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How A$AP Rocky became Famous

Written by Sean Smith

Born in Harlem to Barbadian parents, Rakim Mayers was named after his mom’s hip-hop hero, from Eric B & Rakim. One of his two sisters is named Erika B. He started rapping at eight years old, but only became serious about his craft a decade later. Although a native New Yorker, Rocky was a fan of Southern hip hop when he was growing up, which explains the pronounced drawl in his rapping style. When Rocky was 12, his father was jailed for drug dealing. A year later, his 20-year-old brother, Ricky, was shot dead by a rival dealer. Rocky was 13 at the time, and on his way to school when his mum rushed over to tell him the tragic news. Although 2013 was a vintage year for Rocky, his successes were bittersweet because his father had passed away in December 2012 (“See my Daddy in heaven, he be da realist G,” he tweeted). Rocky told Vice that his father had been a big influence on him fashion-wise. “He was a clean-cut kind of guy… He told me to always be yourself and always feel comfortable with whatever decision you make because you chose to do it. Just because something doesn’t fit doesn’t mean it’s not right.”

Despite his brother’s fate, the lure of the streets proved too powerful to resist for teenage Rocky, who started selling weed before gravitating to crack. But he was “never no big-time hustler”, he told the journalist Dorian Lynskey in 2015, making just enough to “support my studio time” but quitting dealing before getting sucked too far in. “That lifestyle’s wack,” Rocky said. “I don’t trouble the law no more.” With his father in jail and his brother passed away, Rocky, his mom and two sisters spent time living in shelters. They moved around frequently: Harlem, the Bronx, Philadelphia and North Carolina. At the age of 19 in 2007, Rocky hooked up with the A$AP Mob, a sprawling collective of rappers, producers and video directors co-founded by the impresario A$AP Yams, Harlem’s answer to Malcolm McLaren. That’s when Rakim Mayers acquired the name A$AP Rocky. Rocky worked with three of A$AP Mob’s producers in particular to develop the spacey soundscapes underpinning his raps: Clams Casino, A$AP Ty Beats and SpaceGhostPurpp. He self-released two singles, “Peso” (on which he dropped the names of fashion designers like Rick Owens and Raf Simons, a future collaborator) and “Purple Swag,” in 2011, sparking a major-label bidding war that began even before he had released his first mixtape, Live.Love.A$AP. That same year, he signed to the Sony/RCA subdivision of Polo Grounds Music for $3 million. It was a combined deal incorporating his solo projects and those of his collective, on their record label A$AP Worldwide. The split was reportedly $1.7 million for Rocky, $1.3 million for A$AP Worldwide. Rocky’s debut solo album, Long.Live.A$AP, came out on January 13, 2013. Its many guests included Kendrick Lamar, Florence Welch, 2 Chainz, Joey Bada$$, Santigold and A$AP Ferg. The album topped the Billboard 200 chart, and generated 3 singles: “Goldie,” “Wild for the Night,” “Fashion Killa” and Even since then he’s been hitting the top on even billboard!

Information found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PooYBya1Tv4

Photo found at: https://theinnersane.com/2019/09/03/after-a-close-escape-from-jail-while-proven-guilty-rapper-asap-rocky-found-partying/

About the author

Sean Smith