"I'm high as fuck right now, I'm drunk as fuck right now, and I just don't give a fuck right now."
A$AP Rocky is onstage at Samsung's tricked-out Milk Music Lounge, filled with Vegas-style flashing lights, free booze and excited fans, including Zoe Kravitz and Miley Cyrus.
"This is the happiest I've ever been my life," he says.
But it doesn't seem like it's the presumably high-paying corporate gig that's got Rocky smiling: He's surrounded by the A$AP Mob, his crew, his "motherfuckers that I came with." A$AP Ferg, Twelvyy, Illz, Ant, Nast, female newcomer Chynna -- all were bouncing around Rocky as he ran through "Goldie," "Problems," and his other hits as smoke jets blasted, confetti fell and the crowd heeded their repeated instructions to turn up.
It's a huge change from the last time Billboard saw Rocky perform at a festival -- 2015 Sundance, on Jan. 24, just a week after his mentor and friend ASAP Yams passed away due to a drug overdose, and a day before his funeral. That night, Rocky did two songs solo, then cut his set short abruptly. Afterward Rocky told Billboard that the performance "was just to stop me from crying."
Two months later, at SXSW, Rocky is obviously beginning to heal -- and he's got lots to be happy about aside from his crew reuniting onstage. In an interview with Billboard minutes after his Samsung performance, he revealed that his sophomore album A.L.L.A., the follow-up to 2013's Billboard 200 No. 1 Long.Live.ASAP, was currently being mastered, and that alt-pop goddesses Lykke Li and FKA Twigs and long-time producer Clams Casino are among the guest on the album, which was executive produced by Dangermouse and A$AP Yams. With his Mob crewmate A$AP Illz looking on, Rocky also spoke about his gripes with SXSW, Kendrick Lamar's new album To Pimp a Butterfly, and Dope, the coming-of-age drama in which he makes his acting debut, due in theaters June 12.
You mentioned onstage tonight that last year you had the worst time ever at SXSW and vowed you were never gonna come back. Why?
The energy, man. It's just not like what it used to be. You know what I'm talking about. Anyone who's been coming to SXSW for years knows exactly what I'm talking about. All the other people started to come. That's what we gonna call them: other people. The others. [Laughs] You know?
It definitely got more crowded and more corporate.
It's been kind of corporate. By 2010 it was corporate. But it still had substance. Now it's just like, I don't know. It was good music and the partying was crazy but the parties now are just like whatever.
You also said onstage that this was the happiest you've ever been. What made you say that?
Because I'm with the brothers. I'm with all of the A$AP Mob. Being busy all the time, you just don't get a chance to be with the people that mean the most to you sometimes, 'cause you gotta handle your business and you got a career to maintain.
Your mood today is night and day from the last time we spoke, at Sundance, which was just a week after Yams died. You performed two songs and cut your set short.
I was fucked up then. I'm getting back into things. I'm not fully there but shit takes time.
You were at Sundance to celebrate the premiere of your acting debut Dope -- the movie ended up being sold to Sony and Open Road for $7 million, one of the biggest deals at Sundance, and now it's due in theaters June 12. What is your reaction to the film's early successes?
Isn't it crazy that it was No. 1 at Sundance? We had no idea at the time. The reason why I say No. 1 it was the biggest seller. I didn't expect that. Out of all those amazing movies this year, we were the biggest seller. It doesn't seem real. People are like whatever, it's Sundance. I'm like yeah, motherfucker, you do that. It's not like I did it myself and I'm the lead character or whatever, but I contributed to something I believe in. I knew it had potential but I didn't do know it would do what it has started to do. It didn't do much yet -- all it did was Sundance, but that alone is enough of an accomplishment because I want to start at the bottom. For Dope I really got it together: I wasn't smoking, I was sober, I tried to gain weight to not look like myself. I was eating junk all day. Then I had to lose weight but I don't think it's working for me. [Laughs] I just don't eat right. I lost the weight eventually but I still got my belly. [laughs].
What made you want to get involved with Dope?
I think it'll be a hip-hop classic, and we haven't had one of those in so long. I was helping Chanel go over her lines and gravitated to this role instantly. The character, I could relate to him. But the next role I do, it will be less cliché. I play a 26-year-old drug dealer. He's a thug with an elegant, intelligent side. He's one of those guys who's just a product of his environment but at the same time he kind of strives to get out of his predicament.
Do you have any other roles in the works?
No, not right now.
You also have your sophomore album coming up. What's the state of it right now?
Honestly, it's finished. I'm mastering it right now. It's coming soon. Seriously soon.
Everyone's doing surprise albums -- Kendrick Lamar, Earl Sweatshirt. What about you?
I don't consider it a surprise -- you put it out there and it's art, that's the surprise. I hope people are surprised by my album. I don't know what to expect, I just do what I do.
What about it will surprise people?
How diverse it is. People really don't know the other side of me. The deeper side, the more musical side, the more intellectual side. When I first came on the scene it was more of this trendy, bourgeois, pizazz attitude. That's still me but at the end of the day I think that kind of overshadowed the whole purpose of me doing what I do. I'm an incredibly diverse artist, I'm a universal artist. At least that's how I see it.
Who are some of the collaborators on the album?
I got one for you. [Long pause] Illz is thinking right now, like, "You know who it is!" Uh… [Long pause] Alright, fine. Three years ago, I did a song with Twigs.
FKA Twigs? Wow.
Also Lykke Li. Juicy J [who appears on single "Multiply"]. Clams Casino. I can't give nothing else away.
I mentioned Kendrick's album, To Pimp a Butterfly, which everyone's talking about right now. What do you think about it?
I didn't really get a chance to really listen to it yet. When I listened to it I was with the fellas chilling and smoking and listening through a laptop. I like it. It was a bit jazzy as opposed to his aesthetic from the last album, which had more versatility. I kinda feel like it was one mood with this one. I really need to give it a good listen and come back to it because I skimmed through it. But the production is amazing and his lyrics is impeccable as usual. And the concept alone, being black and proud? I'm all for it.