Rare and lit: two words used with historic levels of frequency tonight at Madiba’s in Harlem, where Rakim Mayers AKA A$AP Rocky told countless tales of his Harlem roots (some riotous, others disheartening) speaking just a few hundred feet from where he was born for an RBMA chat with the ever intrepid Jeff “Chairman” Mao. You may be familiar with the format— you know, Mao pulls at the seams, hoping his subject will break the shell and drop some wise words— but Pretty Flaco had his own agenda for the evening, try as Mao might.
The night began as most do, Mao pulling Human Serviette styled R&D, young Ra keeping things too candid, doing his damnedest to keep up with the line of questioning, speaking for the first twenty minutes or so about his sense of style and the many videos, images and people that influence it. And though there were a few unintended distractions (phones going off, doors cracking open, projecting some faceless rock anthem into our little corridor) things stayed fairly cool. It wasn’t until the discourse shifted to music and his new album in particular, that people really began to see a rise out of the self-proclaimed “prophet” (yes, he said that. Verbatim.)
Rocky gave us a taste of the new track “Everybody” (as if he wasn’t going to drop it officially as soon as we left) from his forthcoming album ALLA, featuring Mark Ronson on production, Miguel on the hook and some dastardly bars from yours truly. Rocky also clarified that his next record would be dropping June 2nd and will at least feature the aforementioned and one Yasiin Bey.
And while we’re on the topic, the jet-set do-it-all-to-death Harlemite did share a tale of how that creative collision came to be. I won’t spoil anything for you, but it involves Bey, Ra, Danger Mouse, a 6-hour limo ride from Paris to London and all the weed. So go figure.
Outside of the craft, Rocky made some profound observations on what it meant to be a black man in 2015, waxing philosophic on what that man wears, where he works, what he eats, as if to say, that today’s black man is as lost in the world as the rest of us, and that there could not be a more a antiquated profile. And in terms of gun legislation, he made a pretty damn good case for relaxing them as a last line of defense against the police, which he claimed was at the core of brutality cases in Ferguson, Baltimore and the world over.
The rest of the evening found him engaging with the crowd, fielding questions from the audience, plugging the film DOPE (in which he has a featured role) admitting that he was stoned out of his gourd (like we didn’t already know that) but that’s just another day-in-the-life of the A$AP chief, wining, weeding and dining, brimming with charisma, riddled with contradiction and radiating with Fonz-like cool.