Exactly five years ago, A$AP Rocky finally unveiled LONG.LIVE.A$AP, his debut album proper. After months of unexpected delays, it rocketed to the top of the Billboard 200 charts upon its unveiling in January 2013 and – rightfully – amassed heaps of critical praise.
Though a case can just as easily be made for his breakout mixtape Live. Love. A$AP. to occupy this position, LONG.LIVE.A$AP is, in many ways, Rocky’s definitive release. It contains his sole Top 10 hit as a solo artist, and it remains his most cohesive, most influential and most essential of his full-length projects to date.
And what better way to mark the anniversary of such a consequential album than with a detailed track ranking? Tabulating the 12 songs on the official studio version of the album in addition to its four bonus tracks, here is our ranking – from worst to best – of each track on A$AP Rocky’s iconic LONG.LIVE.A$AP.
“Phoenix” has the good fortune of being produced by Danger Mouse, who is unfortunately severely under-served by this late-album snoozer. Rocky’s lyrical content very seriously examines his come-up and newfound fame, but his analysis merely scratches the surface. It’s not a bad track per se, but it isn’t exactly a good one either.
15. “Hell” ft. Santigold
On paper this collaboration seems like pure 2013 musical gold, but something got lost in translation by the time the final version of “Hell” arrived. Santigold’s hook is not only lackluster in the lyrical department but sounds beamed in from a different song – only matching Rocky’s verses in that his contributions here are also lackluster, especially when measured up against album’s other offerings.
On an album full of bleak darkness, this song might be the bleakest and darkest. A diss track towards rapper SpaceGhostPurrp, “Jodye” finds Rocky barely containing his venom; you can practically hear the spit flying out of his mouth when he bellows lines like “Bow down like a motherfuckin’ peasant.”
Coming right after “Phoenix” and essentially covering the exact same thematic territory, “Suddenly” is ultimately a better-executed version of the song that precedes it. An eerie sample of The Cytations’ track of the same name lopes in the background of Rocky’s expertly-paced verses, and the beat-drop turns the song’s final third into something to remember.
12. “Pain” ft. OverDoz.
A woozy track that would otherwise be filler is saved from total obscurity by a few well-executed puns on Rocky’s burgeoning admiration for the world of fashion. The choicest lyrics? A toss-up between “My n*ggas is hella fly, you over accessorize” and “Drop-crotch Jeremy Scott pants, bitch it’s Hammer Time.”
11. “I Come Apart” ft. Florence Welch
Yes, we did live in a world where Florence Welch (sans the Machine) found her way on the last track of A$AP Rocky’s debut album. The production is bombastic and triumphant – a very fitting closer to the record – but the pairing of this duo is a bit jarring. The end result sounds more like a power-pop ballad in the closing credits of a teen movie than a Rocky-cut.
One of two tracks that comes courtesy of frequent collaborator Clams Casino, “LVL” serves as something of an interlude in the context of the album. Rocky turns in two effortless verses over Casino’s rich production – a glitchy, fuzzed-out wall of sound textured with stuttering human voices. Fun fact: the outro is sung by everyone’s favorite trio of rock sisters, HAIM.
9. “PMW (All I Really Need)” ft. ScHoolboy Q
If you’re wondering what A$AP Rocky really needs, look no further than the chorus to this track – which lets us know over a dozen times that it’s women, currency and marijuana. It’s a solid offering with some particularly strong rhymes, and contains a welcome guest verse from ScHoolboy Q. But for better or worse, it utterly pales in comparison to their collaboration from the year before, the iconic “Hands on the Wheel,” which found its way on ScHoolboy’s sophomore album Habits & Contradictions.
8. “Ghetto Symphony” ft. Gunplay & A$AP Ferg
A lush, orchestral production led by syrupy violins provides an ornate backdrop on this stellar bonus track. Weaving together verses from guest MCs Gunplay and A$AP Ferg and an expertly-employed hook built from an Imogen Heap sample, Rocky delivers a track that extols his grandeur and decadence, perfectly matching the equally-rich beat. Bonus points for Rocky and Ferg trying to one-up each other with genius OutKast riffs.
7. “Fashion Killa”
This highlight from the latter half of LONG.LIVE.A$AP is equal parts a thesis statement on Rocky’s fashion sentiments and a mini-encyclopedia on the pop culture figures he has his eye on. “She jiggy like Madonna, but she trippy like Nirvana” provide a few musical talking points before he shouts out everyone from Jil Sander to Visvim to Lanvin to “Thom Browne, Rick Owens, Raf Simons,” the latter three of which are name-dropped in a single breath.
“Angels” is a fairly radical departure from the sonic trademarks that characterize the rest of LONG.LIVE.A$AP. Where nearly all the rest of the album’s tracks utilize the human voice in service of unsettling or alarming the listener, the voices samples in “Angels” are full of radiant beauty. These heavenly sighs underscore Rocky’s journey from a life filled with drug and crime to a life of celebrity being featured in Vogue. As he goes on to state elsewhere on the album, life at the top isn’t without its pratfalls, but it’s certainly a paradise compared to his beginnings.
5. “1Train” ft. Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Action Bronson & Big K.R.I.T.
In sheer numbers, Rocky managed to outdo himself by corralling an even bigger stable of guest artists than the one highlighted two tracks earlier on “Fuckin’ Problems.” Essentially a master class in who was up and coming in rap at the end of 2012 (a particularly amusing enterprise in hindsight – was Kendrick Lamar really lumped in the same class as Yelawolf??), “1Train” highlights one of Rocky’s most essential strengths – his ability to effuse his own vision no matter how many other cooks are in the kitchen right beside him.
4. “Long Live A$AP”
“I thought I’d probably die in prison,” Rocky begins on the record’s opening and title track. If the queasy, industrial whine of the beat didn’t clue you in, the proceeding bars on heroin addiction and trigger fingers itchin’ clear up any doubt that this record will be nothing less than Lord Flacko’s journey through his heart of darkness. Far more than simply setting the tone for the album to follow, “Long Live A$AP” stakes Rocky’s claim as one of his generation’s most vital MCs.
Everything aligned almost too perfectly for LONG.LIVE.A$AP‘s lead single “Goldie.” The union of Hit-Boy’s melodic yet paranoiac beat (built around actual moans and wails) and Rocky’s rapid-fire bars is the kind of pairing rappers spend an entire career chasing. The hook alone qualifies this track as one of the best on record; it doesn’t get more visceral than talking “shit ’til they get lockjaw.” Rocky even shares the three keys to his success to anyone still doubting his legitimacy: he’s got “dough, extraordinary swag and a mouth full of gold.”
2. “Wild for the Night” ft. Skrillex & Birdy Nam Nam
In stark contrast to the aforementioned “Hell” ft. Santigold, this is a collaboration that seemed odd upon our first glance of the tracklist for Rocky’s debut. Few could have imagined that the combination of Flacko and Skrillex (here at the apex of his cultural relevance) would have produced one of the hardest-hitting tracks of the decade, but here we are. Rocky’s pitch-shifted vocals mesh perfectly with the laser-assault-rifle barrage of Skrillex’s production, providing a study in contrast that inevitably created 2013’s singular turn-up anthem.
1. “Fuckin’ Problems” ft. Drake, 2 Chainz & Kendrick Lamar
Anyone who tries to say that “Fuckin’ Problems” isn’t the best track on this album is kidding themselves; this is – no contest – the most essential cut from Rocky’s most essential album, and may even contend for the title of his best song ever, from any of his projects.
Employing what might be one of the best guest rosters ever assembled (a group that is even more impressive by 2018 standards), Rocky wisely structures things as simply as possible; each rapper turning in an tightly-honed verse followed by that massive, massive 2 Chainz hook. No other tricks are needed, the prowess of each of these artists rapping for a minute (or less) is more than enough to carry it all the way through. It remains Rocky’s only single to crack the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100, which comes as little surprise – this track is as pure of a bona fide hit as they come.
For more like this, check out our ranking of the Top 20 Justin Timberlake Songs.
- Cover Image: Kevin Winter / Getty Images