A young cowboy named Billy Joe grew restless on the farm
A boy filled with wanderlust who really meant no harm
He changed his clothes and shined his boots
And combed his dark hair down
And his mother cried as he walked out
Don't take your guns to town son
Johnny Cash -
ASAP Rocky walks into Cafe Zinque on Melrose early on a fall evening at 6pm. T, who is always with Rocky, walks in first to look around. It is still light out and it is still warm out and despite the fact that it is November, there are still radiant cult colored clouds in the sky and in the evening one doesn’t need a jacket. In fact people are still wearing their sunglasses indoors even, along with not much else. Bellybuttons are back and heels are high, high and wedgy and nails are long, long like banana boats, ready to X rate rippy into whatever it is they may be ripping into.
Rocky, who recently relocated more full time to Los Angeles from New York appears wearing black jeans that are tight, too tight for much else underneath and a red Chicago Bulls t-shirt that is shredded and hanging off him, meticulously, like someone has been pulling at it all day long. He has his black, box fresh boots on, his Goyard bag slung on one shoulder and if you look closely, diamonds replace his real teeth way up the back. He reads like the personification of these provocative times; like the pin up boi for the Millennial rev heads. He hugs hello. He did this on set the day prior too, hugs everyone hello, just before he was down, down on the ground, rolling it round with Naomi C. Rocky smiles a lot too, says please and thank you a lot and when he talks his voice is very relaxed like a rolling river.
I have heard people refer to Rocky as the Romeo of Rap, and he alone describes himself as pretty and pretty into the wild stuff too. Only last SXSW did the headlines read: something about his mansion, 9 orgies and hedonism en masse. Indeed when he is ON, Rocky presents himself with the bulging confidence one would expect of a young man who has had multiple records premiere at number one across the American charts, whose annual Spotify listeners sits at 21 million and whose personal style, whose “outfits”, per se, have been lauded and imitated to excess. Indeed on the surface he is exactly as one would imagine a rock-star-rapper of his times to be and a seemingly spot on case study for what’s up with the tendencies of the Today. I wonder if it is generational - the hugging. The tight pants, we know are.
It should be said that, thus far, my interest in the current preoccupations of the more archetypal Millennials has in general been minimal. I’m talking here about the stuff that if one was to decade-monger, boils alongside popular music and rap music today and more specifically one could say particularly litters Los Angeles, as it is Los Angeles that houses those who embody the scene’s most affluential, extreme and on trend players. All you have to look out for amongst the palm trees are the grillz and the girls who go with; the gurls who get it going, with their disproportioned busts or butts or both. Everyone, just airing it out to whomever feels hash tag akin to their round the clock televised lives and their Tinder heavy, UP-for-it accessibility. Reality TV ingénue to Real star stardom minus the skill set, is seemingly the road most commonly paved for recognition in America as of late. ASAP Rocky however is different. I’m not convinced he is on this same mainstream trip. His latest record offering (post a 2 year self imposed hiatus) A.L.L.A, potentially insists upon this point - flagging a departure for the musician from the reliance of the quick hit symbolic of his earlier work to something even more substantial.
Rocky tells me he considers his taste alternative. He tells me he considers himself unorthodox, particularly different from the paradigm of rap rules set before him or the “generic motherfuckers that pop motherfuckers can’t tell the difference from”. He tells me he believes in fringe ideas and in celebrating fringe cultures, and in being authentic.
“Don’t believe the hype” he tweets when pictures of himself leaving a nightclub late at night with Kylie Jenner and Justin Bieber appear all over the internet a few days later, just as I am writing up our conversations on how sticking it to the regular is where Rocky is at. Hmm…but do we still believe him? I’m not sure. Does one undercut the other? This is an uneasy symbiosis, his social significance versus the more rounded intentions in his artistic endeavors. And though they all, all those millions, might be listening to him, indeed he, it seems, is listening to something somewhat different.
96 Tears comes on and Tame Impala and Bowie and then Isaac Hayes and T-Rex; loads of T –Rex, “Cosmic Dancer” and “The Slider” specifically as we ride around, just around in Rocky’s car with T. The heat is on high and the windows are up, despite the fact that it’s a warm 25 degrees Celsius outside. It is a quintessential Los Angeles move - the chilly desert winds, I'm told...they blow it in cold. Rocky tells me he feels LA is too cozy creatively for him but he does like the weather and he does like the weed. We talk about Johnny Cash, how his favorite song is “Don’t take your Guns to Town” and we talk about The Zombies. He hands me his computer at one point as he rolls a blunt so large it almost looks like a canoe he could wiz down a waterfall on and I screenshot his personal Spotify playlists which are named things like Psychedelic Shit, Trippy Shit, Vibez, Vibey, all of which are under a pseudonym that reads something like LUXURYLORD but not quite that. Later I listen to them, his playlists, quite a few times really and I don’t know if it’s the Nirvana or the Spiritualized or the lack of Kanye or Kraftwerk or what but they feel revealing and unexpected and they make me like him more as they remind me that no one is just one thing, particularly behind closed doors.
T.Rextasy was what B.P Fallon coined it; the fruits and the fame, the cognac and the cocaine, the hashish hysteria, oh the whimsy that was, The Marc Bolan L.O.V.E Bubble, that was; the emergence of the sexed up Macho-Man to the Max star. I wonder if Rocky sees something similar in all of this to his own state of affairs? Later I watch a doc on YouTube where Marc Bolan says something about being better at electric and something about what a lovely thing it was to be worshipped and show off in front of 8,000 people and something about how he would rather be a Cock Rock star than Cat Stevens. Ride a White Swan then…Cock Rock it out. I’m your warlock. I’m your wizard. I’m your man, man. Bolan's friends go on in the doc to describe him like a balloon without a string, zinging away to some place. Come back here my dear… Balloons can be hard to temper.
I couldn’t tell you for sure when Rocky decided to tell me he was on acid or if it even matters…. though I feel it does. He was when we met, on acid that is, before the dope smoked driving around West Hollywood and maybe he still is now, today at home, working away on his beats with his braids in and his boots on. The acid could have been what drove him to suggest we take a walk together, leave that restaurant and just walk, walk around, which for Los Angeles is a rare suggestion coming from anyone, let alone a celebrity.
Psychedelics from what I can gather are seemingly quite a large part of his evolving super sonic, star-soaring exploration and a definitive part of what seems to be his LA existence. How to tell it…
As we walk, what seems to be in the direction of the Farmer’s Market on Fairfax and past the Magnolia trees, Rocky touches my ring, which is in the shape of a heart and we start on about auras, good vibrations and women. Every conversation from here on in, though formless, rounds off with seemingly genuine declarations from Rocky about the limitless potential of the female spirit, the female form, the worth and weight of a women’s touch… touching it, I trust he does - every which way it seems. Charlize Theron gets mentioned and Lucy Liu and Halle Berry, all of whom are on his crush worthy “Ultimate” list and Kim Porter too, “no disrespect to Puff or Quincy”, Rocky says.
“On the record!” he says. “This part is on the record.”
I ask him what he feels he needs to make music?
"Women, seriously it has to be women even if it’s just a girl you consider a sister, just because a woman has an energy, a certain type of vibe you can’t buy… And women they know when they like something."
And when I ask him if he feels his affinity for female company stems from growing up so closely, post his brother’s death with just his mother and his sister in the homeless shelter back up in Harlem, he pauses and seems to be digesting the idea before he responds casually,
"Hmmm…No…. Nope. That’s just me. I like being around women. For instance, the same energy I can get from you I can’t get from my mother or my sister and I’m not even referring to just sexual energy. I’m at a place where I’ve realized more than ever my infatuation with the female species. I’m overly obsessed with women. It’s everything... the way they smell and the way they look and how soft their voices are and how soft their bodies are and their long hair and those pretty eyes; their smiles…you get me?"
So what types of women are you most attracted to? Do you mostly find yourself with famous women?
“I am a weird. Famous women don’t get me …in fact it’s more weird because most of those famous chicks, they got their paparazzi stuff going on. Behind closed doors they are celebrating that shit. They are searching for fame and stardom and I’m just expressing myself. For Real For Real.
I like older women; I’m usually attracted to MILFS and Cougars. They are older and more open-minded and mature. You can’t get that maturity from these girls.
I know I’m getting old ‘cos a nigger be like, “What you want to converse with these bitches? No, suck my dick.” and I’m like, No, I’m older now…. “Who are you? What do you do? What makes you interesting as a person? “
Back in the car, T appears again, almost as if by teleportation, and we drive to get ice cream. We buy Rocky's favorite, vanilla ice-cream cones, two scoops with sprinkles on them. That’s Rocky’s dinner and so he eats his and when I can’t finish mine he says, “Don’t worry about a thing, “ before he politely eats that too but then not much else; no standard meals for the duration of our time together, just candy and chewing gum and Gatorade and other such novelty items. It is around about now that Rocky tells me Psychedelic music saved him, saved him 100% from the tragedy of losing his greatest mentor and friend ASAP Yams in January of 2015. I ask him if he meditates then, as it feels like a relevant question in relation to his clearly mystical mindset and the fact we are in Los Angeles and the fact that we are listening to something that sounds like an instrumental Ude piece and he says weed and sexual therapy are his form of meditation, the latter being the sacred of the two. He goes on to tell me he does believe in God though, as if the two are related. He does pray, before he goes on stage and before he eats, even if all he is eating are cookies. He prays before those too. I wonder what his prayers are like then… or does everyone inevitably just hope for the same sort of things? So I ask him what he hopes for, for himself specifically and he gets going about his beats and creating a legacy with his beats. He talks mostly about his desire to express himself as a genuine artist.
“ A rapper’s job is to get on a track and say words. All of us have a vocal box and a voice so we are all capable of being rappers, but not everyone is capable of being a genuine artist you know. If I can manipulate my sounds, not only orchestrate them but produce them, it would make me elite because I would be in control of my whole sonic situation.”
Later Rocky turns my recorder off and he plays me some of his new stuff as we drive around. It sounds mostly instrumental and like a curation of the sorts of sounds I couldn’t imagine placed together but that I want to hear more of. It sounds forward thinking and unfamiliar and impressive. It feels subtle. I take his photo on my phone then. He looks young and fun and we go on to run these sorts of errands for the evening and time seems beside the point. We pick up his jacket from one of his houses with T. We watch a film he just directed in the back of his car for a luxury fashion house, which is yet to be released. We even buy tiny baby Fendi jeans for his manager Chance’s son. We get a kid’s store that was called something like, BABY BLING, or at least in my mind it was, to reopen to do so and he tells me one day he would like two babies, a boy and a girl, but just not now. And so I ask what he wants now in life and he says, “I want what I have”
Eventually T and Rocky drop me home. They don’t want to hold me up, they say and once back in my hotel room up in Hollywood, I put A.L.LA on and try to make some connections to our conversation. Mostly though I just play L$D on repeat and I can’t help but want to get back in a car, any car and drive down to Little Dume or Will Rogers even, just drive down to the ocean and get on some sort of neon waterslide and slink down and just be Jell-O, be Jell-O underwater and lay like vegetable with the sweet fishes and the seaweed and the conga drums. I literally laugh out loud every time when he sings that line about some sort of “hippy life”. I don’t know why exactly but it feels unexpected I guess and when I call my friend Nina back in New York and ask her what she feels is up with ASAP Rocky she says she likes to listen to the new record on her bed on Sundays with the windows wide open and sext with her boyfriend in Saratoga, all of which makes perfect sense too.
“I was very seduced by him,” Michele Lamy tells me later when I am in Paris the following week, over at her home; a meeting set up post my Rocky expedition, important in light of his stated affection for her. Her semi Muse to him status. In fact when asked what matters most to him about style, it is originality and individuality and he says, of all the women he has met, Lamy is most hip to that.
“I was very seduced by him,” she says again as we sip tea and I take her energy in. That Lamy, Rick Owen’s life long collaborator and wife acts as Rocky’s most aspirational style guru to date is only further commendation to his character, as she is distinctly unique, spiritual on meeting and unconventional. With her black painted fingers, her black swathes of fabric and diamonds, like Rocky, in her teeth too, common lore has her story swing from being raised by wild horses to being a young trillion years old or so. Indeed Lamy is captivating. Later she tells me about the 20 years she spent in Los Angeles in her youth and the exercise and the flowers and the health spirit and how on her first day there she got booked for jaywalking and going topless at Santa Monica. She says she loved LA for its softness and she likes LA now for its art. And then she goes on to say, how softness may be exactly what Rocky needs right now.
It is in LA, amongst it all that Rocky has collaborated with Guess jeans on his first capsule clothing collection. It's a distinctly 90’s heritage driven curation and harks back to the days of that particular brand and Claudia Schiffer and hot pants and milkshakes and perfect jeans with the logo you somehow wanted blazed across you. This time round, though, it is Rocky and a collaboration with POP that features the one and only Naomi Campbell – the original firework and a key figure in some of Guess’s most classic iconography.
A true friend of this magazine, Naomi jets in for a day at a secret studio in Silver Lake. Rocky later tells me he loves Naomi’s soft skin and her pretty eyes. All day they rolled around in denim knickers and underpants and overalls and not much else as they whispered into one another’s ears.
Guess was always an important brand to Rocky, from his days growing up back in Harlem he tells me. Indeed, they were the jeans he used to save up for - so it is only fitting then that his first capsule collection be such a heavily heritage driven one.
“Guess turned out to be that brand that established what a denim pant, denim jacket looks like. I wear denim all day, everyday. It was tight. So basically it was one of those situations where I was like, I want to start curating things on my own but I don’t wanna make a big deal ‘cos I don’t want people to confuse me as a fashion designer. So I say, why don’t I just do a capsule collaboration…”
When Rocky talks to me about style and his style and his GUESS 2016 style to be exact, he mostly responds by repeating the word, Jiggy. I’m just jiggy like that. It be jiggy. They want what’s jiggy. And when one in fact Google’s jiggy, the Internet will tell you this more specifically
Jiggy: adjective meaning 1.uninhibited, especially in a sexual manner. 2. Fly and Stylish, well dressed.
He goes on, “If you want that ASAP edge, my POV, my perception of how fashion should be…. everyone’s not a designer, an artist, a dj, a fucking stylist but why do we need to categorize? Everyone can do everything.”
Rocky is different from what I imagined in many ways. He appears to realize that the life of a music star and its public façade is something to be advantageously controlled and in turn rejected. He seems to be aware of the limitations of the ‘Oh-Your-So-Vain rocket ship’ but is also somehow willing to embrace it - in his own way - with distinct boundaries. Really he seems to have out sped that lazy rocket number and is already flying high in outer space with the milky way and the moon as his friends. Perhaps then, one could say, what differentiates the airborne Rocky from the rest is his finesse in life more so than the splendor of his feathers and then there is also his fearlessness and his jiggy way with fashion and his moves and his motives.
Before we part, the Curtis Mayfield track, “Pusher Man” starts up almost fortuitously and Rocky sings along whilst telling me that what he wants most, at the end of the day, really and truly, is to celebrate the marginal.
I'm your doctor when in need….