The behind-the-scenes mogul of the A$AP Mob was more than a manager. His fingerprints are all over hip-hop’s current landscape.
This weekend, Steven Rodriguez, better known to hip-hop fans as A$AP Yams, died at the age of 26. The founder and behind-the-scenes leader of the A$AP Mob, the rap stable that includes stars A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg, Yams helped shift rap’s mainstream to the geographically-agnostic internet-bred New New York style of Rocky, while rarely rapping a bar himself.
Fans and friends tweeted and Instagrammed their condolences:
While letting those tributes speak for themselves, we’ve decided to do what we used to do here at Chart and bring you 6 reasons A$AP Yams was cool.
1) He believed in the A$AP vision from the start
Before he even met A$AP Rocky, A$AP Mob’s breakout star, Yams had a vision. While working as an intern for Diplomats Records (home of Dipset), Yams got “A$AP” tattooed on his arm. He was 17 years old. Since he came up with the name (which stands for “Always Strive and Prosper), he called himself the RZA of the group.
2) He was Yoda meets Irv Gotti
Yams rarely rapped himself, but he put the pieces in place for A$AP Mob’s eventual ascent. He assembled the mob, started their A$AP Worldwide label imprint, and handpicked the beats for Rocky’s first mixtape. When he wasn’t comparing himself to Yoda, he was emulating other behind-the-scenes moguls like Damon Dash, Puff Daddy(without the spotlight hogging turn) and Irv Gotti. The latter even inspired his eulogy instructions:
3) He was the architect of A$AP’s borderless sound
When he first started getting buzz online with the chopped-and-screwed “Purple Swag,” A$AP Rocky was both celebrated and criticized for sounding ‘too Southern’ for a kid from Harlem. But Yams, whose musical education started on Napster and in Yahoo chat rooms, saw how out of touch that mode of thinking was. “First of all, Rocky is New York rap,” he told the Village Voice in 2012. “He’s what a 20-something-year-old kid from Harlem sounds like. We had 30 young dudes on the corner shooting dice with 40s and Timbs, shots of Harlem. It was our New York.”
4) He had one of the best music Tumblrs of all time
Though it was a bit of a covert marketing tool, A$AP Yams’ RealNiggaTumblr was an encyclopedia of hip-hop’s past, present and future. So when he used it to post Rocky’s debut single, it blew up right away, soon scoring him a huge major label payoff. So it’s no surprise Complex named it one of the best Tumblrs of all time.
5) He was a starmaker
While curating his Tumblr and leaving comments all over the internet, Yams had footprints on a lot of the rising hip-hop of the last half-decade or so, even beyond the A$AP umbrella. He started Yamborghini Records to work with artists like Vince Staples and Joey Fatts.
6) And sometimes he was the star
Beyond one showcase under his own name, A$AP Yams rarely got on the mic. Still, he was one of the most recognizable members of the crew, not just because of his distinctive birthmark on his face. And so he made eye-grabbing cameos in the videos for both “Peso” and “Purple Swag.”