It was supposed to be a celebratory day for A$AP Rocky.
On Saturday (Jan. 24) the third day of the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, the Harlem rapper attended the premiere of Dope, the buzzed-about coming-of-age film in which he makes his big-screen acting debut, with a supporting role playing a drug dealer in Inglewood, Calif.
Hours later, Rocky was spitting onstage, outside at Park City’s central intersection on Main Street and Heber Ave., to set off the premiere’s after-party. But he only performed two songs before abruptly leaving the stage — he dedicated the final song to his fallen crewmate Steven “A$AP Yams” Rodriguez, the co-founder/mastermind behind A$AP Mob who passed away just six days earlier, on Jan. 18, of still-undisclosed causes.
An hour later, in a small room behind the after-party, which had moved inside to the Acura Studio at the hotel Main & Sky, Rocky explained to Billboard why his set was so short: he’s in mourning. In fact, he revealed, later that night he would be hopping on a plane, presumably back to New York, to attend Yams’ burial.
“That performance — that was just going to stop me from crying,” Rocky said, speaking for the first time in detail about Yams’ death. “I had to address it, because the whole time I was rapping and I wasn’t into it, which is sad, but I just gotta keep it real. I can’t front. It’s even harder knowing that I gotta fly out in less than an hour just to go bury him. That’s the part that eats at me.”
On Jan. 20 an NYPD spokesperson told The Fader that Yams’ cause of death was unknown, but that hasn’t stop many from speculating that a drug overdose was to blame. A$AP Ant recently denounced those rumors, and Rocky backed him up.
“People were saying that Yams overdosed on drugs — he didn’t overdose on any drugs,” Rocky said, though he declined to discuss the real cause of Yams’ passing. “I feel like people feel that way because that’s all he’s in pictures doing. When you see A$AP Yams you see Hennessey or purple drink, you see some type of controlled substance or illegal narcotic.”
Wearing all-black, with his hair pulled back in his signature braids, Rocky justifiably looked and sounded worn-out. “I’ll be back in my zone in a bit,” he said. “I just got it together. This all happened and the timing is so wrong, with me doing Sundance and Mens Fashion Week in Paris.”
But Rocky insisted he’s doing all right, and that he would recover from his friend’s sudden death. “I’m a happy spirit, man, and I feel like time heals,” he said. “It’s all about good people with good energy, and the universe keeps producing them to me. I’ll be fine. God is good and I keep all hope and faith.”
Indeed, right before the interview he had been partying at the with his Dope castmates, including Shameik Moore, Workaholics star Blake Anderson and model Chanel Iman, who Rocky reportedly split from in October after a six-month engagement (he declined to comment on the current state of their relationship).
Rocky said he also was heartened by the outpouring of condolences from his peers online, including Drake, Wiz Khalifa, 2 Chainz, and Azealia Banks, who tweeted that Yams should be “remembered as a leader, an innovator and most importantly as an important part of NYC youth culture.”
Yams’ integral role to Rocky’s success will become even more apparent when the rapper releases his much-anticipated second album, which he said is “basically done. I finished it right before Yams passed away.”
Rocky revealed for the first time that Yams is co-executive producer of the still-untitled album, along with Grammy-winning producer Dangermouse (Black Keys, Gnarls Barkley, MF Doom). “Dangermouse and Yams — I’m really intrigued for people to hear how that combination sounds. Yams manifested his powers into it.”