold) and “Pain” feature tripped-out, ominous beats for A$AP to weave rhymes in impressively varied flows. Although he says this is the “new rap” from “new jacks,” the subjects are much too familiar and the MC hardly rises above shallow waters with his tricky verse. The best track, “Phoenix,” produced by Danger Mouse, overflows with paranoia and sidesteps the clichés other songs like “PMW (All I Really Need)” indulge in. “1 Train” featuring a bevy of cameos, leaves powder burns, but the poppy “Fashion Killa” sounds like a compromise. “Suddenly” finds him digging deeper into his psyche and hints at what’s frequently missing elsewhere. (Out now)

KEN CAPOBIANCO

ESSENTIAL “Phoenix”

A$AP Rocky performs with Rihanna at TD Garden on March 10.