It started from emptiness -- empty beds, really, on A$AP Rocky's tour bus while globetrotting as the opener on Rihanna's Diamonds tour, and Vice Media's music channel Noisey had its first feature-length film. The documentary, titled SVDDXNLY (pronounced "Suddenly") will be released in five parts on Noisey beginning Aug. 5.
"He's been on a rapid rise, and it's kind of the thing about the film title -- it may not be so straightforward, but he rose to fame overnight," director and producer David Lavin told The Hollywood Reporter at a special screening of SVDDXNLY in full at Vice's headquarters in Brooklyn. What began as a small project evolved quickly. "Literally, two days in, ... Rocky was just like, 'Can you guys just stay with us the whole tour?' ... We came back and started editing, and this seven-minute piece we were going to make turned into an hour-long film."
The doc project marks a checkpoint in Rocky's career rather than a culmination of it. Since the release of 2011's Live. Love. A$AP mixtape, he has indulged in high fashion, high-profile collabs and high expectations, among other highs. "I made The New York Times before I had a record deal," Rocky says onscreen as one of his signature braids dangled loosely, a glass of white wine and a blunt at hand.
Besides following the 25-year-old Harlem emcee on tour and recapping Rocky's road to stardom (which required avoiding the gang life that led to his older brother's death), the doc also introduces the familiar faces in the A$AP Mob — the artists, managers and personnel that complete the brotherly set. Since Rocky's multi-million dollar record deal and 2013 release of Long. Live. A$AP, the charismatic Pretty Flacko has remained relatively quiet, with other A$AP Mob members sharing singles and albums of their own — all of which, Lavin told THR, Rocky has been part of in some way.
Lavin gelled with the Mob quickly, bonding over downtown sensibilities and learning the crew's handshake, seen frequently onscreen. "The whole crew is just so inviting and open," he said. "Obviously, don't cross them. They're like any group of friends. But like [Rocky] said in the film, 'You need to be friends with me in order for us to have a working relationship,' and that's kind of how it was. We just vibed immediately. I was actually bugged out. It was crazy how quick they brought us into their family."
SVDDXNLY also previews tracks from Rocky's upcoming instrumental album Beauty & The Beast: Slowed Down Sessions (Chapter 1), which, Rocky explains in the doc, is "how music is supposed to sound" and will "bring it back to that first time you got high," with a heavy hypnotic Houston-influence that's more or less audio purp. He also notes that the album features no samples, and earned praise from Macklemore when the tour stopped in Seattle: "That's a fuckin' great beat."
Other notable doc appearances include Drake, Rihanna, Jeremy Scott, Kathy Griffin and a wisdom-spouting Snoop Dogg, who urges Rocky to embrace the tour's opener role. It was a new and rare lesson for the young rapper to learn while taking a backseat in the interest of greater exposure.
"I always hoped I'd be famous -- I always thought I would, I always imagined I would," Rocky says via voiceover in the film's opening. "I always felt it could happen, but I never knew how it would or how it would feel."