Too trill for cloud rap, too cold for Deep South
Pretty Mother Fucker - A$AP Rocky

“I would get really really high right now – but I can’t – ‘cause I’m getting my hair braided.”

A$AP Rocky, aka Rakim Mayers, aged 23 from Harlem, New York is in a mean mood. He hasn’t slept, and someone tried to steal his Rolex at his show last night. He takes some time out from the basin to explain: “While some female fans were banging on my hands, some kid decided to rip my watch off while I wasn’t looking. I didn’t see who took it, and it kinda started a riot, and my people got it back and the kid got beat up. It was a Rolex Presidential, watch and band... The band is the strap..."

A$AP’s music is a dangerously seductive counterpoint of etherized space and aggression, of cold synth and lambent, instinctive rap, too raw and swag in its subject matter to relate to his cloud rap cousins, too uninhabitably bleak a sonic landscape for his proto-crunk heroes. This runs from the ‘Purple Swag’ track’s ominous, viscerally coiling bass, to the refrigerated synth of ‘Bass’. One critic analysed the lyric “My all gold grill give 'er cold chills / say she got that coke feel 'cause I'm so trill”(‘Trill’ is a hip hop elision of the words ‘true and real’) as pure instinct, pure lyrical intuition, and Clash is inclined to agree. If only because, in interview, A$AP is difficult and opaque when we discuss his music, preferring to mirror descriptions we throw at him right back. It is this tough nucleus, this obstinate lack of self-consciousness, that gives A$AP his unique selling point – he is an unbound element in himself, intransigent, arrogant and hardcore.

Is Hip Hop getting whiter?

It’s not even about black and white no more. I would disagree that hip hop’s an intrinsically black art form – if that’s the case then there would be no Ziggy Azalea, there would be no Kreayshawn, there would be no Machine Gun Kelly, there would be no Eminem. You gotta realise it has nothing to do with colour any more. You can ask any young cat that’s 28 or 29, and under, everybody from 30 and under gives two fucks about colour right now. I’m quite sure you label black women, white women...(contradicting)...I’m quite sure you don’t discriminate, I’m just assuming. You look like the kind of guy who wouldn’t discriminate. Nobody cares about shit like that no more. I know I don’t. I’m around a lot of rap motherfuckers, I know.

Tell me about UGK and Geto Boys as inspirations

As far as Pimp C and Bun B goes, they paved the way for a lot of the slowed down music, the ‘Chopped and screwed’ music, that was coming out of Houston, coming out of Texas in general, and that’s why I admired them because I really liked the culture, I liked the music, I loved the style of the music.

With Geto Boys, you had all pieces. Willie D, the hustler pimp kinda guy, you had Bushwick Bill he was kind of the little masked guy, the dwarf, everybody wanted to see what he was about to do. Then you had Scarface, he was like the dark artist, that’s what I liked about the Geto Boys was the diversity. You gotta realise that Scarface was a genius, a dark artist – even though he was from down south, he had Bushwick Bill –a guy from Brooklyn involved in his crew.

Skaters, basketball players, kids MCing to each other – what’s the demographic of your crew?

Everything you said, I swear to God. You had the skaters, the rappers, motherfuckers that didn’t do shit, motherfuckers that rode bikes. In terms of professions, are lot of them are working now as designer clothes, music, art, in videography. Back then, I was a basketball player – I probably suck now, I haven’t played in years – I smoke so much – I probably couldn’t last

What’s the difference between your crew, who are cooler, seem to have less anger, and the Wu-Tang clan, who tend to have be more aggressive on the mic?

What’s the difference? There’s not really much of a difference. We are like the new Wu-Tang. I look at that as a really big compliment. Someone compare me with any of the legends, any of the OGs, I take it as a compliment man.

You’re an unorthodox fellow – many of your crew, A$AP Mob all have different careers in the arts – do you think a new form of rapper is being born?

I think it’s really intriguing when you look at someone and you’re not able to predict what they’re capable of doing in an artistic way. So many rappers - all they do is rap – you got artists and you got rappers. Artists do artsy things, and they grow to become icons, and rappers, they rap. And that’s it. I don’t wanna be just a rapper.


Is A$AP an artist or a rapper? Does he actually exist, like the mirror images he throws up to people searching for depth in his work? Like all artists, he is a product of his roots. They branch widely, from the soft, ironic horrorcore of the Geto Boys, the Vicodin fogginess of cLOUDDEAD – to the brownstone stoops of Harlem and their up-to-the-minute children.

Words by Miguel Cullen
Photo by Matthew Stone
Styling by Matthew Josephs

The full version of this interview appears in the August 2012 issue of Clash Magazine.

Buy the issue via our Facebook store HERE.

Subscribe to Clash magazine HERE.

Follow Clash: