150 Pop Stars' Real Names
RAKIM MAYERS (a.k.a. A$AP Rocky)

"My mixtape is better than a lot of people's albums," A$AP Rocky declares two days after the release of his much-anticipated mixtape debut, Live Love A$AP (Oct. 31). Before signing a $3 million deal with RCA-distributed Polo Grounds Music-and before the notable co-signs ( Lil Wayne, Drake, Jim Jones) rolled in-the 23-year-old rapper had independently charged up buzz for himself and his crew.

Soon after the rapper debuted his video for the track "Purple Swag," A$AP was courted by several labels, including Polo Grounds. "It didn't sound like anything that was coming from New York," says Bryan Leach, president of Polo Grounds and senior VP of urban of RCA, of the artist's doozy, speedy raps over spacey soundscapes inspired by Houston rap. "I haven't seen anybody with this hustle and spirit since I signed Lil Jon and Pitbull, or since I witnessed the beginnings of Kanye West as an artist."

A$AP was hesitant about signing on the dotted line, however, telling Leach that he "didn't want to sign with a label. I'm not in a rush. There are other things I want to do," Leach recalls A$AP telling him. Leach also wanted to ensure A$AP was the "real deal." So the two Harlem natives spent a few weeks talking music and lifestyle before A$AP ultimately signed.

The $3 million deal is between Polo Grounds/RCA and A$AP's company, A$AP Worldwide. Under the agreement, the rapper's first two releases are "Live Love A$AP" and a full-length album slated to drop at the top of the year. In keeping with the rapper's independent spirit, he can also continue to release mixtapes through RED Distribution.

"I don't have a $3 million dollar balance in my account but the record deal was $3 million though," A$AP tells Billboard. "I got a deal with RCA/Polo Grounds for A$AP Worldwide and I got a deal with them for my solo project, my solo deal; if you combine both deals it amounts to a three million dollar deal."

In fact, A$AP is in the studio working on a compilation mixtape, "Long Live A$AP," which will feature his newly signed A$AP Worldwide artists A$AP Ferg, A$AP Nast, A$AP Twelvyy and SpaceGhostPurrp. Before dropping his yet-to-be-titled debut set, A$AP plans to release a deluxe edition of his current mixtape that will be marketed and sold commercially similar to Drake's "So Far Gone."

After all, A$AP says, "My mixtape is a classic. It's only right to put it out at retail."

Questions? Comments? Let us know: @billboard

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