Interview with A$AP Rocky

"I love Houston culture more than this New York sh-t"

ASAP Rocky
© RCA

A$AP Rocky is one of the most exciting new voices in rap. The New York native took a break from photo shoots and shopping trips to chat with me about his aspirations, his fondness for Houston and the first rap album he ever bought. Dig in.

What's keeping you busy these days?
Videos. Movies. ASAP Worldwide. Albums. Shopping. Haha!

You're from Harlem. Can you do the Harlem Shake?
[Laughs] I used to be good at it.

I can do the Harlem Shake and I've never even been to Harlem.
I want to see you do it. I want to see you battle my boy A$AP Thor*. I wanna see that battle. [Laughs]

What's Harlem like? What are some of your earliest childhood memories?
I just remember like...it was hustlers, hustlers, hustlers. Money, money, money. That's why they call it Money Making Manhattan. You know, it's the upper part of Manhattan, which is the hood. They're all about their money. You know, growing up in Harlem just shows you how to be a hustler.

It sounds like a very aggressive environment.
Any hood is like that, though.

Right. But when I listen to your music, I hear the contrast -- it has a certain ease and laid-back attitude.
That's 'cause I'm a really laid-back dude. I'm not too much of a yeller and stuff like that.

See also: A$AP Rocky - At. Long. Last. A$AP

What was the first hip-hop album you bought?
The first one I bought was Rakim.

He released something in...98. I forgot the name of it.

'98, he was doing solo stuff. The 18th Letter?
He had a bald head or something. He was shirtless on the cover. I had bought the cassette tape when it came out.

Sounds like The 18th Letter. He was bald and shirtless on that one.
Yeah, that was it. That was the first album I bought.

Being from Houston, I find it interesting that your style is largely influenced by my city. How did you get introduced to that sound?
Growing up, man, all I listened to was Geto Boys, UGK, Swishahouse, Mike Jones, Paul Wall, Slim Thug, everybody. I just love the culture, man.

That was cool of you to put Houston's own Fat Tony on your mixtape.
Yeah man, I f~ck with Fat Tony. He's a good guy. That's a great cat right there.

You have some fans in H-town. You also have some critics here. On one side, there's people who like your music. On the other hand are those who say, "Hey man, we've been doing this for a minute and this A$AP guy just walks in and swipes our style. Not fair." What would you say to those guys when you come to Houston?
I'll tell them I represent y'all.

That's what I do. I represent y'all. You know, at the end of the day, you don't have to be from Asia to be a f~ckin' Buddhist monk. All jokes aside, you don't have to be from Jerusalem or nothin' like that. What I'm saying is...basically, that's cool. I understand that. That's unfortunate that they feel that way. But I feel like they should embrace me. I love the culture. I'm keeping it real. I'm from New York and I love that culture. I love it more than this New York sh!t. So why wouldn't you f~ckin' f~ck with me back? I got Bun B, Paul Wall, and Killa Kyleon on the "Purple Swag" remix. They love me out there.

Cool. Can't wait to hear that. So what's on the 2012 agenda for A$AP Worldwide?
Just a lot of culture. We're bringing back hip-hop. That's what we're doing. That's the truth.

That's a bold statement. What was the first thing you bought when you signed your $3 million contract?
A bottle of Cristal.

That was it. I'm not into diamonds or nothing like that. I didn't buy no car or nothing like that. I still got work to do.

Who else has influenced you as a rapper, aside from Houston guys? Give me your supergroup of four favorite rappers.
Dylan, Dylan, Dylan, Dylan. Yo, honestly, I can't really do that.

I'm not trying to sound politically correct or nothing like that. I listen to everybody.

That's politically correct. OK, different question: Which rapper would make you lose your cool? If you were in the presence of this rapper, he would just make you lose your cool.
[Thinks for about 27 seconds] 2Pac.

Final question. I really don't want to ask you this but if I don't ask, no one will read this interview. If you could get caught red-handed in a hotel room with one celebrity, who would it be?
Oh... sh!t. Umm...

They might be reading, so think about it.
It doesn't have to be a singer, right?

Anybody. For me, it would be Oprah.
This fool said Oprah! Um, all right, let me think. Um...Martha Stewart.

You know how I know you're lying? You thought about it for too long.
No, not really. That's the truth. If I got caught with Martha Stewart, do you know how much p---y I would get off that?

[*A$AP Thor sounds like a guy who could kick my butt in a Harlem Shake dance-off.]