ASAP Mob is this summer’s hottest hip-hop collective. The crew that was birthed in Harlem more than a decade ago has taken captive the month of August—dubbed AWGEST, for the Mob’s esoteric AWGE tag—with an onslaught of videos (“Feels So Good”), television appearances (The Tonight Show) and music releases (ASAP Twelvyy, ASAP Ferg). It all culminates with ASAP Mob’s sophomore studio album, Cozy Tapes Vol. 2: Too Cozy, due Friday. The ASAP Rocky-led group appears to be running on all cylinders, but after some bumpy early years, can the pride of Uptown at long last manifest its destiny?
When ASAP Mob first entered the widespread hip-hop consciousness, the rappers and creatives were merely nameless background stars shooting dice outside of a Harlem bodega in Rocky’s breakout “Peso” video. We’d get a sampling of each member via Rocky’s Live. Love. ASAP mixtape in 2011, as the self-proclaimed pretty motherfucker’s profile quickly ascended. The plan was to break the whole crew a year later with the collaborative Lords Never Worry mixtape, yet when that project arrived, it was widely bashed for its unfocused composition. While there was room for improvement in emphasizing the Mob’s strength in numbers, the release did yield some synergetic posse cuts (“Full Metal Jacket,” “Bath Salt”) and Ferg’s maiden smash, “Work,” a wave he rode for months.
The group tried to release a unified LP titled L.O.R.D. throughout 2014. But despite ASAP Nast’s “Trillmatic” and the posse cut “Hella Hoes” becoming fan favorites, the oft-delayed project never quite gelled and was ultimately shelved. And then, on January 18, 2015, ASAP Mob was forever changed. ASAP Yams—the young mastermind who glued the group together—died of an accidental drug overdose, at the age of 26, and it seemed as if the collective was instantly in disarray. He’d spent much of the previous year trying to orchestrate ASAP Mob’s proper debut album. Fortunately, the dream didn’t die with the man. With so many talented artists bound by a solitary moniker, there was no way the Mob wouldn’t rise again.
That first year or so following Yams’ passing saw members of the Mob preoccupied with paying homage both on and off wax. Rocky’s sophomore album At Long Last ASAP nods to his fallen brother-from-another (who is listed as executive producer) on the cover and via the closing track tribute, “Back Home.” ASAP Ferg dedicated his Adidas sneaker collaboration to Yams. The group launched the annual ASAP Yams Day, a tribute concert, on the one-year anniversary of his death.
In 2016, the Mob went from merely honoring ASAP Yams to resurrecting his vision. The year kicked off with ASAP Ferg’s Always Strive And Prosper, a solid, if schizophrenic, sophomore album that exhibits just how versatile and technically nice Ferg can be on the mic. “New Level,” his high-energy single with Future, proved his early success was no fluke and gave the Mob another star to wave the flag along with Rocky. The Mob spent most of that year working on its first studio album Cozy Tapes Vol. 1: Friends, which united Rocky, Ferg, Twelvyy, Nast, Ant and the rest of the crew once it dropped in October. Last year, Rocky told Genius that the project was influenced by a mythical notebook that Yams kept called the Black Book, complete with outlines for the Mob’s flourishment:
It’s a composition notebook with Raekwon holding an Elmo doll, a Supreme sticker, and Biggie’s picture with the afro as a baby. Inside, it got plans of what [Yams] wanted to do for 2015 and who he wanted to fuck with, who he wanted us to fuck with, what artists he was interested in... He wanted everybody to move cohesively. Everybody had the same vision but he was the voice of reason.
With Cozy Tapes Vol. 1: Friends, ASAP Mob solidified an orbit of on-the-verge affiliates like Lil Uzi Vert, Playboi Carti, and Lil Yachty—not unlike Wu-Tang and Killa Beez. Yet while the project was well-received, boasting top-notch crew cuts like “Yamborghini High” and “Telephone Calls,” it felt more like the conclusion of a years-long journey than a rebirth.
This year, ASAP Mob proved it was just getting started. Rocky’s attention seems fixated on rap once again, as he’s been popping up on tracks with the likes of Frank Ocean, Lana Del Rey, and Tyler, The Creator. Ferg has the year’s most exciting posse cut with “East Coast (Remix),” which pairs legends like Snoop Dogg and Busta Rhymes with younger rhymers Dave East and French Montana. The rest of the troops are following suit, set to show their combined strength with Cozy Tapes Vol. 2. (The singles “RAF” and “Feels So Good” are already two of the Mob’s strongest collaborations.)
There have been setbacks and controversies, though. Most notably, Mob co-founder ASAP Bari caught backlash in July after being accused of sexual assault, accusations that were seemingly confirmed by graphic video footage. In the aftermath, Nike cut ties with Bari and there’s been some inner group turmoil, which climaxed with Rocky calling his fellow ASAP crony a “bitch” (they seem to have since resolved their issues). While the impact hasn’t brought the Mob’s momentum to a full halt, it’s the second controversy of its kind involving background players: Rocky has been taken to task for his continued alliance with Ian Connor, who faced six allegations of rape just last year. On the music front, Ferg’s middling new mixtape Still Striving does little to advance his catalog, leaning heavily on guest features (there are only two solo cuts) and late ’90s nostalgia (remakes of JT Money and Three 6 Mafia classics). Meanwhile, ASAP Twelvyy’s long-awaited debut album 12 has some potent wordplay, but not enough firepower to break out from the pack as Rocky and Ferg have done. And whether in hip-hop or on the hardwood, establishing a Big Three is an essential measure of building a dynasty.
Still, you get the sense that the best of ASAP Mob is yet to come. The momentum of their AWGEST takeover will pave the way for ASAP Rocky’s third studio LP, which appears to be in the works. Cozy Tapes Vol. 2 will continue to distinguish the personalities and attributes of the group’s members—hopefully it will feature more from the under-utilized ’90s revivalist ASAP Nast, whose 2013 track “Trillmatic” is still a top 10 song amongst all Mob members. Additionally, the project is a chance to continue establishing a sonic aesthetic for the group as a whole.
With ASAP Mob’s depth, it seems like there’s always something new or different around the corner—a quality that ASAP Yams sought to actualize. Perhaps Twelvyy put it best in an interview with Complex earlier this summer. “Right now is meant for me to come in, then it’s meant for Nast to come in, then it’s meant for Addie to come in,” he said. “We're always gonna have something to look forward to, no matter what.”