I’m super, super happy to share another little story with you all and polarize it with the big shots you can admire here above – picture me doing the Harlem Shake – that’s how happy I am with this one. Meet Rakim Mayers, aka Pretty Flacko, aka DAT PMF (Pretty MothaFucka ) but globally known as A$AP ROCKY.
If you are not familiar with this fly individual here ‘high’ above, let me be so kind to enlighten you, however, keep in mind that this is a PG-18 rated story for various green reasons, so if you can’t handle it, please go read Perez Hilton or something.
Rocky, named after the legendary rapper RAKIM (from the duo Erik B & Rakim) grew up in Harlem, New York and is currently making quite the name for himself. ASAP is an abbreviation for many things but mostly known for ‘Always Strive & Prosper’. It also stands for the creative collective (or mob) of beat-makers, rappers & directors that surround Rocky and where he is a main member of. The first time I ever heard ASAP ROCKY was when this PESO video popped up on the net.
But it was this PURPLE SWAG video that initiated Rocky his entrance in the game.
Interesting to know is that Rocky co-directed both videos and that he not shy about his directorial ambitions. Before those two videos Rocky already released a mixtape in 2010 called DEEP PURPLE that gave him his first buzz in the hip hop community. Believe it or not, but it only took these two tracks to convince SONY/RCA/POLO Records to sign Rocky for a notorious 3 million dollar deal. Not bad for an emerging artist right? After creating this enormous buzz Rocky released his much-anticipated and hypnotizing mixtape LIVELOVEA$AP in 2011 which delivered him a spot on BBC’s SOUND OF 2012 list and the official worldwide recognition that comes with that nomination.
No time to waste for Rocky who meanwhile did some interesting collabs with artists like Usher, Swizz Beats and my personal favorites Schoolboy Q and Theophilus London. Rocky quickly differentiated him from other new rappers because of his mix of an unusual flow (his style inspired by the likes of Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Houston rap has often been criticized as ‘too southern for a New Yorker’) a high brow meets Harlem sense of style and last but not least his rather charming confidence. But his official claim to be the next young prince on the throne was immortalized with the release of GOLDIE, his first single from his much-anticipated debut album LONGLIVEA$AP due anytime now, which came with his first real high-profile video.
Some artists have to wait for years to be on NARDWUAR‘s radar, but Rocky nailed that one in only a few months time.
This is literally a bright shooting star, aiming for big (purple) galaxies. I hope this introduction made you curious enough to make you wonder how I ended up taking these Polaroids?
Well, without further ado. This is the story.
I have probably said this before, but SONY is one of the only big music labels who have my back with this little blog. For some reason, they get what I do and whenever they can, they will try to hook me up with one of their artists. So a week before ASAP Rocky was hitting Belgium, I received an email that they were planning to propose my blog to Rocky’s management. Important to know is that my contact at SONY changed, meaning for my type of artists I would have to work with somebody that didn’t really knew me or my work. I was used to working with a lovely redheaded lady at SONY and now a new fella was taking over the type of artists that I’m interested in the most, so I decided to send him a little email to introduce myself and my work. After all, it’s this new guy who will have to pitch my blog to managements with the same enthusiasm as the person before, and when people come into new positions, sometimes that is not always a given.
The weekend before Rocky’s arrival in Belgium, I received a little update that my request was still pending. ASAP’s performance was scheduled on monday so I realised that it might be a bit too risky to put all my eggs in one basket so I started to look around for other options. You know I hate what-ifs, so if I can, I will erase those the best I can from my to-do list. I contacted a fly girl named Dreea from Germany whom I met way back while I was working on this stupid story. Before ASAP signed his million dollar deal and his star was still slowly rising across oceans and continents, Dreea asked me via Facebook if I was interested in a new artist in the game that went by the name of ASAP for a Polaroid, and if I was, that it might very well be a possibility to take a Polaroid picture since he would be in Paris soon and she ‘friend-suggested’ me his crewmember ASAP YAMS. I think it was only a few weeks later when ASAP signed his 3 million dollar deal with Sony. I figured this might be the right time to ask her if that proposal was still a possibility and I decided to send her an email. Very quickly I received an email back, telling me that unfortunately the cards were different now and that she was no longer allowed to bring outside content to ASAP crew herself. However she said: “I can give you a few contacts, and you can try to mail them yourself?” So I prepared a standard pitch email with my request and a brief file about my blog, hoped for the best and pushed ‘send’. Unfortunately, things remained silent. That sunday evening I went to bed, preparing myself that this might be just another traditional chase & hunt story and that I would probably miss out on some sleep the night from Monday upon Tuesday.
The next morning I find myself at the weekly monday morning meeting with my colleagues when I feel my phone vibrating in my back pocket. I was in a meeting so I could not pick up my phone, but I decided to check if there weren’t any new mails coming in, because I felt that this unknown number that just rang me had something to do with my concert later that day. I quickly took a peek into my mail and my instincts were exactly right. My request for an ASAP 1 to 1 had been approved and they were expecting me in Brussels at 17h to do my thing! Great. Just… great. Don’t get me wrong, I was very happy, but this girl had to work in Antwerp untill 17h30 and wasn’t able to get into Brussels before 19h tops. If I would have known something a bit earlier I might still be able to arrange my schedule but leaving the office unannounced was simply not an option. If there is one thing I hate, than it’s probably seeing opportunities getting lost. Silver plates getting tossed on the floor, now that’s that shit Ì don’t like!
The minute I walked out the meeting, I mailed my contact at SONY to inform them that it was impossible for me to arrive at the timing they scheduled me but that I was willing to drop by right before or right after the show if they’d still have me. My contact at SONY told me that this might not be an option but that he would keep me informed. This is the time when I decided I had to keep the contact with my brand new guy at SONY alive during the day. Hé was the one that will have to push me and my blog towards management, hé was the only one that could convince them to still receive me on a different timing. The thing is, if you have never met somebody in person, or you have never worked together before, it’s very hard to convince people to do that little extra sometimes. So I tried to warm up my contact at SONY, to keep him motivated to pitch my request to ASAP’s management by sending motivational text messages from time to time during the day. And you know what? It helped! Because by the time I left work I received a text message that my request was approved and I could stop by after the show. Praise the lord!
So with that great news me and my friend Aicha who assisted me on this story raced to Brussels. When we arrived at the ANCIENNE BELGIQUE venue, we found ourselves a comfortable place at the balcony and waited for Rocky to pop out. I can count the times on my hand when I just have to go to a concert and not worry for a Polaroid. This might seem strange for some of you, especially since I encountered some pretty big artists by now, but believe me, I still have to work damn hard for every Polaroid. Every story I have to begin from zero, so I was very happy to have things go like this for a change. Also, I was somewhat flattered, because apparently my little blog was the only medium in Belgium that they had approved!! So yeah, I was a bit high on Pola up there on that balcony. Suddenly I received another text message from my contact at SONY, telling me that his phone battery was going flat, so he suggested to meet up with me right after the concert at the PA area in the venue. This is when my first little alarm bells went up. I did not know how this guy looked like and the fact that his phone was down slightly worried me, but I ignored these uncertainties and I was ready to enjoy the concert. I took some pictures during the concert but the stage was a bit foggy and I did not manage to get some shots without Rocky having ‘illuminati’ eyes so I’m not really satisfied with these images.
Now about the concert. Was it good? Honestly, I expected something better … It seemed a bit sloppy. I noticed there was still some work with his voice and his overall stage performance, and I think the sound and light setting could have been better. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect a billion dollar show, I can appreciate less is more, but even ‘less is more’ is a style that requires a certain sense of perfection … Overall, I believe ASAP still needs to work on his live performance for bigger venues, all million dollar deals aside, he is still a fresh and new artist, other artists have toured for years before they get somewhat of a break, and this PMF is suddenly selling out shows all over the world, I think a bit unprepared. I don’t think that the fact that his music is labeled smoke rap is an excuse to hide behind opinions like: “You can expect that from that type of artist”. I saw Wiz Khalifa in concert not very long ago and that was a very focused set with everything in place and a great stage performance, and we all know, that man smokes a lot of weed. I genuinely believe that ASAP could grow out to become a very interesting artist in the future, and that he is able to bring a very tight and sharp performance, but for now, there is still a few things he needs to work on. That’s my honest opinion, time will tell if I was wrong or right I guess. ☺
Now, my contact from SONY told me to meet up with him at the PA right after the concert. Thing is, that the concert ended a bit weird. Meaning: a ton of people on the stage with ASAP then leaving the stage without really greeting the audience and his DJ ASAP J Scott finishing the show with a selection of beats. So was this concert finished…or what? My alarm bells were ringing in my ears and I told Aicha that I felt more comfortable to go to the PA already and be on the lookout for my contact at Sony. When I arrived at the PA, the venue was still dark, the PA didn’t really knew the concert was over or not, so they kept the lights out. I looked around and I could not see anybody waiting or looking out for anybody like I was doing.Take the fact that I didn’t knew who I was looking for and you might slowly get where this is going to… Exactly. Disaster.
I became super nervous because I could already envision before my eyes that I would miss out on another opportunity because of a dead phone battery, so I quickly browsed through Facebook hoping I would find my contact on it. After a few minutes I found him and I told Aicha that we were looking for a bald guy – mid 30’s – with glasses. We immediately scanned the perimeter but there was nobody with those features to be seen. By that time the PA put on the lights, the DJ had left the stage and me and Aicha and a handful of people were the only ones left standing in the venue. I knew that it would only be a matter of minutes before security starts to clear the venue and I know by experience, you can tell to security that you are the pope, Obama or Fidel Castro, not one of them gives a damn. They just think you are a crazy fan or some of those weird people who liked to hang in empty concert venues.It was clear my contact wasn’t going to show up on time and I had no way of contacting this man, because yeah, his phone was dead.
This situation was too surreal, for the second time of the day, timing took away my opportunity and I was not taking it well. Nor was I planning to leave it like that and have Lady Fortune fuck me over because of it, so I told Aicha: “Look, we HAVE to find this dude, so I don’t care if we have to ask a hundred people, but WE WILL FIND THIS DUDE.” We started with the guy behind the PA and asked him if he didn’t knew anybody at SONY. He didn’t. On to the next guy who obviously worked at the venue and was geared with a walkie-talkie. I asked this man if he happened to know my guy from SONY and he replied very uninterested that he did not knew who I was looking for and that his job is mainly lighting. By that time, security asked us to leave the venue so any chance to meet up with my Sony contact at our meeting point disappeared in front of my eyes. When the doors from the venue closed behind me I was so mad, I could not believe that this was happening to me, I mean, does it àlways have to be this hard, I mean damn, give me break?!
We were standing in the bar were a small crowd was still partying a bit, but I didn’t let this distract me and I decided to ask the girl who sells drink tickets if she wouldn’t happen to know my contact over at SONY, but yeah, she had no clue. I was almost losing faith when me and Aicha decided to ask security again for their help, since they were the only ones who had walkie talkies and we figured that they could communicate our request through their intercom. We explained it to one security man, who transferred us to another security man who advised us to go to their big boss and ask hìm for help. So we were standing in the Ancienne Belgique entrance hallway explaining for the 6th time that we had an appointment with this fella from SONY, that he looked like this and this, showing his last text message and the email communication we had before that. Thank god, the head of security from Ancienne Belgique believed us, because this is always the tricky thing, security always look at you like you are some coo-coo fan asking them to bring you in contact with the artists. Understandable of course, they experience this on the daily, but it makes it extra hard to convince security to do more than what they are supposed to do, which is; clear the venue, scan for pro-tool cameras, carry away fainted fans and safely escort artists out of the venue. Anything else than that, they probably will not participate in. Not this guy; he told us to wait while he was going to check the backstage area to see if he could find my contact. So while I was standing there, waiting, I turned around and I found myself standing right before the glass door that is an official entrance for AB staff to go backstage and also the only front-door dancers, musicians and entourage use to go to their tour bus that is mostly parked right in front of the AB venue and I could not believe my eyes…. Was that A$AP sneaking out the venue with his leopard Supreme towel hanging over his face? RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME???!! This was too insane for words. I even doubted that it actually happened! I mean I saw him in a split second, did this really happen?! Aicha came back from getting us a drink and I told her, slightly in shock: So uhm…I just think I saw ASAP leaving the building. In front of my eyes.”
It looked like Lady Fortune was pulling out some practical jokes on me again and trust me, I had just digested the whole Kanye – paintball – pizza story, so yeah, I was not amused. At all. I was still processing what happened when a very friendly and professional official spokesperson from the AB arrived and told me that he heard my request and that he would love to help me but that unfortunately the backstage area was completely empty and my contact from Sony already left the venue. I looked outside and I realised that with all those people hanging around the tour bus, hustling myself into a bus was going to be very difficult, and I could not help it anymore and I said: “I simply can not believe this, the only time in my blog ‘career’ I am the only medium allowed to have a 1 to 1 with a top emerging artist and THIS happens. Just. Shoot. Me. Now.” The AB spokesperson felt genuinely sorry for me and I could see him thinking how he could help me out when he turned around and said: “LOOK! There is somebody outside from his management, if you really have an appointment, he should know all about it, follow me, I’ll introduce you!!” Me and Aicha followed him outside and a tall male wearing a colourful knitted sweater was talking with some girls when the AB spokesperson interrupted him and told him that we had an official request for him that he needed to look into. His name was Rudy and he looked up at me, told me to wait a few minutes while he rounded up his conversation with a few girls he was talking to. He turned around, smiled and said: “Yes, how can I help you?” I told him that I had an appointment earlier that day for a Polaroid with ASAP but that misfortune messed up the meeting and I was hoping that there was still a possibility for a Polaroid somehow. Rudy got interrupted again right before I was ready to show him my Polaroids and said: “Hold on, I’ll come back.”
Again, I was standing there, waiting with no clear answer, and I was slowly going mental. He came back and I immediately showed him the Polaroids from former featured artists when he said: “Ow yes, of course, don’t worry, you don’t have to show me, I know everything about it!” Ok then….That’s a first. And so it happened, in a split second, Lady Fortune pulled a 360 on me and things were looking much much brighter. Rudy asked us to follow him and escorted us behind the black bus, mumbled what the damn security code for the bus was again, pushed some buttons and voila … OPEN SESAME! A seriously looking bodyguard gave us a severe screening while we entered the small bus and said: “HOLD IT RIGHT THERE, DON’T GO ANY FURTHER.” Aicha and me cringed, slowly turned around and looked at him when he started laughing and said: “Nah man, I’m fooling with yall, you can go in there.” I opened the door and I found myself in a tiny bus kitchen area the size of a double seated train coach with two little sofas, barely big enough to sit in and a 1m length, 50cm large standing area and 3 faces staring curiously at me, one of them being ASAP. Showtime I guess. ☺
Rudy introduced me to ASAP’s manager Geno and while we were shaking hands and I introduced myself Geno said: “Oh yes, ofcourse, I was looking forward to meeting you. I have been looking at your blog and reading through it last night and I really liked it. I think it is interesting what you do, and I can imagine fans really like it. It’s …. little, and we appreciate the little things.” This made me totally speechless, the bus was completely silent when he spoke as well, plus, I became completely shy because I was genuinely really flattered and happy to have this man give his opinion about something I worked very hard on for the last few years and not only giving his opinion but actually understanding the core concept. That’s when Rocky joined the conversation shrugged and said; “What can I say, we like the little things, the little things are important.”
So, after this little introduction, I immediately got to work. I explained that Aicha was there to take a picture of me taking the Polaroid. I explained that I had two cameras with me, because my film is fickle and expired and that I might have to switch cameras. I also explained them that we would do a testshot because a tiny tourbus with no light bus is not exactly ideal and that after my testshot I would have to change film, since I don’t waist film and I use every single Polaroid. They all looked at me very seriously and knodded. I was laughing a little inside, because I can come over as simply weird and a bit like a schoolteacher when I do my Polaroid thing, because if I don’t explain exactly what I have to do, artists might get a bit restless and don’t really understand what the heck I’m doing and I learned from the past that the better they are informed in advance what will happen, the better the result. So I showed Rocky what I made for him,
And proposed that it might be cool to use it for a testshot, since I wasn’t sure the camera would flash hard enough to see what was one the splif and I had one left-over Polaroid. His manager was a bit hesitant about the idea and for a second nobody really knew what to do with it, when Rocky said: “Fuck this, gimme that spliff, we’ll just do the shot. Damn G! Why you always have to make things more difficult than they are?” Rocky looked at me and said: “Let’s go”, while putting himself in the right profile, Rudy was nice enough to lit the splif:
I aimed my camera, counted to 3 and….
My Polaroid Image camera is an old little lady and takes some time charging her battery. This was the last film in the pack and the way the film came out, super slow and not instant after I pushed the button I immediately felt this was not going to be a good one. So I immediatly grabbed my other camera, a Polaroid 600 with a brighter flash, bùt with very fickle film from 2007, a year that is slightly risky when it comes to the color …. I aimed again, praid that this camera would not let me down and took another spliff shot. After that one came out, I put both Polaroids aside and switched up my film for my Image camera. I explained to Rocky that I mostly ask for the artist to do 2 different poses. He didn’t hesitate, pulled out a funny face and I took the shot. He wasn’t really convinced about that pose, so for the last shot, he did what he is known best for, raised his signature middle fingers and….
While we were waiting for the shots to come out, Rocky invited me to come sit with him and me and Aicha had the opportunity to have a nice little chit-chat with him, Geno and his DJ, ASAP J Scott. You can take that as in; sipping some champagne in plastic cups and have a smoke while trying to figure out how to play a game with a TinTin deck of cards and talking about random stuff like his love for Raf Simons & Belgian fashion in general. I asked him if he stopped by Maison Martin Margiela in Brussels, and he told me that he wasn’t able to go but that he was meeting with them in Paris the next day.
It was very laid back, and I was really impressed by his overall attitude, he was super nice, polite and genuinely friendly. Don’t be mistaken, he might portray himself as a walking sensimilla farm in his videos and press shots but to me he came over as a pretty smart fella. We looked at the Polaroids and we agreed upon the ones we would use and I put them safely away in my notebook when ASAP’s manager noticed my questions that I prepared. (It was never really clear if I would get an interview or not, so while driving to Brussels I decided to quickly prepare some questions anyway, just to be sure.) Geno noticed my scribbles and said: “Ow you already took some notes for your story?” I told him that it was an interview that I prepared, but I assured him that I don’t expect to have also another interview this late, and that I hope next time they will be in Belgium or I would be around in Europe , I could have a rain check on that, which Geno kindly agreed up on.
Before we left Rocky asked me if I could be so kind to roll a splif for him, which I did of course. It’s the least I could do. What!? I happen to know how to roll a spliff, yes, everyone has his vices, and this one is mine. Get over it. Go after all was said and done, me and Aicha shook hands, thanked everyone for their cooperation and kissed our goodbyes. Sure, we could easily hang a bit more, then again, it was a monday evening, the clock was ticking midnight and me and Aicha had a drive to Antwerp ahead of us. When we walked out the bus, there were still a dozen fans hanging around, curiously looking at us, and I must admit if felt good leaving the bus knowing that I worked very hard to get what I strived for.
Lady Fortune made sure I had everything working against me that day, shoving not one but two silver platters right under my nose, and then, tyrannically tossing them away, but I simply was not having it. I pulled out àll the stops to work against her and still force my way towards a Polaroid. They say timing is everything. Sometimes you win because of it. Sometimes you lose.
I guess this time I was a winner.
Always strive and prosper right?
Special thanks to Aicha, Dreea, Andrew & Sony Belgium who helped/contributed to this story.
I usually forget to ask for a picture with me and an artist and for some reason I’m also mostly super shy to even ask for one, I don’t know why, I’m already grateful that they give me some time and they cooperate in what I ask from them, so I always feel a little bit awkward if I then ask for more, so I mostly never ask. Stupid, I know.
But for this occasion, I leave you with this: