Considering that he's from Harlem, there's been a lot made of the fact that ASAP Rocky doesn't sound much like what we've come to expect from New York rappers. His tracks are often much more in line with Houston than Harlem, but to him, dwelling on that fact means that you're overlooking the music. In the digital age, Rap is being consumed by a more wide-reaching audience than ever before, and ASAP Rocky's sound is proof of that. His influences aren't as regional as we've come to expect from rappers – his swagger is about the closest thing you can relate to Harlem.
His rise is also indicative of the new pace of the music world in the blog era. Having released his debut video, “Purple Swag,” in early July, he now has over a million views apiece for that and his follow up, “Peso.” More importantly, he recently signed a record deal with Polo Grounds/RCA worth a reported $3 million, split between his solo deal and his new label, ASAP Worldwide, less than a month after dropping his proper mixtape debut, LiveLoveA$AP.
Interviewing a rapper who regularly calls himself “that pretty muthafucka,” HipHopDX was preparing myself for a prima donna, yet over the course of our interview, New York's newest sensation proved himself to be quite humble and forthcoming. Rocky spoke on a number of topics by phone. Among those covered, he responded to those that have an issue with his sound, spoke on not alienating gay fans, and admitted that Deep Purple wasn't a proper ASAP Rocky release.
Perhaps most importantly, DX was able to finally shed some exclusive insight on the now-infamous girl in the “Purple Swag” video.
HipHopDX: I am so glad I finally get to answer my first question for you. This is something I've wanted to know for a while. I've searched the Internet and haven't gotten an answer – there are at least two Yahoo! Answers questions for this, by the way. Please tell me as much as you possibly can about the girl in the “Purple Swag” video.
ASAP Rocky: [Laughs] Alright, alright. Her name's Anna. She's from Harlem. She's 22, or she's about to be 23 if she's not 23 already. She's cool. She's fun. That's really the person she is. She does use the [word "nigga"] all the time – you know, she's cool like that. She smokes. She drinks. She's cool...she's sexy. She's cute.
DX: Yeah, she's been getting a lot of buzz on the Internet, man.
ASAP Rocky: Hell yeah.
DX: So she's just from around and you guys were able to link up?
ASAP Rocky: She was just one of my friends. She's so crazy, her with the grilles and everything, I was like “Yo, we need to do a video with you rapping along to the lyrics.” For “Purple Swag,” I always knew I wanted to use a girl for that part, and she just was perfect, so we used her. She just was having fun the whole time, lip syncing and shit.
DX: So the video was your concept all along?
ASAP Rocky: Yeah, basically.
DX: What's up next for you on the video side?
ASAP Rocky: “Wassup.”
DX: Oh, okay. The Clams Casino-produced track.
ASAP Rocky: Yeah, that one.
DX: Have you had a chance to make sense of the whole rise yet? I checked to make sure that I had the date right – you dropped the video for “Purple Swag” on July 5 and you signed a $3 million contract before the end of the year. Have you been able to wrap your mind around that ascension yet?
ASAP Rocky: Nah, honestly. I'm being honest. [Laughs]
DX: It's still a little surreal?
ASAP Rocky: Kinda, but nonetheless, I feel blessed and I'm happy.
DX: So admittedly with your response, did you see it as getting to this level, just not going viral? Were you expecting it to be more grassroots and more of a slow burn?
ASAP Rocky: I look at it like what's gonna happen next is that the world is gonna be able to see what we got to offer – our lifestyle, how we live and stuff like that, so on and so forth. I look at it like it's just a better way to get everything that I want out there.
DX: Do you really try to portray that lifestyle in everything, because I feel that it comes out in the videos – it even shows in your Fader interview. Do you really try and actively make sure you showcase what you guys are about and where you're coming from? Is that key to what you want to promote?
ASAP Rocky: I mean, it's not what I would say, that we want to promote [it]. It is what it is. We just show [that] we do what we do. We be ourselves, and that's what comes out on camera.
DX: So at the end of the day, it's just about making sure that you guys do you?
ASAP Rocky: Basically, yeah. It's not really to show people we're crazy or we're rebels or whatever. Basically, the camera comes on and we're just doing us, and that's what people get to see. You guys get to see us doing what we do.
ASAP Rocky Explains Mission In LiveLoveA$AP Mixtape
DX: LiveLoveA$AP has finally dropped –
ASAP Rocky: -- Finally. [Laughs]
DX: I realized after looking back how much of that just had to do with the blogs, because I remember I loved “Wassup” and other tracks you released before dropping the mixtape. On a lot of the blogs, I remember people saying “Man, when is this project gonna drop?” and then I realized how new it all really was. With the blogs being very much about “last week was lifetimes ago,” did it ever get to the point that it bugged you when people wanted the project now?
ASAP Rocky: Nah, I enjoyed that. It let me know that people were waiting and anticipating on it.
DX: Has it been a weight off of your shoulders knowing that now you can let the music speak for itself?
ASAP Rocky: Yeah, because now people can decide whether they like me or not.
DX: Yeah, because before you really only had a couple videos out. You had Deep Purple, which didn't get nearly as much attention as LiveLoveA$AP –
ASAP Rocky: That wasn't my project. Someone made that in France. They took all the YouTube hits and just put it on a compilation.
DX: Oh, to just kind of make sure that everybody had what was out, so to speak?
ASAP Rocky: Yeah. That wasn't me. Deep Purple wasn't me at all. I didn't have nothing to do with that.
DX: How did it feel then, knowing, even though it wasn't necessarily something that you had a hand in –
ASAP Rocky: Like, That's when I first found out that I actually had fans, because this was done all the way in Paris. It was just crazy. I was just like “Oh my goodness, this is so good right now.” I was just so happy. There's nothing like that feeling.
DX: There's been a lot of news about you and Kendrick Lamar, two big artists bubbling in the underground, going on tour with Drake. How's that experience been so far?
ASAP Rocky: It's a big learning experience. I'm learning while I go. When I came on the tour, I didn't have any kind of experience at all because this is my first tour, and that was like my fifth show or something like that. I didn't do shows like that, so I'm learning how to perfect my craft and stage presence while I'm still having fun, so it's cool. Everything is dope right now. I'm loving it, and I get along with Kendrick [Lamar]. We get along with Drake. Those guys are cool – [they're] people I consider friends. Everybody's having fun right now.
ASAP Rocky Speaks About Touring With Drake And Kendrick Lamar
DX: You guys all have crews, so do things get pretty crowded before and after shows? I mean, you've got the ASAP Crew, Kendrick's with TDE and Black Hippy, and Drake's got the whole OVOXO thing as well as Young Money. Are there just all kinds of people all the time or is it more intimate than that?
ASAP Rocky: Nah, it's all kinds of people all the time, but what happens is everybody gets along and everybody's chillin', partying and drinking and smoking. Fun stuff.
DX: So everything really vibes instead of there being tension?
ASAP Rocky: Like, [there's] members from my crew that really like Kendrick, and there's members from Kendrick's crew that really like Drake, and there's members from Drake's crew that really like my crew, so it's just like one of those kind of things where everybody likes each other and everybody's just friendly and getting along.
DX: It seems like part of that has to be because it was such an organic thing.
ASAP Rocky: I know... I know.
DX: I mean, there was no label B.S. about this. Drake wanted you guys because he was inspired. He said you and the Weeknd were huge inspirations on Take Care, right?
ASAP Rocky: Yeah, that was so crazy. I'd seen somewhere he put my name in the credits.
DX: Of Take Care?
ASAP Rocky: Yeah.
DX: Damn, I'll have to read through the liner notes then. I haven't taken the time because I just saw all that text in a small font and thought “Damn, I'm gonna have to sit down for this one.”
ASAP Rocky: Yeah, check it out.
DX: That must be an honor from a guy who's probably gonna do about 650,000 in his first week.
ASAP Rocky: Yeah, man.
DX: Switching gears, I wanted to ask about two acts that you're closely associated with, Spaceghostpurrp and Main Attrakionz. How did you guys link up in the first place, because that's not really a local connection.
ASAP Rocky: I liked what they were doing. We got together, and [Spaceghostpurrp], he came up to live with me. Main Attrakionz, they come visit once in a blue. Those are all my buddies.
DX: And that just was an online kind of thing?
ASAP Rocky: Nah. Well, with me and Purrp, it was deeper than that. With Main Attrakionz, I guess it was kind of an online thing, but every time they come to New York, we're good. We hang out. We kick it. We even performed together before.
DX: You guys have some great chemistry, as evidenced by “Take 1,” which is known as “Leaf” on your mixtape. It's one of my favorites that you've done. Another person that you linked up with on that track is Clams Casino, who ended up working heavily on this album. I actually interviewed him a few weeks ago, and he said he tried to reach out to you through one of your boys, only to find out that you were a big fan when you contacted him.
ASAP Rocky: Yeah. I made a freestyle to his “Numb” song, which is now “Demons.” I did that before I met Clams [Casino], and when I met him, it was just a coincidence. The first track that we did together was “Wassup.” I was a huge fan of his, and I was lucky and fortunate enough to get to work with him. I guess it was destined to happen.
DX: With him so heavily involved on LiveLoveASAP, is this as a collaboration that you think is definitely gonna be long-term?
ASAP Rocky: I would hope so. He lives about eight minutes away from me. It's crazy. [Laughs]
DX: There's been a lot of press about you being from Harlem and your sound not really sounding like New York Rap, but do you think that your sound is really sort of a bigger answer, that it's indicative of Rap not really being regional any more, and that the whole idea of emulating a particular sound is gone, or at least that its days are numbered?
ASAP Rocky: Yo, you just answered like the whole question. Correct 100%. Yup. Definitely. It's like it doesn't matter where you're from. I mean, look at it like this: The Spice Girls, when you hear them singing, you don't hear the British accents. They sound like Americans in my opinion, and it didn't matter that they were from Europe or London or whatever the case is. They were making great music and they were big in America, so I don't understand why America's so biased when it comes to states, like the regions. They expect you to sound like where you were born from. I think you should sound like what you were accustomed to, you know? That's all it is.
DX: With your experience on that at least, has it been a generational thing or more people and their general perceptions about Hip Hop?
ASAP Rocky: I think it's both, honestly. I think people just don't want to accept the fact that it's something new and, you know, [that] I thought of it, so there's people who are sour. [Laughs] And at the same time, when it comes to New York, they were a bit, I guess – I don't know what to call it, but they were strict. New York is strict when it comes to music and Hip Hop, so me being from New York and having this different kind of sound, that's not really the traditional sound from New York. There was a lot of fuss about it.
DX: That's got to be frustrating on your part, to have people not really listening to the music and looking too much at you being a Harlem cat.
ASAP Rocky: Yeah. That's basically what it is. They're just caught up in all the hype, you know. I have a lot to prove, so I'm working hard right now.
DX: Speaking of working hard, one thing I had just recently seen was that you guys are working on an A$AP group project. Is there any thing about that that you can share?
ASAP Rocky: Yeah, “Long Live A$AP.” That's like the joint with everybody on it. It's a compilation. I plan on dropping that after LiveLoveA$AP drops again, because we gonna do a deluxe version of LiveLoveA$AP. Right after that, we gonna drop the ASAP compilation with everybody on it.
DX: While it wasn't your project, I do want to go back to Deep Purple. What compelled you to rap over an instrumental of the Verve's “Bittersweet Symphony” on “New York Bittersweet Symphony”? How did you come up with the idea to rap over that?
ASAP Rocky: The strings . . . the harmony was calling me. That was it. It called me. It said “Get on me.” [Laughs] You know what I mean? It called me out like a female. It said “Get on me and do damage” and that's what I did, man. I just was speaking from the heart on that one, and dreaming. It was more of an inspirational kind of song.
DX: With that said, do you hear that in other tracks too, that it's not just rap instrumentals where you'll hear something and you'll want to rap over it?
ASAP Rocky: Yeah. If I like it, it's because I have a connection with the beat. I have to have some type of chemistry with the beat. I have to like it. If not, I'm gonna just be rapping words, but if I like the beat, I'm gonna be able to perfect it more.
ASAP Rocky Says Hip Hop Needs To Stop Discriminating Gays
DX: You've been very broad about your audience by saying that you make music for everyone and you don't discriminate. One thing that you've really spoken out on is sexual preference and really being clear by drawing a line and saying that you don't discriminate in that way. Why do you feel it's been important to take a stand in interviews and communicate that?
ASAP Rocky: I mean, I don't think Hip Hop is ready for no gay rappers or nothing like that, but at the same time, I feel that there are gonna be gay fans just like there are straight fans, and I feel, just because of their sexual preference, they shouldn't be excluded from enjoying great music and shit. I feel like that's fucked up, you know what I mean, to be prejudiced against those people for their sexual preference, when in all reality, somebody could be a sinner. Shit, you could relate to them as far as music but that don't mean you all live the same lifestyle, so I don't have nothing against gay people. I mean, I'm doing a shoot with Jeremy Scott tomorrow. I have his sneakers on right now as we speak.
I don't have nothing against gay people. That was just what I was basically trying to say, because I used to be really on it. Even now, I play with my friends, we say “Pause” [and] “No homo” – that's just where we from. That's what we do. But honestly, when it all boils down to it, I feel like it's wrong to discriminate against [gay] people because of that shit. That's all I was saying.
DX: Why do you think that rap isn't ready for a gay rapper just yet?
ASAP Rocky: Because it's not, you know what I mean? I don't think it would be accepted like that. It wouldn't. That's just me being honest.
DX: Again, do you think that that's a generational thing or that's just something that's been embedded in the culture and is just deeper than age?
ASAP Rocky: Yeah, I'd say it's way deeper than age. Way deeper. Way, way deeper than age. [Laughs]
DX: My last question pertains to your signature phrase. You love to say that you're “that pretty muthafucka.”
ASAP Rocky: Yes. A/k/a Pretty Flocka.
DX: [Laughs] Shed some insight on that. What does that mean? What does it mean to be “that pretty muthafucka”?
ASAP Rocky: I'm feelin' myself. I feel like I'm the shit, like I'm that nigga, that my nuts hang, man. No homo, [I'm] showing my ass off. It's me just boasting. That's all.
DX: Do you attribute that to being a Harlem thing?
ASAP Rocky: Yeah, that's just the Harlem in me. That's just [me] talking that shit, that swag talk.
DX: Yeah, I always just wondered because I loved the phrase.
ASAP Rocky: So do I. [Laughs] It's pretty catchy, right?
DX: Yeah. You guys are gonna make it in a second.
ASAP Rocky: [Laughs] That's what's up, bro.
Listen to LiveLoveA$AP , A$AP Rocky's debut mixtape