Special Edition featuring A$AP TyY
Interview curated by Cedric Dladla
Photographed by Jon M. Dailey III
"The culture that Harlem brings is just big and being part of the mob is a blessing. We were just a group of kids that had a passion, who believed in certain things and we stood for to what we believed in, kept going and here we are today."
Throughout American history, Harlem is a borough that has housed a pallet of life-changing moments. From Civil Rights gatherings and protests against the perils of oppression to maundering a corrupt justice system and circumstances designed to fill the prison system with untapped black potential, the faces of Harlem culture have changed, yet every one of them has strived and prospered.
What has been relegated as a project gave itself a definitive stake in shaping global pop culture through the historical landmark that is Hip-hop. Unbeknownst to the evolution of Harlems history, a location, a street called 1840 lex would birth a daring, energetic, diverse jack of all trades and leader of the Bike Life Movement A$AP TyY.
Born Tyrone Walker on the 21st of May 1990, the Harlem MC, Style Icon, and avid ATV Rider is setting his sights on elevating his brand with debut album 1840 Lex. Building an illustrious track record of world tours, fashion collaborations, and pushing the boundaries of an extreme sports lifestyle, his applied patience and efforts to finding his groove have resulted in a record deal with AWAL.
With smash singles “1990” and “100 Rounds” leading the rollout campaign of 1840 Lex A$AP TyY shed more light on the album, future plans, growing in Harlem, how he got signed, his latest style collaboration, and the impact of the pandemic on his life.
Being born into one of the 5 boroughs that birthed Hip-Hop and led the Golden Era that catapulted rap culture into global prominence, what was growing up in Harlem like? Were you aware at any point that you are in a history making environment?
Growing up in Harlem just brought different ethnicities together, so first and foremost I met different groups of people on my journey. Even some of the street pioneers who made it (Harlem) famous I can say today, Dapper Dan, A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg, Frank Lucas, they inspired me to know that I was going to be a part of history just knowing, the culture and the blood, sweat and tears that was embedded in me as a kid. You know just growing up in these streets the things you can learn in the street corner, things you can learn in the park maybe, from a homeless person, just the culture that Harlem brings is just big and being part of the mob is a blessing. We were just a group of kids that had a passion, who believed in certain things and we stood for to what we believed in, kept going and here we are today.
Before the allure of being and music, the ruff ryder anthem that inspired you to be a biker and exposure of fashion that inspires your creative direction, was there anything else you may have wanted to be or was it a unanimous decision from a young age to be creative?
Everyday I’m learning and I remember my mom saying “You’re going to be an one day adult soon” and I felt like that happened within the course of like 10 years in a sense even though I was a kid when she said but time flew so fast that before I knew it I was on stage in Madison Square Garden so, I can definitely say it was definitely not something I can say I was prepared for. I’m still learning day in day out. It happened so fast that, it’s like I’m still waking up from a dream.
Did the subject matter of Notorious B.I.G, Dipset, Jay Z and Big L influence the drive that would throw you headfirst into the vigor of being a hustler and an independent man from an early age?
Well obviously, hearing these guys, and the topics they mentioned in their raps carved me through the streets in a sense. Jay-Z being a billionaire a major entrepreneur is inspiring. Big L actually has some type of bloodline in my family, so he’s always been an inspiration in my life. Me and Biggie Smalls actually have the same birthday, I’m a Gemini, we both born on May 21st so he always been a big inspiration. Also, guys like 50 Cent and people who carved a way and jumped into other joint ventures have always inspired me. I definitely put my hats down to those guys and they definitely played a played a major part and major role in my life.
What has been the one take away from the street life that made you Strive and Prosper beyond the hood? What element of the hustle do you still use in your rise to global prominence?
I’m a people person, so going around and partying going to certain clubs and gatherings at the Boys & Girls Clubs and certain activities generally made me the person I am. I look at everybody as an equal so me opening my eyes to things like that kind of carved me to this whole world of understanding people struggle in relation to my own.
Whether it be musically, fashion, lifestyle or influence your contribution to the powerhouse that is A$AP Mob is undeniable, do you feel any pressure being part of the collective that sets the international aesthetic tone of Harlem Culture?
Its pressure on everyone, but like I feel God wouldn’t put you through anything you can’t get through, so I try not to look at it like it pressure I just look at it like I have a job and I have expectations and I just have to conquer them. I’m just happy to be a person that people look up to as a role model or a hero, and I’m just working day in day out to just fulfill these people every time I see them.
Yams day has enjoyed years of success and the love from the culture to honor the memory of A$AP has been pulpable, how do you feel about the continued love shown for this platform? Has it given you closure and healing from the loss of Yams?
It’s a process going through day-by-day Yams not being here physically but mentally, the people he inspired all over the world and all the good things they have to say about this man makes his name live. on. You know what I’m saying, I’ve seen Yams in a lotta people everyday that I speak to and they probably don’t even know that. If you have a dream and you have a vision and you trying to be someone great and the best at whatever you doing than you remind me of a person like Yams. If you never took no for an answer, you remind me of a person like Yams. If you ever been through struggles and you feel like there was no way out but you make one, you remind me of a person like Yams. So there’s a lotta people that I can see this guy in and his legacy will never be forgotten.
Despite the various sonic eras we have witnessed in the growth of hip-hop what would you say is that special ingredient that makes the world look up and say “You can only find this in Harlem and nowhere else”?
I think us as Harlem and New York as a whole, we’re trendsetters in a sense a lotta people come to us for whatever needs to be popping whether its style whether its street culture or on a professional level. I think the culture of Hip-Hop itself imitates what goes on in Harlem and the New York City Streets. This is something that has been going on for years looking at the greats from New York City, I won’t say we’re the people who started it but we’re the people who carved it out for this generation. Just setting trends and having the culture on our back and everybody else kind of taking what’s coming from Harlem I feel we’ve sparked a lot.
From the selection of who to collaborate with and how your product rollout is delivered you have a knack of pushing the boundary of unique, what filters your creative process in terms of fashion?
A lot of my stuff is organic, I tend to not try and put so much pressure on myself I like to do things organically. One thing that helps me is that I like to go off feelings and emotions. Sometimes when I go in studio and make some of this music is not actually written yet, it’s me going off of feeling maybe I had a great call or maybe I had a bad call, maybe I’m in the studio with this guy or maybe I happen to be in studio with this guy it really goes off an emotion and I try not to be pre-meditated.
Between The Paris Fashion Week, The Kid Super Collab Custom Ski Mask, The Custom A$AP TyY Air Force Ones and the brand relationship with drop TV what has been your most memorable and challenging product to create?
I remember doing this collaboration with this detailed car company out in London wrapped with my name on it. That was one of the most remarkable moments because I was actually riding around in a car that had my name on the side of it, after all of the hard work that was put into that project. It was a moment never to forget that was one of the most craziest moments to ever happen and shout out to my manager for making that happen.
Have you come across any gatekeeping in the fashion world? Folks who may feel that your craft doesn’t belong on the runway because of external factors that overlook your artistic credibility?
I think its just a part of getting people to understand that the way I come off is something that you probably wouldn’t have seen before so you might have a different expectation or understanding who I am as a person. It is cool with me because I’m a different type of breed, so I really don’t mind educating people and teaching them the ropes of who I am as person and my purpose on this earth.
How did the deal with AWAL come about and what has it meant for the vison you have for your upcoming projects?
AWAL came about organically, honestly, it was unexpected as it happened in the middle of a pandemic so I didn’t think I’d even have a conversation about having a deal knowing rap wouldn’t be the same through the pandemic. It’s truly a blessing shout out to AWAL. It started as a conversation with a group of friends who had contacts there but I once finally decided to meet up with them the rest was history, I’ve been blessed ever since.
Paying homage to where you come from with your new music also gives me the impression that it will be a bit more intimate and will allow us to get to know you more, would you say your new music is your most introspective work to date?
Yes, I can definitely agree upon that. My new music is some that is like truly from the heart, touching a lot of different topics. The world will hear more very soon it’s definitely some of my best work by far and there’s a lot more instore .
The music video for 100 Rounds features a subtle but impactful detail to it, the KSUBI Gold jewelery? Could you tell us more about how the collaboration come about? How did you meet Craig King Brad Triffitt?
I don’t even know where to start, there’s a lot of connections and ties to that, I was wearing KSUBI like 8 years ago, before I thought I could have a conversation with Craig and Brad. Over time that led to us being in partnership so shout out to the KSUBI Camp.
100 Rounds Music Video is an extension of how you have pioneered and grown bike culture in Harlem, where would you like Bike Life to be in the next 5 years, do you have plans to do a documentary to showcase it?
You can look forward to me showcasing my talents and actually showing my lifestyle and introducing the world to this bike life culture. As far as movies, shows, commercials so we’re definitely going to be tapping into a lotta those things.
How has the pandemic and the quarantine period affected your mental health and outlook on life? Did you learn anything new about yourself or did anything happen that made you feel like “okay from this point on I want to move differently, and live life more than I ever have”?
It touched a soft spot in my heart for the simple fact that, it made me want to be more closer to my peers, it gave me break from the hip-hop world and gave me time to be with my family and tap into the things that got me to the place that I am. I think some people get lost in the world so it was a gift and a curse in a sense cause I lost a lotta people that I truly loved and I gained a lotta new friendships also and I learned to navigate through this and it kind of prepared me for the worst in a sense because you don’t know when this life can be over
The concept of the video for “1990” tells an eccentric tale of ascension, was your end scene in the video reflective of how you choose to rise above what holds you back, was the ascension essentially about connecting with your higher self and finding out who you are and choose to be now?
Definitely, I think that was me more or less just tapping into my roots and really me finding myself in this dark world and I was expressing to the world a side of me that I don’t think people had seen yet. I got a lotta good feedback from it and you’ll hear more stuff about me just relating to the topics that I had and letting the fans know that I can relate to them going through things just like everybody else.
In Closing, is there any message you would like to share your fans and folks who may not be familiar with A$AP TyY and are well on their way to discovering and falling in love with your music and bike life?
Bikers never worry and always strive and prosper. Don’t ever let nobody tell you what you can do. Just believe in yourself and that’s all you need and one day you will truly live out all your dreams and accomplish your goals. Amen.
Photographer/Creative Director: Jon Dailey
Wardrobe Stylist: Devin Matthews
Asst. Wardrobe Stylist: Kirbe Hughes
Photography Assistant: Christopher “Kurisu” François
Olive Green: Dries Van Noten (top and bottom) (@driesvannoten)
Shoes: Air Force Ones
Denim Studded Jacket: Vinyl Articles
Black Boots: Aldo @aldo_shoes
Black Jacket: AKINGS @Akingsny
Black Boots: Aldo @aldoshoes
Leather Trucker Hat: Cowboy Studios : @925cowboy