Watch one of the earliest A$AP Rocky freestyles
(Credit: Chad Cooper)

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Watch one of the earliest A$AP Rocky freestyles

A$AP Rocky has become a new man to say the least. As a newfound father to Rihanna’s first child, the New York rapper has come a long way since his 2019 arrest in Stockholm for allegedly punching a fan in the face. That aside, the New York rapper has always been respected in the music business and has made exceptional music alongside incredible artists such as Skepta and Tyler, The Creator.

Rocky (real name Rakim Mayers) was born and raised in the Harlem neighbourhood of New York and first emerged with his crew, the A$AP Mobb, in 2011. Before the infamous “mumble rap” era, A$AP Mobb rose to fame at a similar time to the likes of Odd Future, Taylor Gang and Sad Boys in the early 2010s and was part of what some dubbed the “Harlem Renaissance”. Along with artists such as Teyana Taylor, Azealia Banks, and Princess Nokia, the early 2010s saw an influx of young black and Latino creatives rise out of Harlem, making the best alternative hip-hop.

Like their Harlem counterparts, A$AP Mobb was extremely popular nationwide, but especially in New York, as the city hadn’t produced any quality new artists since the early noughties. Rocky was featured on a number of collaborative projects the crew released in their early days. However, it seemed as if Rocky, in particular, was always preparing for a solo career as he would simultaneously put out his own solo material while other crew members did not.

The beginnings of Rocky’s career around 2011 saw him work extensively with Harlem producer Araab Muzik. In 2011, he released his debut mixtape Live. Love. ASAP. The mixtape was a fusion of classic East Coast hip-hop and “cloud rap”, an ambient and more celestial hip-hop style that emerged in the early 2010s. Rocky set himself apart from his crew, not just because of his sound but also due to his style. All of the artists birthed from the “Harlem Renaissance” were almost instantly welcomed into the world of fashion. With Azealia Banks asked to perform at Karl Lagerfeld’s birthday party in Paris and Princess Nokia getting front-row seats at New York Fashion Week, Rocky was also quickly embraced into the world of fashion arguably more than his crew members and seemed to take more of an interest in it than them as well.

One of Rocky’s first major gigs was at the Alife Rivington Club. An exclusive, limited edition, members-only trainer shop located on Rivington Street in Manhattan’s fancy Lower East Side neighbourhood. However, before all the fame and the fashion of the “Harlem Renaissance”, Rocky was just a normal kid freestyling on the street.

Take a look at one of Rocky’s first filmed freestyles in a cypher from 2010.