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A$AP To AWGE: The Rise Of The Mob

Words by: Nirav Doshi

“People are really going to start to appreciate the deeper level of creativity and artistry that a lot of the Mob is striving for”; Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) claims at a Red Bull music talk with A$AP Rocky. That was in 2015, and five years later his words are now ringing truer than ever. A$AP Mob are now widely acknowledged as being a collective who are constantly breaking boundaries, who are trendsetters and who hold a hand in multiple industries. Since their arrival on the scene in 2011 they have changed the way we look at Hip Hop culture as we know it. Namely, they were some of the first people, after Kanye West and Pharrell Williams, to bridge the gap between Hip Hop and fashion. Their growth collectively and individually is clear for everyone to see; they have been able to maintain their relevance for a number of years now and have amassed one of the most unique cult followings in the culture.

In the days where rap collectives were very much prominent, with the likes of Odd Future and Raider Klan, A$AP Mob was the collective that had the mainstream appeal; this was facilitated by the sound of A$AP Rocky’s LIVELOVEA$AP. Audiences were quick to gravitate towards the Southern sound that the Mob brought to New York. From the psychedelic atmospheric production mixed with Houston screwed sounds, to braggadocious raps shouting out the likes of Raf Simons and Rick Owens, A$AP Rocky’s debut mixtape shows him taking a range of elements and turning that into his very own unique sound. Drake was one of the first people to recognise this and it led to him taking Rocky on his Club Paradise tour in 2012, along with Kendrick Lamar. Putting Harlem on the map, the Mob went from existing within their own Harlem world to going on tour with Drake within a few months, all off the success of a mixtape.

Now, in 2020, the Harlem crew have established themselves as a creative collective of rappers, fashion designers, producers, video directors, photographers and more. The creation of AWGE in 2015, an expansion of the Mob consisting of a team of artists, designers, photographers and video directors, has been instrumental in helping A$AP grow further. Video directors, Dexter Navy and Hidji Films have established their own stylistic imprint with their music videos and have been pivotal in enhancing the Mob’s reputation for their visuals. Whilst, Hector Delgado, producer and engineer, has been the backbone to much of A$AP Rocky’s success. AWGE has a phenomenal range of creatives, with some more of the members including, Kamil Abbas (Designer), Bladi Corniel (Photographer) and Kelvin Krash (Producer). From the AWGE DVDs to the AWGE permanent space in Selfridges, the creative agency has formed their own distinctive aesthetic and they have been key in helping encapsulate the vision of the A$AP Mob.

AWGE DVD Volume 3

It must not be forgotten either that the Mob are some of the most connected people in Hip Hop. Tyler the Creator, Frank Ocean, Chief Keef, The Weeknd – these are only just a few names amongst a long list that the Mob have personal relationships with. The Cozy Tapes are the perfect representation of this, and these tapes were solely due to the vision of A$AP Yams. It was him who wanted to bring the likes of Skepta, MadeinTYO, Migos and KEY! into the world of A$AP.

A$AP Yams & Rocky

A large part of the Mob’s success is attributed to A$AP Yams. He was the creative mastermind behind the crew, constantly reminding each member of the role they played for the collective to function. Not only was he the glue holding the Mob together, Yams was the real A&R of the streets. He was showing love to acts like Flatbush Zombies, Vince Staples, Chance the Rapper, way before anyone else was. Yams also kept a certain Travis Scott around his circle prior to the release of his debut mixtape Owl Pharaoh in 2013. He saw the talent in people before they saw it in themselves, and even Lil Uzi Vert and Playboi Carti are names that can vouch for that. If he liked the music, he would reach out and show his appreciation. That such a simple gesture could touch so many artists whom he crossed paths with makes A$AP Yams’ tragic passing all the more difficult to comprehend, even still five years on.

But it was A$AP Rocky who changed everything for the Mob. Rocky held the mantle for putting A$AP on the map when they first burst onto the scene, and he continues to carry this mantle. His existence in the worlds of both music and fashion throughout his career has elevated his name considerably and has shown how deep his influence runs in culture. His musical career has been defined by never allowing his artistry to be put into a box, to a point where he dedicated his last album, TESTING, to the aim of ‘testing’ with new sounds. It is testament to his innovativeness that he seeks to experiment with new sonics and merging sounds. The leading figure of the Mob, he continues to stretch his boundaries as an artist and has acknowledged that mainstream success means very little to him anymore. A$AP Rocky has now blossomed as an artist who has, and always will, reflect the most authentic form of himself in his music.

A$AP Ferg

Shortly after Rocky’s breakthrough, A$AP Ferg burst onto the scene and did so with immediate commercial success – delivering major hit records in ‘Work’ and ‘Shabba’. He very quickly became a fan favourite, as he achieved further mainstream success with records such as ‘New Level’ and ‘Plain Jane’. There is a simple formula to A$AP Ferg’s tremendous success; he identified his own sound, ran with that sound and has never looked back since. He is the certified anthem music maker of the Mob.

A$AP Nast

Then we have A$AP Nast, a man who has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to music and fashion. He remains the only artist out of the group to not have released his own solo project. However, Nast has no special commitment to releasing music. Instead he has used his platform (mainly his Instagram) to showcase his unique aesthetic, whether that be showing off his fits, his taste in cars and his musical ear – through this he has slowly built up his own cult following. It comes as no surprise then that he was one of the first people from the U.S to co-sign grime and has now established close ties with Boy Better Know, alongside other fellow Mob members. The most enigmatic figure in the Mob, A$AP Nast lives a life that is full of unpredictability, but it is one which his followers very much revere him for.

A$AP Twelvyy & A$AP Ant

Whilst A$AP Twelvyy and A$AP Ant are often overlooked in comparison to other members of the Mob. Though this has never fazed them, and they are at a stage in their careers where seeking validation for their music from the outside is no longer required. A product of the ‘golden era’ environment, Twelvyy holds his own as a lyricist. If his sound was anything to go by A$AP Twelvyy could easily be a Beast Coast member, just as much he is an A$AP Mob member. Whilst, A$AP Ant has come a long way since his infamous verse on “Bath Salt” with Flatbush Zombies and A$AP Rocky. For Ant, the decision to collaborate with Lord Fubu in 2018 was central in determining the direction he was going to take musically. The music is airy and ethereal like, and it seems A$AP Ant has finally discovered his own lane in which he can function. Both Twelvyy and Ant have found themselves artistically and each have gained their own small but devoted fan bases to show for it.

Ultimately, A$AP Mob’s influence and impact on culture is undeniable. The generation of artists that we’re seeing today all grew up on the Mob – the Playboi Carti’s, the Lil Uzi Vert’s, the Lil Yachty’s etc. Like A Tribe Called Quest and Dipset before them, the Mob gave rise to the importance of individualism. They showed this generation of artists that you can come into the game with your own unique style and sound, and be able to build and thrive off that. For this reason, to identify the Mob as simply a rap crew would be an incredible disservice to them. The creation of AWGE, as well as their continuing contributions to style, design and video directing should not be disregarded when determining their success as a collective. With creative expression being at their core, the A$AP Mob redefined what it meant to be a collective within Hip Hop.

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