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A$AP Rocky: Harlem’s Finest

Fashion-obsessed vegetarian MC is New York’s hottest new rapper

ASAP Rocky

ASAP Rocky on October 21st, 2011 in New York City.

Roger Kisby/Getty

You ever smoke trainwreck?” A$AP Rocky asks. The 23-year-old Harlem rapper cracks open a bulging baggie and savors the aroma. “Take some, please.” Rocky, riding through Manhattan in the back of a black Lincoln Navigator, is feel­ing generous these days. He’s just signed a deal with Polo Grounds/RCA that he says is worth $3 million total, based entirely on the strength of his dazzling online singles, some raucous shows and the endorsement of MCs like Drake, who’s taking Rocky on tour this winter. Rocky’s a vegetarian (“I just want­ed to clean my mind, body and soul”) and a high-end clotheshorse (he name-drops de­signers Rick Owens and Raf Simons on his hit single “Peso”), and we’re headed from a vegan teahouse to a favorite downtown boutique. “I love shopping, it relaxes me,” the rapper says. “By the way, if you see anything you want — jacket, shirt, whatever — it’s on me.”

A$AP Rocky was born Rakim Meyers, his parents naming him after the legend­ary MC: “They jinxed me in a good way.” But while the original Rakim is a towering totem of classic New York hip-hop, Rocky’s style defies geography. Growing up, he lis­tened to hip-hop from New York (Rakim, DMX), California (Snoop Dogg, DJ Quik), the South (UGK, Three 6 Mafia) and the Mid­west (Bone Thugs-N-Harmony). His music reflects that mongrel pedigree. On standout tracks like “Bass” and “Purple Swag Chap­ter 2,” from his recent LIVELOVEA$AP mixtape, he’s as comfortable dropping Bone Thuggish melodic double-time threats as a laid-back Snoop-indebted drawl about par­tying with “bad bitches” on tour; his beats, many of them produced by the up-and-coming Clams Casino, are woozy, evoking the slurred tempos of Houston. Rocky’s been rap­ping since he was about 15, but didn’t “get se­rious” till he turned 20, joining a crew called A$AP with some Harlem pals. Unmoored from any single regional style, Rocky s best songs are perfect for, and a product of, 2011- era rap, in which the Internet has become its own ZIP code. “I am a New York rapper, ob­viously, but I make whatever’s appealing to me,” he says. “That’s why, when I rap, you can’t tell where I’m coming from. I can’t ex­plain it. I just do it.”

Stopped in traffic, he spots three teenag­ers doing a crazy parkour-break-dance fu­sion, running up the sides of buildings. He throws open his door and says he wants them for a video. He gives one of them his number, says to text. Leaving them murmuring excit­edly, he ditches the SUV and walks down the block to the downtown fashion temple Open­ing Ceremony. Today’s outfit includes a Rick Owens T-shirt ($500), a black A.OK topcoat ($300) and skinnyjeans bunched up over sil­ver Raf Simons “astronaut” high-tops ($750). The sneakers have a zippered pouch in the back, like high-concept Roos. “I’ve been into fashion since about ’06,” Rocky says. How did he afford it? “I sold drugs. I would just go in, go in, go in, saving up.” He says his occasion­ally flamboyant wardrobe can prompt funny looks from hardcore hip-hop-heads, but he takes it as a compliment. “I used to be homo­phobic,” he says. “But every designer I love is gay. I had to grow up, get mature.”

Rocky chats up a striking shopgirl with braids down to her calves. Trying on a pair of desert boots, he asks if she wants to be in his next video. “I like your look,” he says, practically purring. She laughs and gets out a pen to give him her number. “What kind of music do you make?” she asks. He shrugs. “Rap, I guess.”

In This Article: A$AP Rocky, ASAP Rocky, Coverwall

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