From the Rick Owens leathers to the Balenciaga finery, there's no denying A$AP Rocky is a certified fashion killa (you can check his influence in other rapper's closets). But the Harlem upstart spits more than designer labels from that gold-plated mouth. He followed his lean-drenched mixtape, Live.Love.A$AP, with a chart-topping debut that shows off his versatility and a penchant for crossing state lines when it comes to flow.
And while that helped Rocky to earn the title of #8 Hottest MC in the Game, Pretty Flacko's buzz and his grasp on the intangibles also put him in contention for our list. RapFix Blog Editor Nadeksa Alexis laughed, "I don't even know if we're still using the word 'swag,' but that's all him, and everyone sees that."
As further proof, she pointed to a surprising cameo in last year's "National Anthem" clip. "He was in Lana Del Rey's video as JFK. What black dude is in a video playing JFK?," she asked rhetorically. "He has something outside of hip-hop that everyone can see, and everyone wants a little bit of it."
Rihanna definitely wanted a little bit of it, literally and figuratively. "[A$AP] opened the VMAs with Rihanna — and grabbed her butt!" MTV News Senior Hip-Hop Writer Rob Markman reminded the roundtable. "Fashion icon, on tour with Rih Rih, this dude gets it in the studio and then knows how to work the angles outside of the studio with all his fashion influences and stuff like that. I think Rocky has done a tremendous job of penetrating the culture from different angles."
Selected Mixtapes: A$AP Mob's Lord$ Never Worry
Singles: "Goldie," "F---in' Problems" (featuring Drake, Kendrick Lamar and 2 Chainz)
Street Bangers: "1 Train" (featuring Kendrick Lamar, Joey Bada$$, Yelawolf and Danny Brown)
Key Guest Appearances: Schoolboy Q's "Hands on the Wheel," Rihanna's "Cockiness"
Meteoric Metrics: Debut album opened at #1 on the Billboard 200; second single, "F---in' Problems," topped out at #8 on the Hot 100 (giving Kendrick and 2 Chainz their first top-10 hits in the process)
Business Ventures: Recently filmed a spot for Adidas; unofficial face of your favorite European fashion house
Tours: Long Live A$AP Tour (with Schoolboy Q, Danny Brown and A$AP Mob); set to open for Rihanna on Diamonds Tour
Monumental Moment: After being tapped by Rihanna for her 2012 VMA-opening performance, the "Diamonds" singer asked him to join her on the road.
Forecast: With a globe-trotting run about to kick off and A$AP Mob homey Ferg already working his first street single, A$AP is primed to turn everything in his path purple.
Named for rap legend Rakim, the 24-year-old's face was plastered on seemingly every print rag in the last year, from rap mainstays like XXL to high-fashion French rags like Jalouse. And when he wasn't shooting videos in the streets of Paris, he was logging studio time with in-demand acts like Skrillex and Florence Welch. Still, these facts left some members of MTV's Hip-Hop Brain Trust uneasy.
"Everyone's talking about everything else but the rhymes and the bars: his fashion, and he did a song with Skrillex ... where's the heat, where's the bars?" asked a frustrated Renaud Jean-Baptiste, story producer for MTV2's "The Week in Jams." "This kid's biggest record? He has the weakest verse," he argued of "F---in' Problems," the #2 charting sophomore single off Rocky's Long.Live.A$AP.
MTV story producer Steven Roberts chimed in to "reluctantly agree with" Jean-Baptiste, saying, "If you do listen to that album, other people outshine him," citing "Problems" and "1 Train" as examples. This opposition ultimately set the stage for the previously eighth-ranked Big Sean to take the #7 spot, with Rocky holding strong at #8, ahead of Meek Mill (10) and Future (9).