“This project isn’t single-driven but each song is an individual that complements as a whole. And it's so hard to describe it. It’s new age.”
A$AP Rocky is drawing tons of excitement for his forthcoming album At.Long.Last.A$AP. At Madiba Harlem at Image Studios last Thursday night, Rocky showed the Harlem audience exactly what he meant by premiering a new song, “Everyday,” which samples Python Lee Jackson and Rod Stewart (“In a Broken Dream”). It features Miguel and Mark Ronson, who bring a chill vibe to the record. Rocky is at his most introspective, rapping, “Off again did he go / To another dimension my mind / Body, soul imprisoned my eye / Probably going ballistic but listen / I’m missing a couple of screws.”
During his public conversation, as part of Red Bull Music Academy Festival NYC, the 26-year-old rapper talked about an array of topics from growing up in Harlem and his fashion influences to the sound of New York and how his collaboration with Mos Def came together. Conducted by hip hop journalist and Ego Trip editor Jeff “Chairman” Mao, we got a better sense of Rocky’s come-up story, as well as his own personal pressures in putting out his second studio LP on June 2. But Rocky is an extremely humble guy who likes to interact with his fans. He also took questions from the crowd and Twitter that gave us a lot of laughs.
BET.com was in the building and we wrote down the best quotes from his in-depth conversation. You should definitely watch the full video when it drops, but in the meantime read some of our highlights.
1. On being influenced by Harlem: “I would say New York is the mecca of fashion. It’s only right that Harlem … that kind of stuff was embedded in us. We make our own style. That’s why it is called Harlem World. It’s a world within its own. It’s like mentality or look. A pizazz. A character. You only get that if you are born and bred in Harlem. You at least gotta hang around here long enough or grow up [here]. But it’s hard to imitate. It’s a one of a kind thing. I feel special.”
2. Why he described himself as a “weirdo” in the past: “I think the weirdo thing is quite the norm now these days. Everybody goes out of their way to try to be weird. I still feel like [an outcast], but I’m just comfortable with me. It is what it is.”
3. On his favorite brands as a kid: Guess, Tommy Hilfiger, Adidas and even Old Navy. “I used to be proud of my Old Navy back in the day.”
4. On why African-Americans have to be different: “I think it’s one of those things where society feels that regardless if you are African-American or you white or Black or Asian. They give different groups and different races different expectations. I don’t think it applies to everybody across the board. It’s one of those things where I don’t want to start preaching and s**t. All I can really do for me is just be myself. If I worry about anybody wants me to be or what black men should be, we will all be confused because what the f**k is a Black man in 2015? What does he look like? Where does he work? Where does he not work? What does he eat? You can’t just answer that question. Everybody is different.”
5. On the people who influence him: "Poets, writers, actors, rappers. The drug dealer on the corner growing up. That guy. The cool guy. [Just] be yourself. I would have to put more work in being somebody else, more of an effort. I’m a free spirit now, I look to the world now. I ask people to make me better. I’m not perfect. I keep telling people that I’m not a role model, I’m not perfect. I just do what I do. I guess lead by example the best way I can."
6. On having anxiety before putting out a project: “It takes a lot of hard work. You gotta get focused. You gotta sacrifice certain things like partying, typical young people stuff. You gotta sacrifice it. I’m proud of the whole thing as a whole.”
7. His love for Houston rap: “It was the Geto Boys in the ‘90s. Around 2004, Mike Jones and them. They killed the game. When Slim Thug, Paul Wall, Mike Jones made “Still Tippin’,” that was crazy.”
8. The sound of New York rap: “I don’t think there’s a sound that actually kind of represents or defines New York right now. Like, what sound is that? We don’t know. Is it Bobby Shmurda and them? Is it French Montana and them? Is it A$AP and us? Is it Joey Bada$$ and them? Is it Action Bronson? There’s not one sound. And I think that’s kind of the dope thing about it. They don’t sound alike. Everybody has their own different thing going.”
9. On why certain Atlanta artists sound the same, specifically comparing Future’s “S**t” to Que’s “OG Bobby Johnson”: “It’s OK to be inspired but you can’t bite off contemporary artists that are in your same league. You can’t get inspired by them because that’s technically biting. If somebody is dead or not thinking the same concept of music you are making and you got something that brings a lot of people to that it’s, ‘Oh, cool. Fine.’ Even like Action Bronson, I’m not justifying him because a lot of people say he sound like Ghostface Killah and all this other stuff. Ghostface is for my generation. Action Bronson is for the generation after us because these kids don’t have knowledge of none of these rappers like that.”
10. His collaboration with Mos Def happened in Europe: “Michèle Lamy, Rick Owens’ wife, I’m working with her. She wanted me to come to Paris. And I couldn’t understand why it was so urgent. And she told all of us, ‘It’s important to be there. I’m doing a museum thing.’ She made us come to a museum and when I got there I’m looking at a painting, and I turn around cause she’s like, ‘Oh, look who it is. The big surprise.’ And I turn around and it is Mos Def. She surprised both of us.”
(Photo: Owen Rogers (@one_called_owen))