A$AP’s link with the God runs even deeper. Later that evening, he recounts the time when he copped his first cassette. “It was The 18th Letter. I bought that when I was eight going on nine. My brother told me to pick some music to buy. I was about to get the soundtrack to Mortal Kombat.” A$AP Ferg dies.
“I was big on the Sega Genesis and the Saturn,” Rocky continues. “I was about to buy that and he’s laughing at me. So I looked at the Rakim joint and they had the cassette joint with all of Rakim’s greatest hits on the one side for like five dollars. I heard ‘Know the Ledge’ and got stuck on it. Plus I loved the movie.”
Ferg remembers rhyming to it and starts to spit their custom lyrics. Rocky’s eyes light up. “Railroad Ugg shit/A$AP ain’t nothin to fuck with/Here’s the new swag for your clique to run with/I ain’t even goin’ hard/Just havin’ fun with it/Flow so sick some just can’t stomach/Time to build my juice back up... Oh, how that go?” He turns to A$AP Ferg and they go back and forth, trying to remember the four-year-old rhymes, imitating Ra’s cadence and rhythmic punctuation.
They had the cassette joint with all of Rakim’s greatest hits on the one side for like five dollars. I heard ‘Know the Ledge’ and got stuck on it. Plus I loved the movie [Juice].
After saying his goodbyes to Angie, Rocky does some drops and a video feature for the website. Next some meet-and-greets. Everything is very new and efficient and Rocky is acutely aware of what it all means. Some of the crew wear A$AP jackets that re-appropriate the anarchy symbol, more street voodoo for the age of the digital brand. Their movement is taking its first baby steps.
The crew piles into two cars and rolls to Quad Recording Studios in Times Square. Gino, the manager, takes the train, saying, “I’ll get there before you.” He helped A$AP Worldwide get their deal with Polo Grounds and then with Sony.
“I just wanted to make sure they have the team,” he says, sitting back on the R train. A ten-year vet of the industry who’s worked with Bad Boy, he’d given up on the music business until he came across A$AP. “You have to do things with passion,” he says. “If you do it for the check then you find that it was not worth the effort. I learned that working with Puff.”
A$AP Worldwide files into the downstairs lobby of Quad, hip-hop’s grassy knoll. Even now, Tupac Shakur haunts the place. As we wait for the elevator, A$AP Ferg and A$AP Twelvy go back and forth about each other’s breath.
“You got the Bilal breath.”
“Your breath smells like Keith Sweat after a concert, nigga.”
Upstairs in the lounge, more A$AP Crew trickle in. Eighteen-year-old Ty Beats, the producer of “Purple Swag” and “Pe$o,” looks like he just crawled out the womb. The creator of their signature sound is still barely out of high school. A$AP Ant is dressed extra-fresh, rockin’ the Jeremy Scott winged adidas. A$AP Rocky’s playing pool. The monitor on the wall is turned to 106 & Park and just as they’re about to flip the channel the dreamy visuals for “Peso” pop up the screen.
“I be that pretty _______.” The censors erase nearly half the song. No gunshot in the hook. No sex or violence. BET even bleeps out his reference to “neck.” Rocky looks up from the pool table and sees the TV. He stops and for a second, transfixed. First time on 106 & Park. Another portal open. “That’s trill right there,” he says, almost to himself. He turns back to the pool table. “Fuck! I’m losin’.”
Rocky looks up from the pool table and sees the TV. He stops and for a second, transfixed. First time on 106 & Park. Another portal open. 'That’s trill right there,' he says, almost to himself.
The team is hype. A$AP Ferg, laughing about some earlier incident, bangs finger guns with Twelvy. The consensus in the smoking room chatter is that the Lakers did Odom dirty. A$AP Nast, rocking the GENERAL cap, suggests an approach to Rocky on how to spit a certain verse—a kind of rhyme technician.
Ferg and Rocky start imitating rapper flows over an asymmetrical beat. A$AP does a pitch-perfect Wiz and Juve, Ferg interrupts with Ice Cube. Yams deliberates over which beats to choose for a chopped and screwed tape, NY style. Someone suggests Dr. Dre 's “Next Episode." Food is ordered. The whole crew are pescatarians—no red meat, no poultry, no pork. It’s part of the A$AP rules. No diamonds either. Strictly gold.
Asked whether he feels like a millionaire yet, Rocky shrugs. “Naw. We just some regular niggas. Look at us. We can’t feel like that till all my niggas get it.” Unity is part of their trope, hence the common A$AP title. It conveys a oneness. Yams: “That name best represents who we are,” YAMS explains. “We Always Strive and Prosper. Accumulate Status and Power. Always Stacking Always Paper-chasin’. But we in the hood so we tryna Assasinate Snitches And Police,” he adds with a smile. “And that’s it.”
Nast, Ferg and Rocky do some loose freestyles in the booth. After an unappealing veggie burger from the nearby deli, Rocky’s starting to show signs of the full-on day. And he’s got hours to go. In spite of all the crew love, it’s hard not to sense the fragility of the situation. A record contract is an opportunity that can quickly become a burden. Hype can turn to hate—or worse. Rocky disappears under his Pagille hoodie on the verge of a nap. “We don’t care about any of that other shit. We just do us.”