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ASAP Twelvyy Explains Why His Debut Album ’12’ Took Nearly 10 Years to Make

Ellington Hammond
Ellington Hammond

Timing is everything. For A$AP Mob, a crew that’s spawned so many different kinds of rappers and creatives, and unfortunately lost their leader in the midst of their rise, this lesson had to be learned the hard way. And no one knows that better than the Mob’s A$AP Twelvyy. Twelvyy’s debut album, aptly titled 12, is a labor of love—one that took him almost that long to put out. At 28, the New York spitter has come to appreciate the timing that finally brought him to this moment.

Born Jamel Phillips, Twelvyy has been part of the A$AP Mob movement since the very beginning, running with the crew’s founder A$AP Yams since 2006. But like many early members of any rap crew, Twelvyy fell victim to the bittersweet force of overshadowing by other members. But still, just like his mentor taught him, Twelvyy stayed down, stayed loyal and worked on perfecting his craft.

According to the MC, 12, out today (Aug. 4) is a testament to the struggle. When asked about the overall message of the LP, Twelvyy is quick to put his guru hat on and wisely says, “That no matter how long something takes, don’t give up. There’s no reason to give up. It might take you 10 years, it might take you 15 years. Never give up.”

Just before the rhyme-slinger unleashed this long-awaited debut onto the world, XXL caught up with A$AP’s self-proclaimed “general” to discuss his break from making music, the age cap in hip-hop, what to expect next from the Mob and much more.

XXL: So what are we here for today Twelvyy?

A$AP Twelvyy: To talk about the album, 12 dropping Aug. 4, 2017. I’m ecstatic. It’s been six, seven years, damn near 10 years in the making, so I’m ready.

It’s been a long road to get here. How did you get to this point?

Meeting Josh [my manager]. Quite honestly, let’s keep it a buck because if it was up to me, I would probably be dropping in 2016. But my rollout wasn’t ready, I didn’t even have a team and Josh put together a leak-proof rollout and now we’re here. I’ve been noticing with everybody that drops music, they put out a single, they put out a video and they album’s out. With Josh, he came to the table with a whole master plan.

And it was great to have somebody bring something new to the table because I was doing everything myself before that. Shout out to Josh, no gas. But A$AP, the bros, Rocky put me on a platform. He gave me all type of assistance, advice, everything. He’s a great bro, a great point guard. He set me up so I really appreciate my bros. Yams, Ferg, the whole team. I couldn’t be here today without my system. Now I’m here so I’m just doing everything I need to do.

August is officially AWGEST. So your project drops, then Ferg’s Still Striving then Cozy Tapes Vol. 2.

Yeah, this is the first time we ever put together multiple releases in the same month.

It’s a real family feeling that way.

Yeah, because before we didn’t grow together. Now, we’re growing, it’s a great way to grow together. It’s great to have a second opportunity with [Vol. 2] because it could have just went from everybody just popped off and then everybody disappearing, you know what I’m saying?

Let’s go back to 2015. You wanted to drop, but then it didn’t happen. What was your headspace back then?

So, 2015, A$AP Yams died in the beginning of 2015. So I was like, Fuck this, honestly. I didn’t want to make music, I didn’t want to hear music. 2016 came and the Flatbush Zombies invited me on tour. I had no choice but to start making music again. I even gassed them like, ‘Yo, my tape about to drop’ to have them let me come on tour. Shout out to my bros for letting me rock on it, a European run, an American run. It was incredible.

So what prevented you from actually dropping in 2016 then? You teased the mixtape 2127301090?

I think it was my personal confidence. My mentality. I just wasn’t feeling it. I lost my best friend. I lost the main person that wanted me to make music, you know? Aside from everybody in the Mob, Yams wanted me to make music before anybody. Without him being there, I was like, Why am I doing this? It’s not even going to be fun for me with him not here.

It’s a feeling that’s still on my shoulders now, but I’m like, I just gotta get over that or I’m gonna be 37 with no tape out looking back. I ain’t trying to go out like that.

So it was a grieving period?

Yeah.

How did you not get over it, but get through it to get to this moment?

It was A$AP Mob. We were on tour. I think the last time the Mob was on tour was the Rocky and Tyler tour. At that time, we were just always on the road. I didn’t have time to work on music, I just had to be a team player. Soon as that was out the way, that’s when I had time to think clearly and work on myself, work on my craft and get my project out. So that was beginning of 2016. So it’s been like a year and half to get this together, get my shit together.

Are some tracks from the 2127301090 tape on this album?

I don’t know what’s going on with that. I don’t think that project exists. We don’t know, it might come up in the future. I don’t know it might come up in the future.

Let’s talk about your features on this project.

I got A$AP Mob, so A$AP Rocky, A$AP Nast, A$AP Ferg, A$AP Eddie. Smooky Margielaa, Joey Bada$$, Flatbush Zombies. We want to keep it in the family, very family-oriented.

What track are you most excited to have fans hear?

“Hop Out” featuring A$AP Ferg. It’s a high-energy record, a turn-up record and it’s a fun record. We shot a video for it and the video is amazing. I love the video. I’m super excited for that record to drop because you know, it’s crazy, being with the Mob and we in the club and none of our records are playing? That’s one of the things like, we got all this influence but when we get to the club and there’s no influence in the club. This is one of those records that’s going to make a crazy impact in the club. It’s the record that’s gonna make you turn up, hop in, hop out and turn up, you know what I’m saying?

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Is that your favorite track?

My favorite track on here is actually “Sunset Park” though. One, because I love the movie. Two, because of the skit on “Sunset Park,” shout out to my man Fredro Starr. We got a crazy skit on there. And third, when we was cooking up “Sunset Park,” we cooked up “Strapped,” “LYBB” within the same time so I feel like it’s an everyday struggle. I feel like every day is like an everyday struggle just to get down the block to the train station, just to even get to sleep at night. You gotta go through the whole city. It’s an everyday struggle and every day you gotta hustle.

You just can’t give up. If you give up, you’ll be sitting like me a whole year in your crib until you meet somebody like Josh [my manager] or something. Not everybody has friends like the Flatbush Zombies. I’m just grateful to have people in my life who are just like, “Naw, Twelve, you got to stop playing.” I know I slacked for a minute and I’m just happy that I had positive structures in my life that pushed me to keep going. Not for nothing, there is no way you can do this by yourself. Nobody could. I done seen people who are the hottest not even here no more.

What was one really memorable studio session for this album?

Most of the songs I recorded was for the house. They were recorded at my house and then we took it to the studio. “Last Year Being Broke” I remember Yams being in the crib and he heard me spittin’ on it and he came in the joint knocking on the wall. That’s crazy, [I’m] glad we kept that in there.

“Hop Out” was one of the only songs I recorded in the studio. That was the most people I ever rapped in front of, about 30 people recording-wise, recording my verse. All of A$AP Mob, dudes from uptown, Maaly Raw. I was kind of shy about it but I knocked it out.

Yams used to just be on some shit in the studio. He’d be in there. Nobody doing nothing he’d be like, “Y’all not hot, y’all not doing anything, Y’all not lit.” We’d used to just be in there like, “What he talking about? We them niggas.” But in hindsight it’s like we really not. We ain’t got shit out. Only person that’s moving is Flacko. Flacko, he your bro, so he never going to be on some shit like, “Y’all not doing nothing.” Now, he is. But before, he used to let you bury yourself. Yeah, we all got a new mentality and it all started with the A$AP Mob album that they scratched. I had “Escape” on there, I had “Motivation” on there and it just didn’t happen. So I took that as a sign and I ran with it to make 12.

What’s the message you want fans to get from your debut?

That no matter how long something takes, don’t give up. There’s no reason to give up. It might take you 10 years, it might take you 15 years, never give up. I don’t think there should ever be an age cap on music. You still got blues musicians, rock, soul, heavy metal bands still doing crazy tours. But in hip-hop, especially in America, it’s like once you’re a certain age, you’re done, ship us to Europe—which they love us over there—but it shouldn’t be like that.

We put work in this, love this forever. This wasn’t no overnight thing, this was 10 years in the making. My next project’s not going to take that long [laughs] but I just been grinding that long so I picked up stuff on the way.

A$AP Mob really runs like a family. What would you say is your role in the Mob?

I’m the general. My friend Gelato, he call me RZA. So you know, I be the RZA of the Mob. But then some people call me the GZA of the Mob so I just be the general. I just hold it down.

Give an example of that.

Before a show, I’m getting everybody up to pray. I’m the one like, “Let’s get together let’s pray.” Inspirerer. Sometimes I’m the coach. But I teach everybody else on my team to be the same. Some cats are just small-minded. You gotta lead, you gotta teach, you gotta love, respect, honor. You gotta stand for something or fall for anything.

AWGE/Polo Ground/RCA Records
AWGE/Polo Ground/RCA Records

How is A$AP different from any other crew in hip-hop right now?

Some crews in hip-hop started their crews once they seen us not knowing that we were already a crew. We’ve been broke together, we’ve been hitting the club, poppin’ bottles together. First time I seen Yams, he had a Dipset chain on with Max B, you know? They say Hollywood is Hollywood but New York City is still where it’s at though. It’s the biggest TV show in the world, so we’ve lived this life already.

We see Remy Ma, Cam, everybody on our streets all day, every day so it’s nothing for us to do this at ease. And plus, seeing crews fall off in the past before, we like, “We never going to let that happen.” And losing our brother that started that shit? It’d be disrespectful of him to have us fall off or fall apart. I’d be tight. If anybody at Mob feel like they want to leave the Mob, they gotta take that up with me. It ain’t got nothing to do with music. It’s deeper than that. And if I kick you out, you shouldn’t have been.

Is anybody on the verge of being kicked out?

There’s a lot of cats that ain’t supposed to be in here [laughs]. Word, some cats get they A$AP blessing from other people in A$AP.

And you don’t fuck with that?

I don’t respect it. I had to go through the gauntlet. It wasn’t given to me at all. And even to be A$AP Twelvyy today was not given to me. So I’m not jackin’ nobody out here running around, “A$AP this…” Nah, I don’t care.

So in your mind, who are the true A$AP members?

The A$AP Mob. Nast, Eddie, Ferg, Rocky, Illz, Young Lord, Josh, Relly, Ty Y, Hector Delgado. We just blessed in Josh [the manager]. He been first tier though. Flatbush Zombies is the Mob and I’m a Flatbush Zombie, you feel me? TDE is Mob. If Yams met you and showed you love, you Mob to me. If not, then I don’t really care.

You didn’t mention a couple people before. You didn’t mention Playboi Carti.

Oh, Carti. I didn’t know I didn’t mention him. I consider him A$AP Mob, not A$AP. Honestly, A$AP Mob is just five people. A$AP, it got the family tree. A$AP Mob is the A$AP Mob. You can’t let anybody else into the Jackson Five. Nobody else can be the original five, you know. That’s just what it is. Carti, I love you to death but you’ll never be in the original top five.

After 12, there’s Still Striving and then Cozy Tapes on Aug. 25.

Yup, Too Cozy.

What can you tell us about Too Cozy?

It’s very relaxing sounds and this is going to just be an incredible month. I feel like all our music dropping this month is just going to shape the world. You got me coming out on the Aug. 4 and then you got Ferg coming out on the Aug. 18. So from the Aug. 4 to Aug. 18, I feel like all these kids is just going to be in the streets wildin’. They going to be on their 212 shit hard. Running around in they LYBB shit, their durags, watching anime, playing ball.

It’s going to get real crazy. It’s back to school season. They going to go back to school with that 212 mentality. This is going to be the illest summer ever so if you about to go to school with this music right now, your whole life is changing. I know kids that say, “Yo, I remember when Live. Love. A$AP dropped.” It’s the same energy. It’s crazy to see what 10 years of real hard work can do, dead ass. I appreciate that. Somebody told me yesterday, “You gotta catch that microwave shit.” But I’m like, I’m kind of happy I had to thug this out the whole time. I really did a bid, I did a tenure, you feel me? You cannot take that from me.

It takes a lot of work to look like an overnight success.

That’s word. I appreciate all the love. I appreciate being here right now.

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