On January 28, 2015, Steven “A$AP Yams” Rodriguez died at the tender age of 26. His death was ruled as an accidental drug overdose, which may have been further complicated by an existing sleep apnea disorder. Whatever the official cause of death, Yams’ passing was devastating for both A$AP Mob and hip-hop as a whole.
“I lost my brother,” A$AP Rocky said in an emotional interview with MTV shortly after his death. “I’d trade all this music to have Yams back. He was a visionary. He always had faith in me, even when no one knew what was gonna happen next.”
The self-described Yoda to Rocky’s Luke Skywalker, A$AP Yams was a colorful, popular personality who was both the sonic and spiritual leader of A$AP Mob. Beyond his marketing vision and hilarious tweets, Yams was also a true student of the game whose deep knowledge of hip-hop—from Harlem to Houston—helped mold the Pretty Flacko we see today.
Before his untimely passing, A$AP Yams had begun masterminding an A$AP Mob album that also incorporated some of his favorite artists beyond the group. Over the last year, Rocky and the rest of the crew buckled down and finished the project—in London, mostly—following the blueprints Yams left behind. The end result is Cozy Tapes Vol. 1: Friends, which finally dropped today (October 31).
The album, graced by an adorable photo of A$AP Yams as a baby, clocks in at 12 tracks and features recurring appearances from A$AP Mob’s usual suspects, including Rocky, Ferg, Nast, Twelvyy and Ant. Perhaps the biggest draw, however, is the sprawling supporting cast that brings together different generations (Onyx and Offset), coasts (Tyler, The Creator and Lil Yachty) and even continents (Skepta).
A$AP Yams would be proud.
3 Standout Songs:
“Nasty’s World” (ft. A$AP Nast & Onyx)
While the majority of Cozy Tapes Vol. 1 feels very 2016—trap-influenced production and youthful energy—“Nasty’s World” is the token throwback track on the tape. As a connoisseur of ’90s hardcore hip-hop, it also feels like the closest thing to an A$AP Yams executive production credit. Over a sample of James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” Onyx handle the hook duties while A$AP Nast raps like the long lost member of Das EFX: “Check it out, yo’, yo’, yo’, numero uno / I’m big dog, Cujo / Flaming rappers like a sumo.” Jokes aside, Nast really is the most underrated rapper in A$AP Mob. There’s a reason this one’s called “Nasty’s World.”
“Put That On My Set” (ft. A$AP Rocky & Skepta)
I wrote about this song when it dropped earlier this month, and it’s only grown on me since. The track fits perfectly into A$AP Rocky’s short film Money Man—specifically, the scene where he plots revenge against his gang leader for kicking him out of the crew for dating his younger sister—but that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyed in the context of Cozy Tapes. A$AP Rocky’s promethazine flow may be wildly different from Skepta’s more intense, sobering approach, but the Houston-flavored production makes this transatlantic collaboration work. Plus, any rap song with a sample of Willie Hutch’s “Brother’s Gonna Work It Out” is automatically a good rap song (seriously).
“London Town” (ft. A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ant & Playboi Carti)
It was a toss-up between this and “Telephone Calls” for my third pick. As Brent correctly declared last week, Tyler, The Creator’s verse on “Telephone Calls” is absolutely fire. However, so too is Cardo (who’s on one hell of a hot streak this year, having also produced Travis Scott’s “Goosebumps” and ScHoolboy Q’s “That Part”) and Yung Exclusive’s production on this one. There’s nothing necessarily London-influenced about “London Town”: the beat is too slow, there are no UK emcees and Rocky only shouts out the “endz" (aka the hood) once. Judging by their set at Red Bull Culture Clash a few years ago, it’s probably wise if A$AP Mob don’t take a stab at grime.
Instead, “London Town” is a classic anthem about riding foreign featuring the Mob’s newest star, Playboi Carti, silent weapon A$AP Ant, and surrogate leader A$AP Rocky, who has flows for days. This one will rattle your trunk, whether it’s foreign or not.
A$AP Rocky and A$AP Ferg have both released albums since A$AP Yams’ passing early last year, but Cozy Tapes Vol. 1: Friends is the first project that really captures the essence of their late leader. From the diverse guest list to the expansive sonic palette, Yams’ influence can be felt all over this tape, even if he’s long gone in the physical.
There’s not a whole lot of dwelling on Yams’ death, though—that’s not the Mob’s style. Instead, Rocky and co. live it up to the fullest, sipping from styrofoam cups on “Way Hiii” and riding around in foreign whips on “London Town.” Because that’s exactly what Yams would want to see them doing. “He left good energy, that optimistic shit, that ambition,” Rocky told MTV. “He could’ve had a dollar to his name, and still be cool and lit.”
In many ways, Cozy Tapes Vol. 1: Friends is A$AP Mob’s Cruel Summer: a concise yet star-studded 12-track project packed with big records ready-made for the car. Like Cruel Summer, Cozy Tapes probably won’t top any album-of-the-year lists in December (it could maybe sneak into a top 20). But as G.O.O.D. Music and TDE look unlikely to release a group project in the foreseeable future, A$AP Mob continue to strive and prosper under the lasting guidance of A$AP Yams.
By Andy James. Follow him on Twitter.