On Thursday night, A$AP Rocky sat down for a public chat in his native Harlem as a part of the Red Bull Music Academy New York festival. Speaking with veteran hip-hop journalist Chairman Mao, Rocky opened up about everything from growing up in Harlem, to recent incidents of police brutality, to coping with the death of one of his best friends, A$AP Yams. Here’s what we learned.


1. He learned about masculinity by watching dudes knock delivery guys off their bikes in Harlem.


When Rocky was 13, he lived in east Harlem and saw “a lot of crazy shit.” For instance, he used to watch older kids topple passing delivery guys to “test their strength.”

“I was a kid so I’m like, ‘That’s how a man shows his strength?” he said. “True story.”


2. He wants to act more, even though he admits it’s kind of boring.


Rocky will make his acting debut this year in the Sundance hit Dope, about a geeky kid who falls into business with a drug dealer (Rocky plays the drug dealer). Though he said he wants to do more acting in the future, Rocky admitted that the process wasn’t as glamorous as he thought it would be. “They make you say the same line over and over and over, even if you got it perfect,” Rocky said, adding that he often had call times as early as 5 a.m. on days when shooting wouldn’t start until 3 p.m. “They know they’re not gonna use [the footage], so I don’t know why they ask for the shit.”


3. He loves to ride to classical music because it makes him feel like a mobster.


“Sometimes I put on classical shit when I’m in an uber,” Rocky said with a laugh when talking about the kind of music he listens to. “It kinda makes you feel like a gangster on the way to a mob hit or something.”


4. He visits his grandmother in Harlem every Mother’s Day.


Rocky’s grandmother still lives in his old neighborhood and he usually visits her on Mother’s Day. Unfortunately for Mama Rocky, though, this year he said he won’t be in town ????.


5. But he doesn’t go to Harlem too much these days because it makes him depressed.


Rocky mentioned several times in the talk that he doesn’t think the Harlem he grew up in doesn’t exists anymore. He argued that the historically vibrant neighborhood has lost its character and that where once kids had fun in the streets there are now “police everywhere.”

“I came up here on the Fourth of July last year and didn’t see not one firecracker,” he said. “It’s sad, man.” He paused, then added “But it’s OK, I live in SOHO now.”


6. He used to be a big fan of Old Navy.

He used to be a big fan of Old Navy. Old Navy.

Rocky said his sense of style was influenced by watching hip-hop videos as a kid. “Hip-hop was really the first genre to really affiliate itself with specific brands,” he said, naming iconic ’90s fashion brands he would see in videos like Guess, Tommy Hilfiger, Adidas, Gap, and even Old Navy. “I used to be proud of my Old Navy, man.”


7. As an artist, he no longer feels any pressure to be “weird.”


When he was starting out, Rocky made a habit of referring to himself as a weirdo because of the way he dressed and the kind of music he listened to, but he’s done with that now. “I feel like nowadays everybody goes out of their way to be weird,” he said. “I’m just comfortable with myself and who I am.”


8. Mike Jones’s 2005 hit “Still Tippin’” changed his life.

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The influence of Houston hip-hop on Rocky’s music is well established, and while listening to the legendary Houston hip-hop group the Geto Boyz was his first exposure to the sound, it was “Still Tippin’” in 2005 that turned his world upside down. “Those guys were killing the game,” he said.


9. He thinks too many rappers from Atlanta sound the same.


Though Rocky acknowledged that “a lot of the most dope hip-hop is coming out of Atlanta,” he said too many rappers from the ATL are imitating each other, specifically comparing Que’s hit “O.G. Bobby Johnson” to Future’s “Sh!t.” In New York, he said, the scene might not be as hot, but artists — including Action Bronson, Bobby Shmurda, Joey Bada$$, French Montana, and A$AP Mob — have their own style.


10. But Trinidad James “deserved a lot more” thanwhat happened to him.


Rocky said he was a fan of James and lamented the fact that despite having had one of the biggest hits of 2012 in “All Gold Everything” his career quickly fizzled. “Where is he now?” Rocky, asked rhetorically. “This single shit don’t mean nothing. All these one hit wonders just [disappear], it happens all the time.

“It’s a question of Do you wanna make singles, or do you wanna make history?,” he continued. “You already know what I’m trying to do.”


11. He can make a not-totally-crazy connection between Miley Cyrus and recent media coverage of police brutality.


Asked for his thoughts on the recent spate of high profile killings of unarmed black men by police officers, Rocky said it was “fucked up” but pointed out that police have been mistreating black people for decades. “This shit’s been going on, it’s nothing new,” he said. “It’s almost like when Miley Cyrus started twerking and everybody started talking about twerking like it was this new thing. It’s like ‘No, it’s just twerking.’ History is repeating itself.”


12. Before his close friend and A$AP Mob co-founder A$AP Yams died, Rocky and Yams wrote out the blueprint for a second A$AP Mob mixtape.

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Rocky said he plans to execute it just as Yams intended.


13. Keeping himself busy has helped him cope with the loss of Yams.


Rocky said throwing himself into his album and other projects has helped keep him from despairing too much over Yams’ death. Another thing that has been a comfort is knowing that the two of them left things on good terms. “He was proud of me and he had my back 100%,” Rocky said. “If we had been in a fight or had a disagreement [just before he died] I would’ve felt like shit.”


14. He’s only “skimmed” the new albums by Drake and Kendrick Lamar.


Rocky said he liked Drake’s “Know Yourself” and that Kendrick’s To Pimp A Butterflywas “on another level,” although he found some of the jazz influences “overwhelming.” But he hasn’t given either of the albums a thorough listen, saying that he’s been too busy working on his own.


15. He doesn’t want to be the “King of New York”


“I’d rather be a prophet,” Rocky said. “When you’re a king you have too many responsibilities, and when the people get upset with you shit starts to get ugly.”