The future of Hip-Hop is in the good hands of A$AP Rocky, and it looks bright. The quick witted Harlem native’s highly anticipated, debut mixtape, Live Love A$AP, dropped on Halloween and quickly proved the hype around A$AP Rocky was well deserved, with the project landing on dozens of year end “best of” lists and Rocky garnering Rolling Stone’s Rookie of the Year and MTV’s Hottest Breakthrough MC and Artist To Watch in 2012 accolades.
“Rocky is music, music videos and fashion,” says A$AP Rocky of his quickly blossoming career. Thanks to his breakout hits “Purple Swag” and “Peso,” the fascinating NYC product scored a recording deal with Polo Grounds Music/RCA Records through his and his partner Steven “Yams aka Yamborghini” Rodriguez A$AP Worldwide imprint.
The lyrically dexterous 23 year-old, and self described pretty motherfucker was born to become an MC. This isn’t a farfetched claim when you consider his parents named him Rakim after the seminal rapper credited with changing the course of rap history. A$AP Rocky (short for Always Strive And Prosper and various other acronyms) pinpoints the start of his own rap aspirations to when he was only 8 years old. “My sister was born, she was on the bed, and the first rhyme I did was about her,” he recalls.
Encouraged by his late, older brother Ricky Black (“My first true friend. God bless all big brothers man, I had a good one.”), A$AP continued pursuing his craft. His brother was a big time Bone Thugs-N-Harmony fan. “I grew up on Bone Thugs because of him,” says A$AP. “I even knew about Flesh Bone when I was five years old. Bone was everything. That’s why I spit how I spit now, it’s the Bone Thugs influence.”
Anyone who pegged A$AP Rocky as a one trick pony after the success of “Purple Swag”—along with its video, which he also co-directed—was proved wrong with the follow up success of “Peso.” Rocky credits all the great Hip-Hop artists from the 1990’s as inspiration, and he hopes to bring that same type of creative energy and innovative spirit to his current music. “I feel I brought back that essence with the ‘Peso’ video,” says Rocky. “Not just New York but that Hip-Hop in the 90’s thing. Hip-Hop in the 90’s set the format for Hip-Hop today.” But, he adds, “I’m really, really tired of the cliché rhyming and the mansions with every night you popping bottles and you got a bitch in your flying spur, all the time.”
Instead, Rocky is offering up an alternative to the current rap status quo. It was this void Rocky perceived in Hip-Hop, as well as clever songwriting and infectious beats that made him realize he had a spot in the rap industry for the taking. “That’s what made me know that I can make it. I said, ‘I can’t be the only one feeling like this,’” says A$AP. “I’m not saying I’m the one that everybody needs to listen to. What I’m saying is I have a different kind of standpoint and I got different views and I bring a different approach. And if you fuck with me, good. You should.”
But before A$AP Rocky commenced his current path to rap stardom, he took a detour to pay the bills. Although he had both of his parents in his life (“I was fortunate enough to have family who cared about me,” he says.), the lure of fast money was too much to pass up after having lived in shelters during rougher times. But a few years ago he started realizing his musical talents were a safer ticket out of the hood.
“Being in Harlem and growing up, everything was about being the man and having all the bitches and so on and so forth,” Rocky explains. “I got tired of that spotlight. I’m not going to prosper off of being the man. I was like, ‘Yo, I can take this money and do something productive.’”
Rocky proceeded to set aside a few months of studio time with an engineer and as fate would have it, “Purple Swag” dropped in July 2011 and immediately resonated with listeners.
That exponentially growing fanbase has become privy to the world of the A$AP collective; a crew of Harlem based, fashion-forward street kids (“These were the guys dressing like they were rolling on the red carpet.”) that A$AP Rocky formally joined in 2007. Members of A$AP include producer A$AP Ty Beats (“Purple Swag,” “Pesos”) and rappers A$AP Ferg, A$AP Nast and A$AP Twelvy.
Other standout cuts on the Live Love A$AP mixtape include the resounding “Back to the Future,” the soulfully atmospheric, Clams Casino produced “Wassup” and the bluesy “Trilla” featuring A$AP Twelvy and A$AP Nast. The latter, including A$AP Ty Beats, have been signed to A$AP Worldwide Records imprint. Another standout track on the highly anticipated project is the mesmerizing “Houston Old Head.”
While he is a NYC raised MC, he has no shame in appropriating elements from all his musical influences into his mélange of sounds. “I’m really diverse,” Rocky explains. “I try to give them everything they want. I can’t help but brag being from Harlem, but I’m not just boasting all the time; it’s a little bit of pizazz swag. I talk about how my day went. I got a song about bass from the speakers. I get joy out of making music and sharing it.”
Although he already sports co-signs from fellow Harlem native Jim Jones and Young Money rapper Drake, who invited Rocky on his 2012 “Club Paradise” tour, Rocky is still looking to prove the excitement surrounding his burgeoning career is merited. “I think it’s too much hype about me. I want to prove myself to these people,” says Rocky. “I want to prove to them that I’m an all-around artist, I’m a great video director, I’m a great human being, I have a good head on my shoulders and I’m a great lyricist. I’m ready to represent now. I got too much style not to be.”