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A$AP Rocky's LONG.LIVE.A$AP

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Reviews have been pouring in for a almost a month now on A$AP Rocky's leaked debut, LONG.LIVE.A$AP. Here are some thoughts as we approach its official release:

1. A$AP Rocky joins Kendrick Lamar and Frank Ocean in outmaneuvering a major record label. Few thought A$AP could do it (the album was delayed several times, which is usually a sign that someone important doesn't like what he or she hears), but he has -- in ways that Miguel or J. Cole couldn't quite. It may leave some hope for 2013 as a year when record labels realize the less they control hip hop, the more they will capitalize. We can only hope.

2. LONG.LIVE.A$AP is mostly monochromatic -- gray to be sure -- and that might make you feel restless at times (it makes me feel restless). There are some variant moments and standouts ("Fuckin' Problems," "Hell," "Phoenix"), but it's a grim affair.

3. Not surprisingly, then, the album is influenced by Odd Future. A$AP has been listening to the Los Angeles collective and made good use of what he's learned. (The other major influences are from the South and from New York.)

4. A$AP Rocky's voice steals the show. Listen.

5. I'm not too sure how much A$AP Rocky is really saying -- I'm actually not too sure Kendrick Lamar says as much as people believe he says on good kid, m.A.A.d city -- but he has forged a lyrical aesthetic. And hey, at least he's not stuck rapping pseudo-meaningful, sentimental underground rap.

6. Once LONG.LIVE.A$AP does come out I am going to buy it. It's easy to find now and you should download it, but consider buying it, too, on January 15th -- that way we can do our part in convincing RCA to keep giving him the reigns.