A$AP Rocky, LongLiveA$AP (Sony)
The hype around Harlem’s A$AP Rocky has been enormous heading into his debut album, and meeting fan demand figured to be daunting. With that, LongLiveA$AP is a strong debut that will likely please his rabid fans. Unlike other cult-rap icons, there is no insightfulness to A$AP Rocky so you better understand him. His draw is his pompous anthems with magnetic appeal. His braggadocio throbs on the shit-talking “LVL” and trunk-rattling “Goldie.” The Drake, 2 Chainz- and Kendrick Lamar-assisted “Fucking Problems” takes arrogance to another level. The album falls into several stale pockets, however, where everything sounds the same. But aside from those minor hiccups, LongLiveA$AP proves to be a successful debut. ★★★☆☆
Wale, Folarin (Maybach Music Group)
Since signing to Maybach Music Group, the clever DMV wordsmith knows how to make music for everyone. He keeps it sexy for the ladies (“Bad”), rowdy for the fellas (“Flat Out”) and reminds doubters of his lyrical prowess (“Georgetown Press”). The Scarface collaboration, “Limitless” and the Nottz-produced “Skool Daze” find Wale at his most introspective and prove that even though he can make the club jump, he’s most comfortable crafting insightful narratives. If there’s a knock on Folarin it’s that it shifts gears so suddenly that you can never ease into listening. Other than that, it’s another victory lap for Wale as his star rises. ★★★★☆
T.I., Trouble Man: Heavy is The Head (Atlantic)
Although T.I. has become more like Bill Cosby thanks to his hit reality series, his eighth studio album comes as a reminder that Clifford Harris still has his ghetto pass. On Trouble Man, T.I. often tries to be like the T.I. of old. It works on the trash-talking “Addresses” and the defiant “Trap Back Jumpin.” However, when he takes a stab at a Top 40 hit, T.I. falters. The half-singing rhymes on “Cruisin’” and the effort to tear the club up on the Lil Wayne-assisted “Ball” fall flat. All is redeemed when he rhymes alongside Andre 3000 on “Sorry,” where they half-heartedly apologize for not pleasing everyone. Eight albums down and T.I. isn’t going anywhere. ★★★☆☆
Upcoming albums on Andreas’ radar …
FEB. 5: Joe Budden steps out of reality TV with No Love Lost and chances are there will be more ears listening than ever before. FEB. 12: LL Cool J drops Authentic Hip Hop, but is he still capable of creating raw raps? We’ll find out.