A$AP Rocky on Harlem Roots, Upcoming Album & Iggy Azaela
Photo by Aston "Husumu" Hwang
“Is this a word? Keyboardist?” asked Rakim Meyers, better known by his stage name A$AP Rocky of the quickly budding Harlem collective A$AP Mob. “I’m getting ready for Coachella, and I’ve got a band with someone special.”
When questioned if it was Scott Storch (and whether if the noted producer was sober) Rocky replied with a laugh, “I don’t know if he’s sober, but I know he’s focused!”
Draped in a multi-colored, animal-patterned, puffy winter jacket—a gift from his friend, fashion designer Jeremy Scott—and donning a black fitted with A$AP written on its crown, the 23-year-old rapper displayed a welcoming charm that’s more sincere than media trained. With “Peso” and “Purple Swag” earning him a hefty 3-million-dollar deal with Sony, along with cosigns from Drake and Harlem’s own Jim Jones, the emerging star cuts a gaudy figure, favoring Japanese designer brands (Comme des Garçons and Neighborhood), golden grills, and Adidas Jeremy Scott Wings. He smiled frequently in speech, and talked with a gentle voice that’s playful yet observant.
Taking a late dinner break during the music video shoot of Swizz Beatz’s “Street Knock,” which features Rocky on a verse, the rapper/director sat down with XXL on a chilly Saturday evening in Brooklyn, where he discussed about his upcoming debut LongLiveA$AP, Harlem, and Iggy Azaela.
XXLMag.com: Tell us about your upcoming album.
A$AP Rocky: It’s crazy. I don’t really have much to say about it. It’s going to speak for itself, honestly. You can expect it in July. But we’re going to have an A$AP Mob’s tape in May. I’ve got some shits on there. That should be a preview for mom fuckers.
There are some rumors going on about you and Iggy Azaela.
Are you guys’ friends?
No comment. [Laughs.]
Moving on, you grew up on Cam’s block, right?
How’d you know about that? Nobody knows that. I’m shocked you know that. Me, Cam, and Big L.
Minus Ma$e. By the way, is the dollar sign in A$AP a tribute to Ma$e?
Uh, no! Ma$e might’ve inspired it, but it’s not a tribute to him.
Then tell us about Dipset. What’s your relationship with them?
I got a relationship with Jim Jones. He brought me out at the Best Buy Theater last year [September 30] and that was before I was really hot. I respect Jim Jones and honestly I’ve got love for that guy.
Can we expect him on your album LongLiveA$AP?
How do you feel about the gentrification that’s going on in Harlem right now?
I mean the rich people are moving over, and the poor people are moving to the Bronx. But honestly, man, what I could say is Harlem’s more beautiful than ever. Because A$AP is shining right now. And we’re Harlem to the fullest.
If there’s one business that disappeared from Harlem, and you’d like to bring it back, what would it be?
Pan Pan! You know Pan Pan, right? Pan Pan was the shit.
Have you ever thought about opening up a business in Harlem?
Yeah, no clothing store though. I’ll probably do like a restaurant, a fucking supermarket or a fucking laundromat. Some hood shit. Some Master P shit.
Your crew A$AP Mob rocking the Jeremy Scott Wings has made the sneakers a little more popular.
Yo, it did, didn’t it? I thought it was just me! You know, I’m the most oblivious motherfucker you’d ever meet. Dude, a girl could literally be in my face and go, “Fuck me!” And I wouldn’t get it. I’ll just be like, “Fuck her or not…” I know I can fuck any bitch I want, but it’s just an example. Trill shit though, I really don’t realize that I’m setting trends. And it seems like coincidental. It’d be like, “Damn, everybody’s wearing black now? Everybody wearing rips in their jeans, Rick Owens and Jeremy Scott?" But, yeah, I’m not concerned. I rock’em that’s it! I don’t do anything for nobody other than me.
What do you think it’ll be the next dance movement coming out of Harlem?
I don’t fucking dance, I don’t fucking know, and I don’t fucking care. Please quote me on that.
Are you familiar with some of the younger artists coming out of Harlem? Like Perrion?
How do you know Perry? He’s a little homie. I fuck with him. I support him. I let him open up for me in few shows.
You name drop Junya Watanabe on “Street Knock.” What other Japanese brands do you like?
Yeah, Junya Watanabe, that’s Comme des Garçons. You know I’ll be on that Comme Des Fuckdown shit. That’s trill shit. I fuck with Neighborhood. I fuck with Bounty Hunter, WTAPS…Nigga I’ll be on my shit nigga! [Laughs.]
Have you gone out to Japan yet?
No! But I’ve been in Japan Vogue, and I heard they fuck with me. [Verbal from Teriyaki Boyz and Ambush] shows me a lot of love. He sent me some cool shits, too. I can’t wait to go out there, bro!
As an accomplice of Swizz Beatz interrupted the conversation, Rocky politely asked if the interview is done and offered his number for a possible follow up. With “Goldie” expecting to drop next Monday (April 16th), as the first single off his highly anticipated debut LongLiveA$AP, Rocky seemed nonchalant about his burgeoning fame. Only time will tell if his pleasant attitude would stay intact. For now, though, the Harlem rapper has pulled off something impressive: bringing home a pudgy check, elevating his crew to the forefront, and enjoying his fast-paced youth, carefree. —Jaeki Cho (@JaekiCho)