No city in the world can assemble a musical motley crew of disorderly young gents like New York, although simply forming a quartet isn’t enough. Wu Tang Clan, Boot Camp Clik, The Diplomats—we’re talking wolf pack numbers.
The A$AP Mob‘s A$AP Rocky has been getting worldwide attention this year, directing a handful of videos, living the presidential life with Lana Del Rey, and releasing music. His official debut LongLiveASAP, comes out in the fall. In the meantime, though, the rest of the A$AP Mob—Yams, J. Scott, Fergy, Twelvy, Ant, and Nast—have been working on their own music, and today their collaborative project Lords Never Worry is out.
Each member of the crew has a vision—and the hunger to realize it—that promises to make the A$AP brand a dynasty, and not just a one-man show. In a rap world where too many rap crews are made up of one frontman and scores of talentless hanger-ons, it’s reassuring to see so much talent in one collective.
Ferg has perhaps the most polished songs; J. Scott is a quiet yet active officer, with more side projects than perhaps any other member. Original ASAP member Twelvy has a rep as a wild boy but a good head for business, as does Yams. Ant and Nast are bonkers on the mic, each with a distinct, dark style. SOTC took some time to examine the individuals who make up the nefarious A$AP Mob.
Q&A: A$AP Yams
Since the A$AP phenomenon began there have been comments and questions about the short, husky Puerto Rican kid with cornrows and a big purple birthmark on his face. He never touches the mic in any video (though he did sing and talk shit on “Thugged Out”) and his name isn’t credited on any of the beats. What does he do? Why does he get to ride shotgun in a convertible with Rocky around Paris while wearing furs and gold? Read on to see why much of the A$AP movement’s success can be credited to Yams.
What’s up Yams? You’re credited with starting A$AP. Tell us about that.
Really me, A$AP Bari and A$AP Illz started A$AP. Me and Rocky own A$AP Worldwide. The label was salivating to sign a young, popping New York rapper so we were able to negotiate a label deal for ourselves, A$AP Worldwide.
Let’s backtrack a bit. Are you from Harlem too?
Yeah. I’m from Morningside Heights and Washington Heights. I’m half Dominican, so I keep in touch with my Washington Heights side heavy. That’s just upper Harlem anyway. Morningside was a trip because you had Columbia University on Broadway but one block over [Amsterdam] all types of hood shit was going on.
You don’t really work on the music side of things much so what’s your role within A$AP?
Nah, I help with the music. I handpicked the beats for Rocky to rhyme to. I’m like an A&R/executive producer type so I’m definitely giving my input on the sound we’re trying to develop.
That’s a lot for a young kid such as yourself to be handling. How’d you learn about the music biz?
I used to intern for Jim Jones and Duke Da God at Asylum Records. Before that though I was just watching and doing a lot of observing. Dudes like Irv Gotti, J. Prince, Dee and Wah (Ruff Ryders), Tony Draper… I took their positive aspects and analyzed their fuckups and applied it to my game. Not to take anything away from any of them dudes. They’re geniuses.
So how’d you meet Rocky?
I met him through Bari. Bari and me were hanging out a lot around this time and I had been online flexing with Max B.’s chains trying to recruit people for this A$AP shit. Then Bari told me he had some kid who was really rapping for months but I kept putting it to the side. Then I got to meet him and hear him and I was like “This motherfucker’s crazy!” A few months later he called me from school in Alabama and told me he was coming back up to work on music.
What was the initial reception to A$AP Rocky?
At first “Purple Swag” had people saying he sounded like he was from Houston and criticizing us. We didn’t let us deter our vision though. We knew once “Peso” hit it would show that NYC culture. We had 30 young dudes on the corner shooting dice with 40s and Timbs, shots of Harlem. It was our New York.
What do you think about people saying Rocky sounds too Southern?
First of all, Rocky is New York rap. He’s what a 20something-year-old kid from Harlem sounds like. New York[ers have] just been in the club too long, so they don’t know what the young kids on the street sound like. We grew up listening to No Limit as much as Ruff Ryders, so that influence is going to come across in the music. To me we’re the best generation because we were old enough to hear the late-’90s rap and be influenced by it but we’re still young. I remember It Was Written. That shit influenced me. The whole Bad Boy era of the late ’90s, Life After Death and No Way Out, that era influenced me greatly. Rocky and them are on some high-fashion shit, but I just keep it late ’90s.
If you were had to pick a member of Wu-Tang that represents your role within A$AP who would it be?
Well, RZA because of how he’s got the actual name “Wu-Tang.” Aside from that, though, I would have to say Raekwon. I say that more from his style because I don’t really rap. But his style was just always cutting edge and fresh to me. Kids still look to his old videos for fashion inspiration.
Q&A: A$AP Nast
A mischeivious chipped-tooth grin is already somewhat of a trademark for the Harlem collective. The cracked tooth belongs to Nast, one of the crew’s original members. New York Nast (as he’s referred to sometimes) has always known that music was going to be his way out of the harsh streets of Harlem. Now that his visions of feeding his family off his rhymes are becoming a reality, Nast has lots to say about his life pre A$AP as well as post A$AP.
What up, Nast? Tell the people a bit about yourself.
My name is A$AP Nast. I’m from Harlem—116th and Morningside Avenue to be exact. I’m as Harlem as it gets. We’re just trying to showcase that New York, Harlem culture.
It was hard trying to get a hold of you? What’s keeping you so busy?
Well, we just finished up the A$AP Mob joint, so that took some time. But right now all creative energy is being put toward Rocky’s album, so I’ve just been in the studio with him helping any way I can.
So the order is going to be the A$AP Mob mixtape, Rocky’s debut and then…
Ferg is next on deck. He has a new video out, “Work,” that’s crazy.
Do you guys ever fight amongst yourselves about who is going to be next up or who gets what beat, etc?
Nah nah, not at all. This may sound crazy or like exaggerated but we never fight. For real. We’re all pitching in to help Rocky with his album because he’s the most visible crew member. There’s no jealousy, though. We’re glad that he’s kicking down the door for the rest of us to come in and shine off our own shit.
That’s admirable. Is it because you’ve all been friends prior to the music?
Probably. I met most of the crew just being around in Harlem. We all kicked before the music even came about for the most part.
Tell me about yourself in high school.
I went to Martin Luther King High School. I’m a dropout, but that’s because I always knew what it was I wanted to do. I always knew it would be related to music. So yeah, I’d to take this time out to say “Fuck You!” to all the haters and doubters. Not to say you should drop out, necessarily, but I just knew school didn’t fit with what I wanted to do.
What were you doing after you dropped out and before you joined A$AP?
Working here and there. I used to work at [sneaker store on 125th] Atmos. I met a lot of cool people working there. I eventually fucked around and got fired, but it was fun while it lasted.
It seems a lot of dudes in A$AP have multiple hustles. Do you have any side projects going on?
Yeah, but it all has to do with music. I’m just focusing on music right now. I’m into art and fashion but I want to get this music thing right first and then later in my career I’ll probably expand into fields like fashion and maybe art.
You guys get compared to Wu-Tang Clan fairly often. How do you feel about that?
Oh man, it’s an honor. I grew up listening to those dudes. For us to be fresh out the gate and people are already making those comparisons feels great. I kinda wish they would let us be us before comparing us to people, but I can’t be too mad if we’re getting compared to the greats.
True. So if you had to pick a Wu member that represented you within A$AP which member would it be?
I want to say Ghostface. He’s just one of the more consistent and relevant. I mean they’re all relevant, but Ghost is just always putting out new stuff. I want to say Ghostface, but I’m going to go with Ol’ Dirty Bastard. He just stood out so much. His style was so distinct. He stood out the most to me from the rest of the Clan.
Q&A: A$AP Twelvy
A$AP Twelvy is as New York as it gets. Carving out a niche of New York from Harlem to Castle Hill, he earned a rep as a bit of a problem child. When an incident a few years ago made him take a good look at the direction he was heading he decided to calm things down. Music became his outlet, and before he knew it he was next to Yams as the original A$AP Mobster. Now touring the internationally with his A$AP brethren Twelvy is two twelving with the world.
How did you get the name Twelvy? What does Twelvy mean?
Well, it stems from 212 the area code in Manhattan; you know I’m from Harlem. Also, 212 is a Blood term for conversation. Like ‘Let me two twelve with you…” Jim Jones was always saying that. So it means holler at me if you see me. Pick up on some game.
How’d you link up with A$AP?
Yams started A$AP technically and I was the first member that was recruited. This was the end of 2005 early 2006. He posted some shit on his MySpace page about putting together a crew of young New York dudes. In 2008 I met Rocky in the street. I had a little bachelor pad and Rocky came though with some hoes to kick it. We just clicked from there. We didn’t even talk about music; it was all brotherly love. That’s how it was with all of A$AP.
How did music come about then?
We loved music. When we weren’t working or selling drugs or bullshitting we was writing rhymes in Rocky’s house.
How has this last year been? How has your life changed?
Last year I was working at Best Buy. There’s the 24-hour one on Union Square, I’d be there all night. It’s funny because I met some people in [Best Buy] that I met later, like they were shopping there. Usually they don’t remember me, though, from that.
What’s your position within A$AP?
I’m just like that young big homie. I’m in the middle as far as age so I can relate to everyone. We just help each, I hold shit down for my brothers. All they have to do is holler at me. When we’re out the country it’s me, Chace, Rocky, Yams and J. Scott. But if it’s in the States we bring the whole mob out.
What other young New York rap crews are you admiring?
Flatbush Zombies, definitely my dude Joey Badass. Bodega Bamz. There’s World’s Fair, those are the homies. My big bro Smoke Dza definitely…
I ask all New York rappers this next question. Where’d you go to high school?
I went to two high schools. I first went to Martin Luther High School, but I got kicked out. Then I went to Lehman High School over there by East Tremont. You’ll probably never meet someone who went there, but if you did and asked about [me] they’d be like, “Yo, that kid was a problem.” And not in the rapping sense…
Funny you mention that because I was going to ask about the rep you guys have somewhat for fighting and beating people up here and there at venues.
I wasn’t even at the Fader thing. If it’s business, I know not to act out. I may tell you to come outside. Like that Raider Clan shit that happened in the street.
You’re wearing Air Force Ones. Some people, myself definitely not included, would say that remnants of old New York like Uptowns and 40 belows and snorkels are played out. Care to comment?
My step pops, my uncles I seen them wear Uptowns so I just… I remember the ones that have the “NYC” on the back. I’m a young man with an old soul, you see me [points at t-shirt pocket] wearing Carhartt. I wear my Timbs regular. We just learned from the OGs, and that’s what they always wore.
What would you say your sound is like within A$AP?
Well my sound personally is that dirty New York shit. Like Mobb Deep, Onyx shit. I like that shit. Like I listen to bars for real. My favorite rapper is Stack Bundles. A motherfucker will look at me like, “Why him?” But there was a time when everyone was on some real “Hip Hop is dead” type shit and there was a dead space in music. The way he was spitting and had that swag. To me, he was supposed to be next, but…
If you were a member of Wu-Tang Clan which one would you be?
Ghostface Killah. He’s just got wild swag. I mean [Method Man’s] got swag, but Ghostface will come through in a robe and doo rag with a bandana.
Q&A: A$AP J. Scott
A$AP J. Scott is standing on the corner near of Rivington and Suffolk Street in the Lower East Side awaiting some fellow Mob members. The streets are teeming with young people and a fair share of them stop to talk with J. Scott, whose gold veneers sparkle in the streetlights when he responds. He was already a man about town, but having spent the last year being A$AP Rocky’s tour DJ the Atlanta native has all sorts of well-wishers and naysayers in his face now. Aside from the tremendous wave A$AP Mob is riding, J. Scott is also seeing his friend and artist Kilo Kish blow up. Couple that with his other projects and you’ve got the makings of a mogul, albeit a creative one.
So are you from Harlem like the other guys?
No, I’m originally from Atlanta. I came to New York to get away from Atlanta and to be somewhere that could keep up with my work ethic. I always felt like there’s a lot of work that can get accomplished in New York. Everything and everybody is always moving and trying to prosper.
How’d you meet Rocky and the rest of the Mob?
I linked up with A$AP years ago when I moved up to New York for the second time. Yams and me been homies for a long while. I slowly met everyone else over time.
A$AP movement grew by leaps and bounds within the last twelve months. What have been some of the highs and lows?
The highs are being able to help friends out on the ground level. Just to witness the growth and being able to see so many new places and cultures together all over the world is an experience like no other. The lows, though, have to be all the weird people coming out of nowhere that think they know you so they’re all up in your face talking about bullshit.
What do you do when you’re not DJing for Rocky and the Mob on tour?
Well, within A$AP I don’t just DJ. I help with artist management and I want to get more into the A&R side of things with [A$AP] projects.
What do you do outside of A$AP though?
Lots of things. I’m co-founder of imnotatoy.com, which began as a brand/site before Tumblr was popular. Me and my fam Sheed started it back in Atlanta. It’s a collective of thoughts that began as like an inside joke of pics, videos and .gifs we kind of posted for our own humor amongst each other and the word just kept spreading. We’ve done very rare merch pieces for the site. It has stepped into the realm of being something of an agency. It’s a like cult community the way we post and tag and execute things. There’s a lot more harmful fun coming from INAT, too.
I also help with Ballers’ Eve. That’s where I really began DJing through. It’s a radio show on East Village Radio that’s been around around for eight years. DJ Dirrty, Kaddy Daddy Slim and Minski Walker are all from Atlanta also but have been living in NY for years. Ballers’ Eve is two hours every week of just trill, crunk, turnt up, southern comfort music for us and the listeners. Every trill rapper you can think of as been through there, for sure.
And last but definitely not least, I’ve managed Kilo Kish from day one. She is a really close friend of mine., I began helping her when me, her, and [her bandmate/Ballers Eve/Imnotatoy family] Smash Simmons were all living together. A lot of big things are about to happen with Kish. It’s been really exciting to see how people are organically gravitating toward her. The songwriting I have heard from her, there’s really nothing comparable. She’s in her own lane.
Mostly I’lI balance her work and the DJ/road work right now. It can get hectic for me. Haha.
You don’t smoke weed. How do you feel about people who say A$AP makes “drug music”?
I feel that there is a certain feel to the music because of some of the production and lyrics at times, but I don’t see it as “drug music.” It’s overall hyped-up music but has smooth undertones that mellow you out andl that you can smoke and vibe to, you know? I’m really obsessed with DJ Screw and the chopped and screwed genres he pioneered and I’ve never been high or on lean, but regardless the music just puts me in a certain zone.
You guys draw a lot of comparisons to Wu-Tang. Which Clan member best represents you within A$AP?
Although I would love to be Ghostface, I’m probably more like GZA. I say that because he was the spiritual one. Haha…
Q&A: A$AP Ant
Talk about getting a jump on the competition. A$AP Ant has been developing his own movement before he was a freshman in high school. With an established clothing brand already the result of his prepubescent grind, he’s adding rapper to his repertoire. Joining the ranks of A$AP as one of two non New Yorkers was a major step for the youngster. He’s never been one to shy away from stomping on new ground. Just check the long lists of collaborative work he’s got in the works.
First off, how did you get the nickname Ant and Addie?
Ant is short for Ant Man. That was what my pops’ nickname for me was. He called me Ant Man since I was crawling around the floor as a baby. It just stuck with me for life. Then girls kinda started the Addie thing. I started to call myself that on social network sites and people just ran with it.
How did you link up with the A$AP Mob?
I knew Yams for a minute just through social sites. I officially met him at a party for my fashion line Marino Good. That was me and my partner’s brand. So I met him at this party and we talked about making moves together. And we did. As a matter of fact, Rocky is wearing the Ganja tee from Marino Good in the “Peso” video. Then I met Nast at some Fashion’s Night Out party, and from there I just started meeting all of the crew.
Where are you from?
I’m from Baltimore. I spend a lot of time in New York, though. I’m mostly in BMore but I’m back and forth a lot. Me and J. Scott are not the only ones not from Harlem.
What do you bring to the A$AP table?
Hard to answer, because I don’t like putting myself in a box. I like to expand my talents. I don’t like being in only one situation. So I think I bring something new every time. Like say for instance, me Juice [of Flatbush Zombies] and Remy Banks are coming out with an EP soon. “36 Flip” was the single for that project. That will get the A$AP name to a different audience.
How’s it feel working with other young New York rappers?
The work with Flatbush Zombies, it’s a good feeling working with them because it was a friendship first. It ain’t like rappers collaborating. It’s more genuine. And I love the fact that they’re starting to blow up. Makes us all stronger.
What do you have featured on the A$AP Mob joint?
I have a few old songs like “Coke and White Bitches” plus the remix. I think there’s only one new song of mine on there. It’s all good though,everyone gets to shine. Plus I’ve been working on my tape and the colab with Juice and Remy. Also me and Young Shaka have a project coming out called “Back to Back.”
Do you have a name for that project?
Um, sort of. We were gonna call ourselves “Jeff Hamilton,” like the team leather jackets with all the team logos patches all over them. Because we’re like that jacket in that all these cities are coming together.
How do you feel about the response you’re getting around the world?
Well, I haven’t left the country yet. I have some legal trouble at the moment. When that’s cleared up I’m tryna be out there. The whole mob is going be out overseas very soon. In the meantime, the love from certain cities has been amazing.
A lot of people are saying you guys are too rowdy. Care to comment?
We don’t give a fuck about what people say usually, but that does scare away business ventures. You could lose possible endorsements like that. People seeing us jumping in the crowd, fighting… that will scare people away. People love rappers but they’re scared of us too. So it’s like, we just gotta be smart. We’re getting older. It ain’t like our moms can come get us at the precinct anymore or the shit gets expunged from out records.
A$AP gets compared to Wu-Tang Clan. If you were a member of Wu-Tang, which would you be?
Raekwon, definitely Raekwon. I say that because I love Rae. I love the coke references, the stylish persona. The ill Polo pieces. They were the first to do Cristal, the ill iced-out medallions… just swag.
Q&A: A$AP Ferg
A$AP Ferg, “Work”
Hear it here first: Ferg is going to be a star. His understanding of the culture he has chosen to delve into is thorough. That’s why every little item in his visuals is calculated and symbolic of an aspect of his life. Culture, now referred to as lifestyle usually, is what propels consumers to want to identify and in turn support something, a fact not at all lost on Ferg.
Having a legit hustle was instilled in him at a young age. His dad, Darold Ferguson, kept him in the company of some of Harlem’s biggest legends both legal and illegal. Young Ferg the Trap Lord drew from all of that and became the guy shouting out deceased pop princess Selena with Versace robes and 40 Belows.
Sup Ferg. New York is in the building. Holla at the people and tell them about a little place you come from?
143rd and Amsterdam. Harlem. Born in Harlem Hospital. And I’m about documenting my culture. I want people to see our culture. Because New York City culture wasn’t being documented. There were a bunch of young kids who were doing fly shit and starting trends and people were swagger jacking. So I thought “Fuck just me. I wanna show EVERYBODY!”
Where’d you got to high school?
I went to Art and Design High School.
So you were a visual artist first?
I consider myself an all around artist. I feel artistically inclined not only because of art and design but also because my father was an artist so I grew up around a bunch of artists that were up and coming and from Harlem.
So what the fuck was up with shouting out Selena on “100 Million Roses?”
She was a huge crossover artist. I think she’s pretty high up there as far as entertainers. And I love her. I think she’s beautiful and her music is good.
Word. I was watching a Narduwar episode. Your dad designed the Bad Boy logo? Tell me about that.
Yeah, he designed the Bad Boy logo for Puff and he did the Uptown Cat for Uptown records and Andre Harrell. He did a lot of early work for Phat Farm. He became one of those go to guys during his time within the industry. His name was D Ferg. He had a clothing line too called Ferg Apparel.
How did you link with the Mob?
Different scenarios. I was introduced to A$AP as a crew by Jabari, a.k.a. Young Lord. He introduced me to Elijah and a couple of other homies. I met Nast when he worked at Atmos on 125th. Twelvy I knew from just the streets.
What was it like when you first met Rocky? Was it related to music?
No, it was more friendship. He was running with a crew called Million Dollar Babies and I was with a crew called Harlem Envy. We were just young kids and we were running Harlem. It was like pregame to what we’re doing now. Boat rides, fuckin’ all the girls. So we knew each through people. But then he started seeing me downtown, too, with an artistic crowd. He approached me one day like “We should do some music together.” I already knew A$AP dudes like Jabari, but tthat was my official entry. And it worked. Me and Rocky were gonna have a group called A$AP RAD… Rocky And D. Ferg. But at that time I was designing clothing so I told him, “You do the rapping thing and I’ll catch up when the time is right.”
What were you designing?
A belt line. It was called Davoni.
How’d you start rapping?
I always used to rhyme. In school we kept journals and my teacher let me write mine in raps or really it was like poetry. I would recite it in class. Some were for the girls, some were for the homeys to make them laugh. I didn’t have rhythm, though. My homey Zadi was the first to show me to rap to a beat.
You directed the “100 Million Roses” video. Can you break down some of the images?
It was based on my pops’ passing. That’s why at the end of the video I’m walking with the cross. I’m not actually getting crucified in the video, I’m coming off the cross. So it’s like he’s reincarnated coming down and walking with the people through me.
Which Wu-Tang Clan member would you be?
Method Man. I think if Yams and Rocky would be RZA the I’d be Mef because of his charisma, and he’s got the side group thing with Redman, plus the acting. He’s just the most all around. That’s me within A$AP. I would’ve said ODB because I like to harmonize, too, but that’s more Nast.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 28, 2012