Consider that an adequate self-reference from Harlem’s own Rakim Mayers, better known to the Hip-Hop world as A$AP Rocky. Those introspective lyrics appear on “Suddenly,” the testimonial closer to Rocky’s Billboard chart-topping RCA/Polo Grounds Music debut, Long.Live.A$AP. Released in mid-January of this year, Long.Live.A$AP came almost a year and some change after his “Purple Swag” breakout mixtape Live.Love.A$AP. Though the Hit-Boy produced lead single “Goldie” didn’t perform as well (peaking at number 55 on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop charts), something happened with the follow-up.
Thanks to the Noah “40” Shebib-produced single “F*ckin’ Problems,” featuring Drake (who co-produced under the moniker C.Papi), 2Chainz and Kendrick Lamar, Rocky not only cemented himself as someone who could churn out club anthems but also rank amongst the best Pop music had to offer. “F*ckin’ Problems” climbed to number two on both Billboard’s Rap Songs and Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts along with peaking at the No. 8 spot on the Hot 100; something that the A$AP Mob leader foresaw after one listen to its moody beat.
“I predicted it would do well because of the features alone and what they brought to the collaboration,” Rocky tells Amalgamation. “Everyone had their unique and versatile style. I felt – as a collective on that one track – that we executed it well. So I wasn’t too surprised when it was really, really successful.”
It was all part of the plan. Released less than a month after the untimely passing of his father, Long.Live.A$AP is an album that Rocky told Life and Times he simply wanted people to connect to. From the looks of things, mission accomplished.
That overabundance of confidence surely explains the single’s Platinum status and everything that came along with it, including successfully co-headlining the “Under The Influence of Music” tour with Wiz Khalifa that had its own wild moments as it ran from mid-July to early August. According to Rocky, one stop almost lead to chaos due to a flight delay, which made the rapper late enough to need a police escort from the airport to the venue.
“The wildest moment was when we did Albuquerque [New Mexico] and started, like, a riot,” Rocky recalls! “Nobody really got hurt or injured because the whole amphitheater went insane—so that was one of my most favorite memories.”
With all the hype surrounding the critical and sales success of Long.Live.A$AP, what’s next? Will he continue to push his debut for as long as he can or move on to the next project?
“Both,” he simply replies.
That same artistic courageousness has given the former drug dealer power to work with everyone from Rihanna, Danny Brown, Usher and Santigold to contemporary electronica mainstay Skrillex for Long.Live.A$AP’s third single, “Wild for the Night.”
Sony/ATV Music Publishing Vice President of Urban Music Walter Jones has been overwhelmingly pleased with everything Rocky has accomplished for himself in such a short time. “A$AP Rocky’s importance to Sony/ATV is [that] he adds to the catalog of great songwriters and hit songs. I’m extremely proud of Rocky to see how well ‘F*ckin Problems’ and ‘Wild for the Night’ have done,” Jones said.
As an artist, Rocky hopes to stretch his boundaries as a producer (under his production moniker “Lord Flacko”) when he eventually releases his free instrumental album, Beauty and the Beast: Slowed Down Sessions, Chapter 1, sometime before the year is up. In an interview with MTV, Rocky described the project as showing off his eclectic taste. “Everything is like classical, beautiful music and boom-bap Wu-Tang s**t put together,” he said. “It’s slowed down and real vibey – no lyrics.”
In keeping with his eccentric approach to music making, Rocky has even found an unusual way to get his music to the masses. Mid-August had the MC (along with Odd Future head Tyler The Creator) spring a leak of an untitled track meant for the original soundtrack to the groundbreaking and mega-selling fifth core entry in the Grand Theft Auto video game franchise – something that seemingly angered the MC due to spoiling the surprise factor. “I don’t even know why they leaked it because it’s not even the proper version,” said Rocky. “The vocals are slowed down and the vocals are chopped up.” Like the feeling he held during the creation of “F*ckin’ Problem,” he isn’t worried – simply because, “other than that, I killed that s**t!”
Now that Rocky has elevated himself to superstar status almost in the blink of an eye, he’s working in hopes of getting the rest of his Harlemite collective, A$AP Mob, to the national spotlight. One of the next in line, A$AP Ferg, has already made waves for himself thanks to the Rocky-assisted “Shabba,” a menacing ode to Dancehall legend Shabba Ranks (who makes a cameo in the video) and his penchant for wearing a variety of huge gold chains. Rocky’s advice to Ferg was to follow his example. “I told him to just watch what I do, pay attention, stay loyal and keep God in his prayers,” said Rocky. “I’m proud of Ferg.” Ferg totally agrees according to an interview with The Grio. “Rocky was the first one out the gate to represent the Mob and I was there during the ups and downs,” Ferg said. “He dealt with a lot and it made him stronger.”
It’s been less than two years since Rocky shocked the New York rap arena with a breakout mixtape that drew more influence from below the Mason Dixon line than local traditions. Those unapologetic risks have more than worked in his favor. If he’s able to captivate listeners and influence other aspiring artists now, the future sounds quite luminous, Walter Jones predicts.
“I believe Rocky’s influence on Hip-Hop culture has been great” Jones continues. “He has truly opened up the minds of younger kids on what they can sound like as recording artists. He’s a guy rapping from Harlem but with Southern and Midwestern similarities. If you go to any of his shows, you will also see that he shares his love for everyone. He often says, ‘We are all the same and equal,’ which is a great message. Keep spreading the word, Rocky!”
By Ural Garrett