ASAP Yams, the co-founder and managerial visionary of ASAP Mob, has died. No further details are available at the moment, but several members of ASAP Mob have confirmed his death on social media. He was 26 years old.
Yams, born Steven Rodriguez, grew up in Harlem and became obsessed with rap music at an early age. As a teenager, he interned with Harlem’s legendary Diplomats Records, began managing some local producers, and sold mixtapes on the side. In 2007, at age 17, he co-founded ASAP Mob with ASAP Bari and ASAP Illz; they linked up with ASAP Rocky and ASAP Ferg a year later. By 2010 Yams was becoming an online tastemaker due to his Tumblr; by 2011, Rocky’s “Purple Swag” and “Peso” put the group on the map and the crew began signing major-label deals; and by 2013, Rocky’s official debut album Long.Live.A$AP debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200. That rise can partly be attributed to Yams’ business savvy and aesthetic vision. He was a behind-the-scenes guy who ASAP Mob’s publicist once described as “the backbone of the operation.”
In a 2013 New York Times profile that compared him to hip-hop moguls Puff Daddy, Damon Dash, and Irv Gotti, Yams called himself the Yoda to Rocky’s Luke Skywalker, while Rocky called Yams the “director” of their collective. Yams was described as a voracious student of hip-hop history who had a deep understanding of regional scenes around the country. Wrote Times reporter Jon Caramanica:
Much of what you hear in Rocky — a fully assimilated take on hip-hop styles from across the country and from across time periods — can be traced back to Yams, who spent his formative years studying the genre, then learning how to transmit his taste to others. Hip-hop has long been obsessed with fealty to a specific place and time, and Yams’s vision of the genre as an open house, not a fortress, qualifies as a radical one.
The profile also indicated that Yams had a penchant for “living on the edge” and once almost choked on his own vomit while high on syrup and Xanax at Coachella. Still, for all his wildness, Yams was described as “the solid center that anchors Rocky’s trips to the margins.” His role in shaping the group — and to modern hip-hop at large — was unquantifiable but undeniable.
Below, see tributes from ASAP Mob members and other figures including Drake, Azealia Banks, and M.I.A.