A$AP Rocky’s Best Stories From His Red Bull Music Academy Talk

The Harlem rapper talks gentrification, crashing New York warehouse parties, and meeting Yasiin Bey.

May 08, 2015

For nearly two hours last night, a giddy A$AP Rocky charmed an audience of fans, press, and label employees gathered in Harlem for a talk presented by Red Bull Music Academy Festival New York. Onstage, he bantered with moderator Jeff Mao, whom he eventually chided for "asking too many questions," about topics like gentrification ("Harlem's not fun no more"), being a self-described weirdo ("I think the weirdo thing is quite the norm these days"), and the varied influences on his forthcoming At. Long. Last. ASAP album ("My taste stretches from alternative subgenres all the way to hip hop"). After debuting "Every Day," a single featuring Rod Stewart and Miguel and produced by Mark Ronson, he fielded questions from the crowd, relishing the interaction and stretching it beyond the allotted time. Throughout the night, Rocky held court as an epic storyteller, detailing adventures big and small, new and old. Read his six best stories below.

Doing the Harlem Shake at the iconic Skate Key roller rink:
"The Skate Key is a roller rink. You guys ever heard of the Tunnel? So that was the miniature Tunnel. That was for the kids, it was our Tunnel. It's where dances like the Harlem Shake was big at and stuff like that. That's where people found the kids like Jojo and them, my cousin Jojo, for Puffy to do all that Harlem stuff with. A little history for y'all. Skate Key, that was where people got killed over North Faces and bamboo earrings, Gore-Texes and Avirexes. It's the truth. At least stabbed or some shit. That's how it was in the '90s. They was robbing women, men, all that shit. It's fucked up, man. That was in the Bronx, though. Don't blame that on Harlem."

Crashing a warehouse party and commandeering the stage with A$AP Yams:
"We used to crash parties and shit. Aight, so they used to have this party called Whore House. Any of y'all remember that? The Whore House was lit. I know it's a crazy name, but it was so lit. I'm talking actually crazy. You got your hipsters, you got your tastemakers, you got your high-end fashion motherfuckers, you got your druggies, you got your hippies, you got your music-lovers all in one place. Just everybody wildin out, just kids, I had to have only been 21 at the time. I'm talking about warehouses full of kids just bugging the fuck out. And I remember one year Ninjasonik was the biggest thing at the time, right. And, you know, I got love for them but I was hating though. I was like, 'Man, why these wack niggas on stage? Yo Yams, let's just go up there.' This no lie, this is all facts. 'Like, nah, fuck that, man. These niggas is wack, man.'

"So then Yams was like, 'Aight, aight, aight. Hold on, hold on, hold on. When they cut the song off, we gon' get J. Scott, we gon' hook up his computer, and we gon' just start rapping and we gon' take over this shit.' Man, I promise y'all, I got on the mic at probably like 12:30, and it was a room full of people by the time I got on the mic. I was just rapping drunk. They just started putting on regular songs, and I'm rapping over the songs. They put on "touch it, bring it, shake it, baby" and I was rapping the whole time. Like, "you know I'm the pretty nigga." I'm wildin', right, and I look and it was just like five people dancing drunk and shit, when it's all said and done. But I said, 'Man, at least they know our name, though. They know our name.' We held it down."

Having a disappointing 4th of July in Harlem:
"I came [to Harlem] for the 4th of July [last year] and I almost cried, man. I came with firecrackers. Nah, for real. I had my nutcrackers, my firecrackers. I had my good shoes on, I was looking nice. It's about to be lit, you know. Real late night, real cozy. I got uptown, and I only seen police patrolling. I didn't see not a nary firecracker, man. Not one. So what we ended up doing is we pulled over on 125th. We went over there right by the West Side Highway with the little boardwalk or whatever you wanna call it and we lit some firecrackers over there. And that was wack. It was wack. It was cool but it was still trash, I'ma come clean. Then we went to La Marina. La Marina. It was aight."

Helping his young Dope co-star impress a girl:
"The little bro, he's the main character in the movie Dope. He had a little—I ain't gonna embarrass you, don't worry. He had a little crush on a girl, right. So I gave him some brotherly advice and I told him what to do. And I don't know if he did it quite the way I told him to do it, but when he came back, man, he was just wigging out. He was tripping, man. He was like, 'Awww man, your advice didn't work, bro. I shouldn't have took your advice, bro. I'm not you, I'm not the pretty motherfucker. It don't work for me.' And I said, 'It's gon' be alright, man. It's gon' be cool, it's gon' be ok, man.' Nah, but he ended up—he got her. It's cool."

Taking a limo ride through the Chunnel with Yasiin Bey:
"Man, you not gon' believe this story, man. Aight, so, Michèle Lamy, Rick Owens' wife. For some reason out of nowhere, cause in Europe I'm working with her, she wanted me to come to Paris really quick and I couldn't understand why it was so urgent. Then she told us, 'It's important for [Rocky] to be there. I'm doing a museum thing.' So she made us come to some museum, so when I got there I'm looking at a painting, and she goes, 'Look who it is, the big surprise!' And I turn around and it's Most Def. And she surprised both of us by bringing us there cause I kept telling her like, damn, 'I think he's so busy and he might not be able to do this album.' Like, I would just randomly talk about him.

"He's a different type of person. Anybody that knows Mos Def knows that he's a different type of guy. So, first off, I had to be in the studio with Mark Ronson and Danger Mouse. But I'm in Paris, and they're in London, so we was gonna take the last train to London. And we missed that cause Mos, this motherfucker. We go to Colette and he meets some new friends. And I'm like, 'Yo, bro, I understand that they cool and I know they own hotels out here but, like, we got a train to catch. We got first class seats for the ticket and I'm not sure how much we paid but I know it's not cheap.' So I'm tryna tell him these things and it wasn't registering. He made us miss the fucking train.

"So we get there and one of the custodian dudes, he's all like, 'Aw, man. Aw, man.' He's just overwhelmed by both of us and he's just like, 'Ay, man, my uncle does limo driving stuff. He's a driver. He can drive y'all to London.' And I'm like, 'Alright, cool. How much he gon' charge? He gon let us smoke in the car?' And he's like. 'Yeah, yeah. It's all good, it's all good.' So we drove six hours to London and made it in the studio at 2AM and made history. And also he stayed with me in London for about three weeks so we just was chilling every day. Randomly just chilling in London Town, walking down the street, just chilling. Like, word. It was lit."

Lead Image: Maria Jose Govea / Red Bull Content Pool

A$AP Rocky’s Best Stories From His Red Bull Music Academy Talk