Is Harlem catching wreck still? A$AP Rocky thinks so. And now the 23-year-old MC and his lean-loving, Always Strive and Prosper crew are angling for the baton that was carved and chiseled by Uptown captains the Diplomats. Truth be told, Dipset boss Jim Jones did as much for the rap relay when he briefly ceded the stage to the upstart and his team at the Dips' October reunion in New York. But while Rocky reps for the 1-2-5, his outlook is as much NY as it is TX.
His chopped-and-screwed flow propelled this summer's Deep Purple mixtape, a woozy piece of work that had the temerity to ride the Verve's indie staple on "New York Bittersweet Symphony." Of course, that tape also gave us the inescapable "Purple Swag" and helped A$AP Rocky earn a shot at MTV News' 2011 Hottest Breakthrough MC title.
"It came so natural, the Southern flow," the rapper said of his penchant for blurring borders, on Shade 45. Midwest '90s rap outfit Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and Houston heroes like UGK are clear influences. "I just made my own lane."
His haze-inducing, Mixtape Daily Award-winning project, Live.Love.A$AP follows in the Houston-by-way-of-Harlem vein, as the "pretty" MC with the fat plaits gets a major assist from beatsmith Clams Casino on tracks like the rock-hard "Palace." (Schoolboy Q and A$AP associates Twelvy and Ferg also drop memorable features.)
But don't let the syrup fool you, A$AP (born name: Rakim Mayers) is very much a product of his Harlem 'hood, and he pays tribute in his "Peso" video: bodega windows papered with lottery scratch-off tickets, malt liquor bottles at a dice game and rolling MTA buses all make for a familiar backdrop.
Next up for Rocky is a compilation LP, Long.Live.A$AP, due spring 2012, and work on his solo album for RCA/ Polo Grounds, where the rap rookie was drafted for a cool $3 million. Oh, did we forget to mention that Drake recruited him and fellow Hottest Breakthrough nominee Kendrick Lamar for his Club Paradise Tour? "I'm trying to earn the right to call myself A$AP Drizzy one day," the YMCMB spitter joked in backstage footage.
How trill is that?
Hottest Breakthrough MCs was established in 2010 by MTV News as a fan-driven initiative that spotlights, celebrates and cultivates new talent. MTV News chose a pool of young rappers and urged fans to vote for their favorite. When it was all said and done, Wiz Khalifa emerged as the Hottest Breakthrough of last year. This year, you can vote for A$AP (or your favorite up-and-comer) over at RapFix.MTV.com, and be sure to check back for daily updates and poll results.
Each day, we'll spotlight a new Hottest Breakthrough MC before we conclude Tuesday when the polls close at 11:59 p.m. ET. The 2011 Hottest Breakthrough MC will be revealed during Wednesday's "RapFix Live," during which the winner will appear as our in-studio guest. There will also be a special announcement about MTV News' upcoming Hottest MCs in the Game list and debate.
To be considered a Hottest Breakthrough MC, an artist cannot have released a major-label full-length album. Finalists from 2010's Hottest Breakthrough MCs poll are not eligible for 2011 consideration.
Who do you think should be 2011 Hottest Breakthrough MC? Share your picks in the comments!
Stick with MTV News as we profile the 2011 Hottest Breakthrough MCs before announcing the winner this Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET on "RapFix Live" — vote now!