A$AP Rocky was the first member of the crew to blow up, doing so with his 2011 mixtape Live.Love.A$AP, but the world was eventually introduced to the colorful cast of characters who make up his Harlem-based A$AP Mob crew. With fashion endeavors, guest spots, production credits, and eventually mixtapes and albums of their own, the rest of the A$AP ("Always Strive And Prosper") family are proving that they're more than Rocky's fashionable sidekicks.
With the exception of A$AP's AV, J. Scott, Josh, Relli and Lou (none of whom make music), here's an in-depth look at eleven A$AP Mobbers and the various roles they play in the crew. Most of them will appear on the Mob's recently-announced L.O.R.D. EP, due out on March 4th.
If there's a certain collective you'd like to learn more about and see featured on Crew Love, shout it out in the comments.
Early Life: Rocky had a rough upbringing in Harlem, punctuated by the death of his older brother when he was 13, and his father's incarceration when he was 12. He began rapping at the age of 8, and began selling drugs at age 15. In 2007, he met A$APs Yams, Bari and Illz, the original founders of the A$AP Mob, and joined their crew.
Career Highlights: Signed a two year, $3 million record deal with RCA/Polo Grounds in 2011. Founded the A$AP Worldwide label with A$AP Yams. Debuted at Number One with his album Long.Live.A$AP. Released his A$AP clothing brand in 2013, and later collaborated with designer Raf Simons. Won the Best Collaboration award at the 2013 BET awards for his song "Fuckin' Problems."
Sound: With his Clams Casino-produced tracks, Rocky popularized a Southern-influenced, hazy style known as "Cloud Rap" and/or "Trillwave." As a New Yorker, he frequently cites The Diplomats as a major influence, but his music more closely resembles that of screwed-up Southern artists such as Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, UGK and Three 6 Mafia. On Long.Live.A$AP, he broadened his sound, incorporating '90s boom-bap, dubstep, and more radio-friendly fare.
Strengths: Rocky has a singsong delivery, described in his song "Purple Swag: Chapter 2" by the line: "Niggas ain't ready for the flow switch/Only Harlem nigga on his Bone shit," referring to his often abrupt changes of pace and love for Bone Thugs. What he may lack in lyrical content, he makes up for with his flashy flows and superb beat selection. He's also a budding producer (with co-production credits on three of his last album's songs) and video director (his most noteworthy video to date being Danny Brown's "Blunt After Blunt").
What's Next: In Summer 2013, Rocky announced that he was making an instrumental album called Beauty & the Beast: Slowed Down Sessions (Volume One), but did not specify a release date. Yesterday (February 3rd, 2014), Rocky announced the lead single of that album, "Riot Rave," and said it will drop later this month. On March 4th, 2014, Rocky and the rest of A$AP Mob will release the collaborative L.O.R.D. EP.
Early Life: Inspired by his father, a boutique owner who designed logos and shirts (including the Bad Boy Records logo), Ferg attended art school and pursued a career in fashion. He founded Devoni Clothing in 2005, and designed belts for celebrities. In 2010, he joined high school pal Rocky in the A$AP Mob.
Career Highlights: Ferg first appeared on Rocky's 2011 track "Get High," credited as Dee Ferg. He was then featured on "Kissin' Pink" from Live.Love.A$AP. His debut single "Work," from Lord$ Never Worry, was released in August 2012, and its music video quickly surpassed 2 million views on YouTube. In January 2013, he signed a record deal with RCA and Polo Grounds and announced his debut album Trap Lord. The album debuted at number nine on the charts in August, and led to Ferg being named "Rookie of the Year" at the 2013 BET Awards.
Sound: True to his "Trap Lord" moniker, Ferg's music is the most trap-influenced of any A$AP Mob member. But while his collaborations with Waka Flocka Flame, French Montana and Bodega BAMZ showcase that hard-nosed side, Ferg's solo work often bears a more soulful, melodic sound, highlighted by the song "Hood Pope."
Strengths: In his "Kissin' Pink" feature, Ferg proved that he didn't even need sixty seconds to captivate listeners. His elastic voice can shift from high-pitched and nasally to gruff and intimidating in a matter of seconds, and he frequently incorporates singing into his delivery. As a lyrical chameleon, Ferg could stand for a bit more consistency in the beat department, but his unpredictable flair keeps us guessing, and that's why we love him.
What's Next: Ferg will appear on the L.O.R.D. EP, set to drop on March 4th.
Given Name: Tariq Devega
Aliases: Ty Nast, Nasty 90's Baby
Early Life: Nast grew up in Morningside, a section of West Harlem, and frequently hung out with Rocky (his cousin) when they were kids. When Rocky moved to The Bronx as a teen, the two lost touch, but were reunited by A$AP Bari, one of the Mob's founding members.
Career Highlights: After making his debut on Rocky's early track "Uptown," Nast appeared on two Live.Love.A$APtracks, "Purple Swag: Chapter 2" and "Trilla." Lord$ Never Worrysaw him rapping on four of its tracks, including "Black Mane," his first official solo record. In December 2013, Nast released "Trillmatic," which boasted a big feature from Method Man, and is expected to be included on the upcoming L.O.R.D. EP.
Sound: Though "Black Mane" and earlier demo "Fuck Swag" contain modern elements, Nast showed his love for old-school NYC hip-hop on "Trillmatic." With a boom-bap beat from Ty Beats, an Illmatic-style flow and a verse from Meth, the track showed what Nast could do when freed from the standard A$AP sound. He hasn't released enough tracks to develop a signature sound, but he seems able to adapt his flow to match beats of all styles and eras.
Strengths: More so than Rocky and Ferg, Nast comes across as a battle rapper. Those A$AP Mob frontrunners seemed to spend more time trying to be unique than aiming to lyrically murder their opponents, but Nast's rhymes are usually boastful and full of multi-syllable rhymes, such as the line "Straight our the back, dog, I'm Shaq strong, I'm breakin' backboards" from "Trillmatic." His technical abilities outweigh his personality, which has yet to become as distinctive as his crew mates.
What's Next: Nast will appear on the L.O.R.D. EP, and he said a year ago that his project God Bless America will drop shortly after that.
A$AP Ty Beats
Given Name: Tyshaun Holloway
Early Life: Ty Beats grew up on the same Harlem block as Rocky, 139th and Lenox. He first contacted Rocky via Facebook, and the two eventually connected in real life. Beats now calls Rocky his "big brozay."
Career Highlights: In 2011, he produced Rocky's breakout single "Peso," as well as "Purple Swag: Chapter 2" from Live.Love.A$AP. Lord$ Never Worryhad two beats by Ty on it, "Bangin' on Waxx" and "Gotham City." 2013 saw Ty get his first production credit on a commercially-released album, co-producing "Suddenly" with Hector Delgado and Rocky. He also made the "Trillmatic" beat for A$AP Nast.
Sound: So far, his production work has been quite varied, reflecting both the slow-paced sounds of Houston and the more traditional NYC sound. He frequently samples classic R&B for his beats, borrowing from The S.O.S. Band's "No One's Gonna Love You" for "Peso," and War's "The World is a Ghetto" for "Trillmatic."
What's Next: Though the tracklist for the L.O.R.D. EP has yet to be released, you can be sure that Ty Beats will be in the production credits.
Latest Track: (It's actually "Trillmatic," but since that's also Nast's most recent track, here's "White Collar" from Vado's Slime Flu 4, released in August 2013):
Given Name: Jamel Phillips
Aliases: Twelvyy, Two-Twelve Mel
Early Life: As a kid, Twelvy bounced around different neighborhoods in Harlem and the Bronx. He met A$AP Yams in 2006, and Yams brought Rocky to a house party at Twelvy's in 2008. The two bonded, and Twelvy was invited into the A$AP fold.
Career Highlights: Along with Nast, he first appeared on Rocky's 2011 track "Uptown," before showing up to kick a guest verse on "Trilla." In early 2012, he dropped a slew of freestyles, including "12 Unleashed," and appeared on a remix of Smoke DZA's "4 Loko." He appeared on four tracks on Lord$ Never Worry, and also showed up on Harry Fraud's 2013 mixtape Adrift.
Sound: Musically, the tracks that Twelvy has appeared on sound pretty modern, especially the Araabmuzik-produced "Y.N.R.E." from Lord$ Never Worry. As that's his only real solo track to date, the future's wide open for Twelvy to choose a distinctive sound.
Strengths: Whereas Rocky, Ferg and Nast have all shown themselves capable of nimble, rapid-fire flows, Twelvy usually raps slowly, but with confidence that can't be taught. On the languorous "Trilla," he pokes fun at this, saying "Fuck it, this my fast flow." In the otherwise flashy A$AP Mob, Twelvy is the rock-solid anchor.
What's Next: Twelvy will appear on theL.O.R.D. EP.
Early Life: The second-newest member of A$AP Mob (and the only one who's name doesn't feature the "A$AP" tag), Da$h is the nephew of hip-hop mogul Dame Dash. Little information about his early life is available online, but he first appeared with the Mob on three tracks from Lord$ Never Worry. Before that, he had released a steady stream of solo mixtapes since 2010. He also frequently collaborates with the rapper RetcH and producer Mordecai Beats.
Releases: The Script to My Instrumental, mixtape, 2010; Dreamcatcher, mixtape, 2010; ChRon Burgundy, mixtape, 2011; Living What I'm Throwin' Up, mixtape, 2011; Caveman Files, mixtape, 2011; Lord$ Never Worry, collaborative mixtape, August 2012; La Cienega, collaborative mixtape with RetcH, September 2012; V.I.C.E.S, mixtape, June 2013.
Career Highlights: Though keeping a relatively low profile, Da$h has collaborated with some big names, including Clams Casino, Mac Miller, Curren$y, Wiz Khalifa, Ski Beatz, Chuck Inglish, Vince Staples, Action Bronson and Ab-Soul. He's been signed to BluRoc records since 2011, but has yet to break out in a big way.
Sound: Genreally speaking, Da$h makes slow, smoked-out jams that vary in regional sound and production style. With his connection to Dame Dash, he's had the privilege of worked with a bevy of producers, so he hasn't been confined by the same regional and monetary restrictions that usually end up defining up-and-coming rappers' sounds.
Strengths: His main strength is surely his extensive rolodex, but Da$h raps with a stoned intelligence similar to his frequent collaborator Curren$y. His beat selection is impeccable, always picking sounds that vibe with his laid-back flow. He's shown a lot of promise, but might need some distance from his family ties to fully bloom as a solo artist. Perhaps A$AP Mob will help with that.
What's Next: There's no word yet on whether he'll appear on the L.O.R.D. EP.
Early Life: He was born in Baltimore, but has family in New York. He spent his early life "up and down the East Coast." Yams was his first acquaintance in A$AP Mob, and he met Rocky through his Marino clothing line in 2010.
Career Highlights: Ant released his first track, "Ridin Round Slow," in late 2011, but didn't appear on tracks with other members of the Mob until Lord$ Never Worry. That mixtape's "Coke and White Bitches" was originally an Ant solo track, but it was adapted for the new release with guest verses from Danny Brown, Gunplay and Fat Trel. Most recently, his tracks "The Way it Go" and "See Me" have gotten official videos from the A$AP camp.
Sound: Ant's tracks can range from quite turnt, with EDM-influenced beats and energetic rapping, to languid and trill. His pair of latest tracks reflect both sides of this sound, with "See Me" being the banger, and "The Way It Go" being more laid-back.
Strengths: For a young rapper with only a handful of tracks under his belt, Ant has a lot of personality. He once threatened to smack Tyler, the Creator, and that gives you a good idea of the no-fucks-given mentality he brings to the table when rapping. He also has a good sense of humor, as illustrated by his "Willy Wonka candy semen" line in the song "Bath Salt."
What's Next: Word is that "See Me" will appear on the L.O.R.D. EP, possibly along with other Ant tracks.
Early Life: The crew's most recent addition, Lotto is the Mob's "Miami representative." He's elusive online, outside of his Twitter and SoundCloud profiles, and there's no info on how he got linked up with Rocky and Co.
Releases: His debut mixtape, M.I.V.M.I. (Money is a Very Major Influence) is listed as "upcoming" on A$AP Mob's website. He hasn't appeared on tracks with other Mob members.
Sound: Lotto's two most noteworthy tracks boast production from P on the Boards, a frequent A$AP Mob collaborator. These songs, "Grave Yard" and "Whole Plate," bear resemblance to Miami's other resident crew, Raider Klan. With a traditional Southern sound, P and Lotto blend in trippy, slightly scary elements like pitched-down vocals and waves of reverb.
Strengths: As a member of the otherwise high-profile A$AP Mob, Lotto is interesting because of his relative anonymity and foreboding presence on tracks. Despite the hard-nosed nature of tracks like "Grave Yard," Lotto manages to include some humorous references, rhyming Hogwarts with Star Wars. He doesn't seem to be the most technically gifted rapper, but his vibe so far is superb.
What's Next: TheM.I.V.M.I. mixtape, whenever he decides to drop it.
Given Name: Jesus Steven Manuel Rodriguez Paulino
Occupations: Manager, Executive Producer
Early Life: Yams grew up in Morningside, Harlem, and founded A$AP Mob with Bari and Illz. He previously worked for Dipset. He met Rocky through Bari, and has been managing him and executively producing his releases since 2011. He calls himself Rocky's "spirit guide."
Career Highlights: In 2011, he negotiated Rocky's huge deal with RCA/Polo Grounds. In January 2013, he was profiled by The New York Times.
Given Name: Jabari Shelton
Occupations: Fashion Designer
Early Life: He grew up in Harlem, attending school with Rocky and befriending Yams at a young age. He credits himself with getting the A$AP Mob into fashion.
What's Next: In early 2012,Bari said he had a fashion line in the works, but didn't want to reveal details yet. Yesterday, A$AP Mob announced that his VLone line of clothing would soon be released.
Given Name: Illijah Ulanga
Early Life: He started hanging out with Yams and Bari at a young age, founding A$AP Mob with them in the late '00s. Bari describes him as "the A$AP model."
Career Highlights: In late 2012, he began modeling for Stussy.