Credit: Phil Knott

The roundtable in hip-hop’s current kingdom reserves most of its thrones for MCs like Drake and Kendrick Lamar — self-flagellating rappers who storm the battlefield with a quiver full of emotional arrows. Comparatively speaking, Harlem mixtape hero A$AP Rocky is a court jester, defiantly celebrating champagne and strippers. In his hands, though, those radio-baller clichés evolve into contagious comic relief: When Drake drops by on ”F—in’ Problems,” it sounds like he hasn’t had this much fun since the last Degrassi wrap party.

In Long.Live.A$AP, Rocky spends ample time laying out his life philosophy on heady, hazy thumpers ”Goldie” and ”PMW (All I Really Need)” — the M stands for ”money,” the rest is unprintable — his major-label debut proves he’s more than a magnetic hedonist. On ”Suddenly,” over a murky swirl of haunting vocal samples Rocky matter-of-factly recounts the bleak fates of the guests at a backyard barbecue. ”This ain’t no consciousness rap,” he warns, but still, it’s a stark portrait of how rare it is to bust out of a neighborhood where ”Everybody had roaches/But our roaches ain’t respect us.” Think of Rocky as a storyteller in the Louis C.K. mold: inspired goofballery that peels away to reveal real truths underneath. A

Best Tracks:
1 Train
PMW (All I Really Need)