Forget about the Wu-Tang Clan. If there's a hip-hop collective dominating the game right now, it's got to be the (mostly) Harlem-based A$AP Mob. And in fact, the currently 15-strong A$AP Mob has more official members than Wu-Tang ever did. (Although if you add in all the affiliated and marginally related acts, Wu's roll call equals roughly the population of Staten Island.) The Mob's current tour—which hits the PNE Forum tonight (October 28)—features core members Rocky, Twelvyy, Nast, and Ant, along with Keys! and Cozy Boys. (Actually, ignore what we said up top about forgetting the Wu-Tang Clan—Enter the Wu-Tang [36 Chambers] is one of the greatest hip-hop records ever made, and Method Man even gave A$AP Nast a career boost by dropping a verse on his breakout single, "Trillmatic".)
PURPLE HAZE. A$AP Rocky has an unabashed love for psychedelic music—and other trippy things, too, it turns out. In a 2015 interview with the Georgia Straight, the rapper described his then new album At.Long.Last.A$AP as “a form of psychedelic music”. Rocky also acknowledged that his experiences with LSD had played a role in shaping his view of the world. “With most of these psychedelic drugs,” he reflected, “it’s about awareness, right? Enlightenment, to an extent, to some degree. Most people who take it, after they’ve done it, when they try to reiterate everything that happened, they just tell you, basically, ‘It was amazing. I get it now. I get life, I get this, I get that,’ you know? For me, LSD just kind of complemented my initial attitude toward life. It was just like, ‘Fuck it. It doesn’t matter. Do the best you could do, be the best you could be. Fuck everything. Do some dope shit. Just do what you want to.”
STREET-WISE. Forget learning his craft studying classic hip-hop records, A$AP Ferg got his starts on the streets, running with a battle-rap crew called Harlem Envy. (For those obsessed with Michael McCrudden’s Before They Were Famous, A$AP Rocky was also known to pop up on New York City street corners as a member of Million Dollar Babies). “In Harlem, that’s what we did to have fun,” A$AP Ferg told hiphopdx.com. “We would go battle other crews from different blocks and areas. We used to just try and embarrass people. We started the whole go up to your opponent, rap back in his face mad loud, so that people a block away can hear you, and we can tour the crowd. We would just try to embarrass people.” Those battles would shape A$AP Ferg’s approach to writing songs far more than any one record or artist. In fact, back in 2012, in a Blowhiphoptv interview, he made the case that his iPod isn’t exactly loaded with the best of Public Enemy, Jay Z, and Big Daddy Kane. “I don’t listen to rap music because I don’t wanna sound like nobody,” he contended. “And I don’t listen to hip-hop because it doesn’t give me that love—like I don’t feel, like, that soul.” Of course it’s entirely possible he was talking out of his ass there, considering a Top 25 records list he did for complex.com basically consisted of nothing but hip-hop records by the likes of Jay Z, Da Brat, Onyx, and The Notorious B.I.G.
HOOP DREAMS. Remember when in “It Was a Good Day”, Ice Cube rapped “Get me on the court and I'm trouble/Last week fucked around and got a triple double”? A$AP Twelvyy can relate to that. The rapper has a life-long love in basketball, even if he realized at age 11 that he’s rather at rapping than shooting hoops. In a VICE Sports profile last year he talked about schooling J. Cole on the blacktop, how street-basketball is even bigger than the NBA in New York, and when he decided to concentrate on music. “I used to play for my elementary school, 133,” Twelvyy revealed. “We won the championship my first year of playing. Next year we lost, and I kind of lost my love for it.” Except he didn’t. The thrill of hitting a game winner at a Queens tournament when he was younger has kept him excited about the sport today. Among the up-and-comers that Twelvyy admires in the NBA is the Portland Trailblazers’ Isaiah Briscoe. “He’s from Jersey,” Twelvyy told Mass Appeal. “I got family in Jersey and was introduced to him by one of my close friends like 3 years ago. He invited me to Madison Square Garden to play on the court for his birthday. That shit was surreal. I got to play at the Garden! He was still in high school at the time.”
ALWAYS IN STYLE. Certain members of A$AP Mob have become known as much for their sense of style as for their abilities on the microphone. Rocky, for example, is featured on the cover of the current holiday edition of GQ Style. Interviewed inside, between dropping names like Dior and Balenciaga, he made the pronouncement "If I wasn't doing this, to be real with you, I'd probably be an interior decorator." Nast, likewise, has design on his mind. Last month, Converse released a two-shoe collection—a Chuck Taylor All Star in a bold plaid pattern and a One Star in gold-toned corduroy—created in collaboration with the rapper, both inspired by his love of mid-century furniture.
SKATE AND RELATE. Not to be outdone, A$AP Ant has his own line of skateboarding-themed streetwear, Marino Infantry. Mind you, the MC openly admits he has never set foot on a skateboard himself. He's just a major fan of the sport. How big a fan? In an interview with Complex, Ant laid out his ambitions for Marino-sponsored skateboarders: "I want my skaters getting gold medals and being in Mountain Dew Tours and Red Bull tours. I want them to get money. I want them to be like the LeBron James of skating." The entrepreneurial rapper's goals for his own brand are no less lofty. "I can see our shit in Barneys," he said. "I would want my shit in Neiman Marcus, I ain’t going to lie. And Nordstrom, for sure."