From mixtape to major-label debut, a new Harlem MC is building big buzz
By Larry Gilchrist
Special to MSN Music
For as much as hip-hop has become a global phenomena, many fans still consider New York its mecca. So when a 24-year-old Harlem MC by the name of A$AP Rocky started making some noise in Gotham, the world quickly took notice.
In 2012, Rocky made his first big splash with his mixtape, "Live.Love.A$AP." With tracks like "Trilla" and "Peso" leading the way, the rapper's unique sound - a combination of Dirty South bass and East Coast lyricism - easily set him apart from much of the competition. The inevitable label bidding war ensued, and the charismatic Rocky landed a deal with Polo Ground/RCA the same year.
Now, only a few days into the new year, A$AP Rocky has released his official debut, "Long.Live.A$AP." Packed with more than a few A-list appearances, the album is already garnering critical acclaim. MSN Music recently caught up with the rising hip-hop star to discuss his debut, the competition and the A$AP movement.
MSN Music: How does it feel?
I feel like everything is way more perfected. With my craft, as far as "Live.Love.A$AP," I wanted to show people this new sound that was emerging and now [with "Long.Live.A$AP"] I want to show them the perfected version of the sound that they've been imitating and loving for the past year because all they had was "Live.Love.A$AP." Now it's set in stone that that's my original sound. That's all I really wanted to do was to do something innovative. I just wanted to invent new s--- and create stuff.
What was the recording process like for "Long.Live.A$AP"?
It was similar in so many different ways, but what I can say about this is that on "Live.Love.A$AP" I didn't have as many features or celebrity friends, so this one was a bit more fun. I reached out to people and they reached back out, so it was love. I wanted to bring that back to hip-hop. I reached out to a lot of the young cats that's on the come-up because I want everybody to get that equal amount of shine that they deserve.
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A great example of that is the track "1 Train" that features a few of your fellow newcomers like Kendrick Lamar, Big K.R.I.T., Yelawolf, Danny Brown, Joey Bada$$ and Action Bronson. How did that come together?
Honestly, when I got the beat from [producer] Hit-Boy, I got that posse-cut feeling. I just really wanted to make a song that gave you the feeling of the essence of '90s hip-hop, but I wanted it to come from the underdogs and the underground - rap's emerging artists - to shine as opposed to the A-list celebrity features. So, when I put it together, I just thought about all of my peers that I came up with, that they compared me to & I just wanted to put them all on a song. So, you see K.R.I.T. and Yelawolf, who were a little bit before me; Danny, Action and Kendrick is my time; and Joey is a little bit after me; so it just fit all the elements.
I have to imagine there was serious, yet friendly, competition in the studio that day?
Of course. It was deadly friendly competition.
You kick off the album with the title track. What was it about that song that made it the lead track?
It was important to me because I actually co-produced that beat and I'm singing for the first time. I am singing in a falsetto - people don't even know that's me. They think it's Pharrell or something like that. It's an introduction of what's to come so it prepares people for what's about to happen.
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Some people may not know that A$AP is larger than you. Tell me how the A$AP Mob came together?
In 2006, I used to see these four or five kids who looked like me and dressed like me - they were A$AP. I was down with another crew at the time, but some of the people in A$AP I knew already due the fact that we were all from Harlem. The next thing I knew I was part of A$AP and that was 2007. By 2008, I was like the head guy in charge, trying to come up with creative ways to link it and turn our crew into a commodity. I just really saw opportunities because I'm an opportunist to an extent - we all are to an extent - so I just put two and two together. I said, "Listen, some of us model, some of us paint, some of us sing & What's the point of us sitting around wasting talent? We need to show the world that we're not only about just fashion. Let's really show them what we stand for." Now, they know.
How does it feel to know that you have inspired a generation of young people beyond the A$AP Mob?
It feels amazing. I can't really even describe it. I really feel blessed and I am thankful for every opportunity that has been handed to me.
What's next for A$AP Rocky?
I am working on films and some other lifestyle stuff. We also have projects from A$AP Ferg and A$AP Mob coming out. We're about to do big things - this is 2000 and A$AP!