A$AP Rocky’s career has skyrocketed since he released the 2011 mixtape Live.Love.A$AP but during Wednesday’s episode of “RapFix Live,” the Harlem native took us on a tour of a few landmarks from his childhood — including his high school, the apartment he grew up in, and even a shelter his family once resided in — to show fans that struggle can breed great success.
MTV News’ Sway Calloway took the journey with Rocky, beginning with a visit to the Bayard Rustin High School for the Humanities on West 18th Street in New York City, where he admittedly spent more time checking for girls than worrying about grades.
“Sometimes we used to cut during lunch and go window shopping or try to boost something from Barneys,” Rocky said laughing, as he recalled his early passion for fashion. “I used to travel from the Bronx all the way down here and I’m be honest, we used to come to school to get girls and show off our outfits — that’s all we used to come to school for back in the day. I didn’t have to be in school all week, but once they gave a pop quiz I’d ace it.”
The next stop was an apartment building where he spent his formative years on 116th Street and Morningside Drive in Harlem.
“It hasn’t really changed much,” Rocky said, surveying the scene. “Every time I come, I hear the same stories: Somebody got shot, somebody had a baby, somebody went to jail.”
The moment got heavy when the 25-year-old rapper recounted that his brother lost his life just a few feet away from where they were standing. “Ricky, my older brother, he died on this block,” Rocky said, bringing back the painful memory. “He got shot right around the corner at 20 years old. I was going to school down the block at the time and I remember my mom rushed [over to tell me] ‘your brother just got shot.’
“He was so tough I thought he was gonna make it,” Rocky added. “I didn’t think he was gonna pass and but we were up the block at St. Luke’s [Hospital] and that’s when it happened. February 22, that’s when they announced it.”
Though he was 13 years old at the time, he clearly remembered how easy it was to fall into the trap of the streets.
“I never got in too deep to the point where I let it get the best of me,” he said. “Everybody’s dream is to make it big with that sh– and get out. I didn’t make it big so I got out.”
The last stop on the trip was the Volunteers of America shelter, on 104th Street and Broadway Avenue, where A$AP and his family temporarily resided when they couldn’t afford to live on their own.
“There was a lot of hard times in this place,” he said. “But it’s not the end of the world because life is what you make it. [There's] people out there who got it better but this is a place that helps women get on their feet — with government assistance and before you know it, things are alright.”
“It’s no different than living in the projects, but it ain’t easy and that’s when you start idolizing the drug dealers and the hustlers. If you’re from any kinda f—ed up environment, you idolize stupid sh–. Most people from that situation limit themselves when they idolize things and it’s not about hard work about dedication, it’s about power and being rich.”
Needless to say, A$AP Rocky made it out of struggle and onto greater things, and he hopes that his story will inspire other poverty stricken youth to do the same.