A$AP Rocky’s year has been full of big ups and a down

A$AP Rocky has had a smoking year, despite the death of his best friend in January. (Dexter Navy / Courtesy photo)
A$AP Rocky has had a smoking year, despite the death of his best friend in January. (Dexter Navy / Courtesy photo)

By Ashley Dean

A$AP Rocky’s 2015 started out at the lowest of low points, with the death of the 26-year-old rapper’s best friend and collaborator, A$AP Yams, in January.

Four months later, Rocky released At.Long.Last.A$AP, the highly anticipated follow-up to his 2013 major-label debut, Long.Live.A$AP. In the intervening time, “Dope” (a film featuring Rocky) premiered at Sundance Film Festival and he showcased his own cinematic efforts in two music videos. He’s also made appearances on late-night shows, in an episode of “Comedy Bang! Bang!,” he remains a presence in the fashion world and he was just in Los Angeles working with the whole A$AP Mob.

Now he’s on a tour that will bring him around North America — stopping at Red Rocks Amphitheatre tonight — with co-headliner Tyler, The Creator, and support from Vince Staples and Danny Brown. During a multiple-week break in the middle of that tour, he’ll bounce around Europe with Wiz Khalifa.

With only one day to go before the start of the tour, Rocky was characteristically calm, cool and reflective.

So here you are about to headline Red Rocks on a tour with some of the hottest rappers right now and another critically praised album packed with talented guests. Does anyone still accuse you of being a swag rapper?

Yeah, of course. I am, but that’s not all. I can’t help what I have.

Do you worry about changing that perception?

Nah, not necessarily at this point.

This huge year started out badly, with the death of your friend Yams. Has that changed how you’ve approached things? Does it make you feel differently about your career or your success?

I feel like this is such a great year, despite that. I worked hard for the past year, and two years, now it’s all showing and prevailing. I think I would obviously feel better if my best friend was still alive … It did change a lot. I try to live life a little more now. I have a little more fun, take pictures of memories and cherish moments, and don’t take people and time or life for granted. I’m quite sure it will be (reflected). I learned a lot of lessons. Life is just one big learning experience. It’s a journey. You just gotta learn from other people’s mistakes and your own.

Do you think At.Long.Last.A$AP was more personal, more real than Long.Live.A$AP? If so, what made it that way?

Yeah, 100 percent. I think this one was where I was just like, “Reveal it all, explain it all, tell it all, be yourself.”

Does that come from kind of removing yourself from the public eye, from the industry?

I was just working. I was creating and I was busy. But I think success sometimes is like the biggest drug, and drugs you should take in moderation. I don’t lose myself I just lose the universe, that’s it. I’m not the lost one.

So what’s next? I heard you’ve been working more with Danger Mouse.

I have a few things cooking. I was just out in L.A. working with the whole A$AP Mob … The whole mob is working on projects. Everybody’s together and getting it. It feels good.

What about big picture? Where do you see yourself headed?

I guess I got a sense of what I would like and what I would want. I’m willing to take whatever is given to me. I work hard for the best, to make my music. I try to make the best of the best music of artists of my era who actually try to do the same thing. 2015 was such an amazing year for music.

Vince Staples was among those who released a great album this year. Do you look to peers like him for inspiration?

Vince is one of my favorite artists right now. I think he’s really cool and I think his music is amazing. I just wanna make a show. I don’t really know how I could benefit off what he does. It’s his own thing. I think it’ll put together an amazing tour. I wanted to bring out people who reflect the type of music I want to make. Music that reached mainstream success without being mainstream — that’s the culture I want to make.

Do you consciously try to avoid or make mainstream hits?

It’s just where I was for the album. It’s not where I am now. I don’t think you purposefully think, ‘I’m not gonna make this song so it sounds mainstream.’ You start to make the body of work and you start to think … it is what it is.

I’ve heard you talk before about how your music isn’t geographically rooted, how it’s not just New York. Do you still feel that way?

I think you got rappers in the game who are prideful in where they come from and motherfuckers are proud of their background and upbringing and shit, and you got artists that make music that identifies with people and culture. I can’t determine what people think when they hear me now. I think people don’t listen to people who say, “I need that new Atlanta sound,” or New York. It’s so universal at this point.

There’s so much variety and so many options, there’s so much music and so many different artists. Fashion, entertainment, music, art, theater, feature films — it’s all been done. Everything’s been done and it repeats itself. I just like to find originality in all the options. I was talking to Jeremy Scott (and) he was like, “There’s no new fashion.” Everything that you like has been done, three times, four times, once, twice. It’s been done. You can alter it a little different and dress it different, but it’s still the same garments, still the same fabrics, still the same ideas.

Do you worry about creating something original?

I don’t worry about doing it; I just do it. It’s like this, right: I’m here to make music, and I think if it gets to a point where — I hope this day never comes — but where my music bothers people or doesn’t continue to inspire and doesn’t have a purpose, then I don’t have a purpose in doing this. There’s no reason. If they didn’t like it, there’d be no reason. But I feel like there are people who really love my s-t, and I just gotta keep raising the bar and keep doing my thing. It’s fun, and it’s supposed to be fun.

HeyReverb.com is The Denver Post’s music blog.

If you go

What: A$AP Rocky and Tyler, the Creator

When: 7 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 30

Where: Red Rocks Ampitheatre, 18300 W. Alameda Parkway, Morrison

TIckets: Start at $45

Info: redrocksonline.com

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