With Help From A$AP Mob, How Model Chynna Rogers Went From Addiction to Music

Chynna Rogers
Courtesy of Chynna Rogers

Chynna Rogers

Growing up in Philly, 22-year-old rapper and model Chynna Rogers wasn’t the average high school student. She signed to Ford Models at only 14 and as a teen was traveling to New York City on weekends to shadow A$AP Yams and hang out with the A$AP Mob.

“I went to A$AP Rocky's first stop in Philly ever when he only had one tape out [2011’s Live.Love.A$AP] -- I was in 10th grade at the time,” Rogers told Billboard. “I tweeted them pictures I took at the show.  I wanted to A&R and I was inspired by the way [A$AP Yams] went about molding Rocky's career.”

Once they connected, instead of enlisting Rogers for A&R, Yams pushed her to pursue the music she was writing. Rogers subsequently released viral hits “Selfie” in 2013 and “Glen Coco” in 2014 before releasing the I’m Not Here. This Isn’t Happening EP (a Radiohead reference), in July 2015.

While she delivers melodic flows inspired by the sophisticated cadence of Gucci Mane over brooding and atmospheric production akin to Clams Casino, Rogers is also known for her ability to meld the worlds of art and culture. Her 2016 release Ninety features artwork from the seventh studio album of ’80’s heavy metal band Blue Oyster Cult and she paid homage to Hitchcock with the bird-filled video for “The Conversation.”

Now based in New York's Chinatown, Rogers, who has modeled for DKNY, Sophie Theallet and Gypsy Sport, is dedicating herself to a project being released under 300 Entertainment. “I want to prove that beyond the fact that I can rap, can make songs, I’m a certain kind of writer, and I can write for other people.” Billboard spoke to Rogers about her journey from modeling to music, including her recovery from opiate addiction, which provided the inspiration for last year's mixtape, Ninety.

What was the significance of Ninety?

I try to drop something around my birthday every year as a way to document time for myself, and I was already planning on releasing a project. My birthday happened to be my 90 days sober date by chance, and the project that I was working on -- and still am working on -- just wasn't going to be done.

[Ninety] was very reflective of the time I had spent using. A lot of it was written at the darkest times of my opiate use. I saw sides of myself that I otherwise would have never seen. They're not sides that are particularly good, but sides that you need to see to know what you're capable of. After I put it out, I got hit up a lot by kids and even other artists and homies who originally didn't feel comfortable admitting they were going through the same things.

That was my goal with the project as well -- to let people know they weren't alone without having to make my whole career about being an anti-drug activist because I'm not that person. With making music, I have to share. It's about my life, but my personality is a lot more reserved. So I try to balance it out.

What was it like as an emerging artist to be part of the A$AP Mob? 

When I started coming to New York, I would run into members randomly. I was in the city one day and met producers A$AP P on the Boards and A$AP Ty Beats. Me and A$AP Ant [of skate brand Marino Infantry] bonded over Cam'ron. It was very organic and I was able to develop individual relationships.  I’m able to appreciate the work they’re putting in, to see how they all work with each other, and how they made these amazing new sounds that really crafted the way a whole generation of kids are dressing and making music.

It was also cool because I was very young. I was too young to get into these venues that I was going to. But it put me on early to how sh-- can be and what kind of problems I might run into. Unfortunately, I had to see my friends f--- up or make mistakes, but I'm happy I was able to witness that stuff and get those lessons.

How would you describe your personal style?

For the most part, I’m tomboyish and casual. I’ll have my days where I’m feeling feminine and try something girlier, like a dress, but I always stick with dark colors, plaids and comfortable stuff. I like old Ralph Lauren because it goes with everything, and Acne denim.

You starred in DKNY's SS15 print campaign and walked in their NYFW show. What was that experience like?

It was pretty tight, and it was all because I mentioned them in a song genuinely and they liked it. I originally got booked for Fashion Week as a performer for their afterparty. I came in to get fitted for an outfit for the party, but when they met me they were like, “You look like a model, you should go around the corner.” I didn't realize they were sending me to the casting for the show.

After I walked for them, they hit me up again and asked if I wanted to do the campaign. I ended up doing the denim and the SS15 photo shoots. It was cool because I was always booked as a "real person" -- they had five people walking the show that were not booked as models but as real New Yorkers. I never felt like I had to go all the way into “model mode” and that I was there because of who I was, not because of what I looked like. It was a really fun experience and I ended up developing a great relationship with them.

You're also featured in Sophie Theallet's World Citizen SS17 campaign. How did that come about?

I met Sophie towards the end of 2015 at a dinner that [producer] A-Trak brought me to. She just happened to be sitting across from me, and we started talking. She was very cool. We ended up hanging out a few times after that. When she had asked me to be a part of it, I was super excited.

I really love her as a person and I think she makes some of the most amazing clothes. She likes my music and actually listens to it. I was shooting with Bob Marley's granddaughter [Selah Marley] and model Adesuwa Aighewi who I met a few times before, so it was good to see her and it was a comfortable, chill shoot.

Where do you see hip-hop going in 2017?

I think hip-hop is trying to get back to being about the music. Right now, I'm really impressed with the flows that people are coming up with, the styles that people are exploring, the beat selection and the way production is morphing. I'm glad we finally have perfected those things, but now we can get to bars and lyrics actually meaning something.