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A Decade of Long. Live. A$AP: How Rocky Paved The Way and Prospered

With 10 years of excellence under his belt, we explore how A$AP Rocky’s debut album resulted in a reinvigorated New York City, a reshaping of mainstream hip-hop, and the normalisation of creating without fear.

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“Am I a product of things that I saw?” Is the question A$AP Rocky poses on his new single ‘Same Problems.’ This track finds him paying tribute to the ones he’s lost in his life, those we’ve all lost in the hip-hop community. It’s one of those special moments where Rocky lets us behind the curtains of his stylish braggadocio, trading slick one-liners in for transparent vulnerability. “I think I was feeling remorse. I think I was feeling plight. I think I was also feeling a sense of guilt.” He recently told Zane Lowe in regards to the song, “I never took time out to really understand that I was part of the problem because I was contributing those kind of lyrics and whatnot to songs.” The inclusion of the word ‘Same’ in the title of this new song alludes to the fact that the feelings of this song are ones he’s experienced for years, which he is now articulating as a solidified artist entering his second decade as a hip-hop mainstay. This song’s release commemorates the 8th edition of Yams Day, and also the 10-year anniversary of his album Long. Live. A$AP; the yearly anniversary of your debut album and the unfortunate passing of your close friend, mentor, and manager occurring within the same month speaks to the struggle Rocky expresses in the new single.

But while grief will always maintain a giant presence over the Harlem rapper’s January, he uses it as an opportunity to celebrate those around him, those who he dearly misses, and all that he and everyone else in A$AP MOB have achieved. Long. Live. A$AP marks the start of a strive and prosper that solidified Rocky as one of the game’s most creative minds today, who still continues to pave the way.

If we jump back to 2013, anticipation for Long. Live. A$AP was high. Rocky’s 2011 mixtape Live. Love. A$AP had already solidified itself as a future classic, with tracks like ‘Peso’ emerging from the depths of Datpiff to Hot 97 airwaves in a swift fashion. Rocky’s off-kilter style and unique fusion of east coast and southern hip-hop sounds ushered in 2012, which has been deemed as a “golden year” and “changing of the gods” by A$AP Yams, citing the emergence of acts like Flatbush Zombies and Action Bronson as the catalyst for this. Rocky’s mainstream emergence also began this year, rolling out singles like ‘Goldie’ and achieving his first Billboard Top 10 hit with the massive cut ‘F*ckin Problems’ alongside Kendrick Lamar, 2 Chainz, and Drake, the latter in which he formed a relationship with as the opener on the Club Paradise tour. Rocky’s ability to pen bars while thinking out of the box solidified him as the one holding the baton for a New York rap renaissance, bringing the new sounds of the city to the big stage, and breathing new life into the scene.

Speaking to Vulture about the album, A$AP Rocky said “They’re gonna’ see on this album how creative I really am.” He was right, as Long. Live. A$AP is a smorgasbord ofsounds, with Rocky bringing his Harlem swag to chopped-and-screwed cloud-rap like ‘LVL’, EDM-infused trap on the Skrillex-assisted ‘Wild For The Night’, and dreamy earworms like ‘Fashion Killa’. It celebrated the refreshing weirdness of hip-hop at the time, inviting a slew of acts into his purple-glazed representation of New York City on ‘1Train’, a posse cut that showcased everyone from Detroit oddball Danny Brown to the Alabama alien Yelawolf. Rocky spends the duration of the project either reflecting on his come-up, thinking back to the adversity he faced to reach this moment, or just simply flexing his self-confidence. The commercial success of Long. Live. A$AP represented the rarified excellence the art of the project achieved, debuting atop the Billboard Top 100 with 139,000 copies sold.

In retrospect, Long. Live. A$AP serves as a foreshadowing for Rocky’s eventual megastardom, as it solidified his lack of creative fear. His sophomore album At.Long.Last. A$AP steered away from seeking trends, instead opting for a psychedelic approach to contemporary hip-hop, finding hits in the form of the Rod Stewart-sampling ‘Everyday’, and the astral plane-propelled ‘L$D’. Experimentation was the focus of 2018’s Testing, where he warped the sounds of trap and Memphis-inspired tempos to create a satisfying sense of pandemonium. This ability to polymerise ideas also lent itself to assisting in the curation of A$AP Mob’s Cozy Tape series, as well as ventures outside of music fashion, bringing his infamous sense of style into projects with brands like Guess, and even reimagining the classic Osiris D3 Skate shoe with his Under Armour collaboration. Everything that Rocky does, aims to incite a difference in popular culture. As A$AP Rocky enters a new era of navigating his own reflections, he traverses with a history of always prospering. 10 years ago, he began the journey of his debut album “I thought I’d probably die in prison,” and he’s still here today. The rapper has spent the last decade reinvigorating his home city, championing new sounds and limitless creativity as he continued to rise in stardom, all while expanding his multifaceted artistry into different avenues. As we look forward to the next step in his unpredictable career of risk-taking with ‘Same Problems’, we know that he bears the weight of grief, and those feelings of loss linger. But he takes them along for the ride, sharing with the world through commemorative events like Yams Day. A$AP Rocky represents an appreciation of hip-hop culture; Harlem is harnessed to his soul, his fallen peers flow through his appreciative approach, and a love of this genre’s varied history howls through every piece of art he unleashes. On the road Rocky takes, long they will live.

Relive the iconic debut album from A$AP Rocky here.