Magazine article The New Yorker

Night Life

Magazine article The New Yorker

Night Life

Article excerpt

NIGHT LIFE

A$AP Rocky and the A$AP Mob, the Flatbush Zombies, Joey Bada$$, and more perform at Terminal 5.

ALSO KNOWN

A$AP Rocky honors his mentor and friend, the late A$AP Yams.

The death of the budding record-industry mogul A$AP Yams, at the age of twenty-six, by accidental overdose, in January of last year shook those who knew him and cast a shadow over the industry. Yams had built a reputation as an erudite curator and trusted commentator on New York's music, style, and night life, and by 2011 he was steering the careers of his close friends--notably as the manager for A$AP Rocky, who became one of the most-discussed rappers in the city. Four months after Yams's death, Rocky released the darkly psychedelic sophomore album "At.Long.Last. A$AP," tasked with eulogizing a legacy that was just sprouting. Yams's influence is audible on the release: tracks bounce boldly between genres, and guests range from Kanye West to Rod Stewart.

Born Steven Rodriguez, A$AP Yams was loyal to his Morningside Heights neighborhood. He had an impish smile and rotund frame, and an afinity for cheap menthol cigarettes and expensive sports cars. His dozens of nicknames reflect these qualities: Wavy Bone, Pretty Gordo, Li'l Newport, Yamborghini, Huey P. Screwton, Ricen Beckford, EastSide Stevie. Some of the monikers were self-anointed, others were coined by friends, and a few were catalyzed by his social-media following. The puns underscore the dense bank of cultural knowledge and jovial spirit that Yams employed to help shape A$AP Rocky's sound and image, as well as those of other artists signed to his A$AP Worldwide imprint on RCA. Yams's names were signifiers, pillaging street folklore and rap trivia to distinguish an informed, singular voice, most satisfying to those who recognized its source material. He brought an auteur's hand to hip-hop iconography just as the genre seized on the Web's daily chatter, cultivating a sizable following on platforms like Twitter and Tumblr for his scans of out-of-print rap magazines and personalized playlists of B-sides and bootlegs. Yams was a rap fan first, and expressed this through his work with Rocky, who grew to be an avatar for so many of the things that his mentor loved: the stylish decadence of Sean Combs's New York, the muddy starkness of DJ Screw's Houston, the creative fearlessness of Lil B's Internet. In this way, when Yams rattled off a list of a.k.a.s at the top of a song or in an online post it wasn't an act of vanity but, rather, one of humility, artfully honoring a culture he'd studied and loved well before he made an impact on it.

On Jan. 18, the one-year anniversary of his friend's death, Rocky will celebrate "Yams Day" at Terminal 5, alongside his label mate A$AP Ferg, Joey Bada$$, the Flatbush Zombies, and others who owe their profile to the late executive--he was often described as a "spirit guide." Many people are famous for being famous; Yams was famous for bending fame to his will, and for offering a new identity to a city where everyone already knew the names to know.

ROCK AND POP

Musicians and night-club proprietors lead complicated lives; it's advisable to check in advance to confirm engagements.

Bilal

The songwriter and vocalist Bilal Sayeed Oliver caught the tail end of the neo-soul moment, and was embraced by the likes of Common, Mos Def, and Erykah Badu by the time his first record hit the shelves, in 2001. With an adventurous falsetto and serious arrangement chops, the Philadelphia singer has been tapped by countless peers since then, and last year he released "In Another Life," a space-funk Prince homage that muses on technological advances and economic systems with loose, jam-session ease. (City Winery, 155 Varick St. 212-608-0555. Jan. 13.)

Bully

On "Trying," the single from this Nashville band's debut album, "Feels Like," the lead singer, Alicia Bognanno, recalls Rivers Cuomo's droll lyricism and pulls off a damn good scream, singing about useless college degrees and imminent menstruation with the charisma of a star. …

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