RH First Look: Asaad
“I want people to know that when you are f*cking with me you are f*cking with greatness, and to anyone out there who has ever felt they were great, and they didn’t have anyone to speak for them, I’m that motherf*cker, because I was a motherf*cker like that too. I didn’t have that voice.” After hearing this sentence you may think think to yourself, who is Asaad? Why is he great? And lastly, why should I care? Let me answer all those questions, even if they weren’t floating through your mind. In my short, but saturated career writing and speaking with artists I have come to find a certain humble confidence that only a few artists emit. This confidence usually stems from a strong belief in their music, seeing success as their destiny. Yet, there are always those who say they will succeed, but either don’t have the skill, determination, or that “it” factor to do so. Flash forward to Asaad, a 20-year-old MC from Philadelphia, PA. Growing up in a lifestyle built around music, it is no surprise the position he is in at this point. From his room being a studio at age 3, to being babysat frequently by his cousin Ab-Lava (Re-Up Gang) during their time of prominence, and having mentors such as producer Bink and Black Thought, Asaad is living proof of a budding MC with his eyes set on the top floor and all the necessary skills to get there.
Having released a few projects over the past 2 years, Asaad could have hit the “easy” button and released singles produced by Will I. Am or Bink, and who knows between having to fit a certain style and utilizing his industry contacts, in 2008 Asaad could have found himself a record deal and a healthy 6-figure advance. “I always knew I would do this, I imagined it but I never really saw it become a reality. At this point I just want to take it to another level every time. Every time I do something, every time I accomplish one thing, try to knock down the next, you know.” States Asaad, who makes it apparent not only in his words but his demeanor, the significance of growing as an artist, understanding the importance of learning from others, and not leap frogging into unknown territory. Now, standing aside his long-time friend Troy, the two have concocted the Dirty Middle Class faction, and are releasing a mixtape based on this movement which features Casey Veggies, Mac Miller, Gilbert Forte + more. Having dropped two top-notch tracks produced by Nascent & QB, off Dirty Middle Class, Asaad’s time is nearing. Read on for this exclusive look at someone you’ll guaranteed to be hearing from plenty over the years, as Asaad speaks on his beginnings in music, living with his cousin Ab-Lava, his next solo project, and why this year was unquestionably the best year of his young life.
Ruby Hornet: I remember when you first hit me on the email over a year or so ago when my good homie DJ Sophic was schoolin’ me on you. But at first I didn’t realize you have been doing this for a while, when did you first start getting into the music seriously?
Asaad: I really started seriously probably around 2007 man. I didn’t know anybody, so I would just take my money from my week and go to the studio, where I made a mixtape haha. I didn’t even know how to put it online, so I would hand it out of my back pack. There was probably about 100 of them. There was a little word of mouth off that, and then I became this kid from Philly. So I’d say it all started when I was about 17.
Ruby Hornet: What about Philly, what about your childhood or who were you listening to at the time, that got you into rapping?
Asaad: See I’ve been birthed into music. My father is a producer, he produced a lot of records for Philadelphia International. So bedroom was a studio, when I was three. My whole life I’ve been centered around music. I mean Ab-Lava (Re-Up Gang) is my cousin, so I got to watch these niggas blow up, and they were like babysitting me while blowing up. I wasn’t really convinced until I heard Cassidy, and a lot of people don’t know that. I heard the ‘Best of Cassidy” mixtape and that made me want to rap. I was probably about 11, and I wrote my first rap and of course it sucked, but I kept at it, and I still am keeping at it.
Ruby Hornet: I saw you put on twitter recently, that this is the best year of your life. How so?
Asaad: This is without a doubt the best year in my life. I recently accomplished a personal milestone I re-united with my father after 16 years of not seeing him. That is something that a lot of black men have that issue of being a bastard. This issue is never resolved, and I resolved that myself. That’s first and foremost. That was a big milestone for me. Second off, the music is crazy! The quality and the quantity. It’s just the way its coming out and coming together, it’s coming of age you know.
Ruby Hornet: It seems since you have been around music your entire life, and it is all you have experienced, you might have known this was your route. You could have called your cousins or asked you dad, but you’ve been patient. Can you speak on the state of being a young MC and being patient, when you could seemingly rush forward?
Asaad: You see what it is, I’ve always had this thing where I wanted to stay humble. Throughout this whole thing, and the humble people say, don’t say your humble because it revokes it. But, everything has been a self fulfilling prophecy for me, you know what I mean. I always knew I would do this, I imagined it but I never really saw it become a reality. At this point I just want to take it to another level every time. Every time I do something, every time I accomplish one thing, try to knock down the next, you know. That’s what it is, a self-fulfilling prophecy, everybody who has a dream, well I ain’t eve going to say its a dream because this is my life. If you see something and you want it. You are going to go and get it. That’s the kind of mentality I have. A super go getter, If I want it I’m going to get it. I don’t care what it is or where it’s at.
Ruby Hornet: So what about rekindling with your father has helped you musically? How has that experience influenced you musically?
Asaad: It just comes down to confidence. I’ll say this, anyone who didn’t grow up with a father, they may know they have a sense of bitterness within their hearts. That reflects upon you confidence, It could work both ways. You could get elephant skin from it and be all super tough, or you could be like the shell inside. But at this point I feel fulfilled and now that I have resolved the issue, I see the traits in me that I had before meeting him. That I know relieved. You don’t even know how much it affects you until you fix it. At at this point, I’m good, my father is one of the better greater people in the world that I know, the things that he taught me, we always kept a relationship over the phone. He taught me how not to write raps, with physically putting them on paper… but it really all comes down to confidence.
Ruby Hornet: Can you speak on your growth, you had the Flowers mixtape, the Wednesday release, and I remember you were talking about working on the the LP the No. 19. Can you speak on your growth from Flowers to now?
Asaad: See when I made Flowers, I knew It was going to be my first real project so I knew I was going to let people know they have to grow with me. So that was like, “grow with me, I’m not the best now but I can make quality shit and it’s going to get better every time. Wednesday was one of those things that happens in everyones career, that some people don’t like to admit it, some dust it under the rug, but I chose not too and just make even better shit. It’s just a mistake that you make, I recorded 35 songs in one week and I cut it down to 7 within a day. That’s why it’s called Wednesday. But you know, it was an overmaximized record, with full on orchestra’s, I was getting the best producers in the world to get on the project. Really going above and beyond to create this album and I was creating deadlines for myself that were too soon. So I’m still working on 19, but meeting back with my father I realized I was six when he left. I’m 20 now, and I’m going to do a project called 6. An EP interlude to 19. Showing my versatility, where I can go, what I can do. The whole EP is done at this point. Anthems. Anthems. Anthem city. Thats what I like to call it.
Ruby Hornet: So 6 is the next project?
Asaad: Yes, 6 is the next Asaad project that will be released. Dirty Middle Class, a lot of people ask me about that. That’s me and my buddy Troy. That’s reallyTroy’s imprint since we met on Myspace. It was him and Anwar, that’s his cousin, and just all of us had our own collectives, that was my crew too. I was in Philly he was in Delaware. And then Anwar and the rest of those Odd Future cats were over in LA. At this point, we’re all cool, we all have the same goals and vision so we ready to make it happen.
Ruby Hornet: Dirty Middle Class more of a compilation record for your crew?
Asaad: Yeah, it’s a compilation of everyone who represents Dirty Middle Class, There are about four people I know as of now, but there are probably more, you’d have to ask Troy about that. I know Walt Fraze and INI are on it, Mac Miller is on the tape, Casey Veggies, I’m trying to think who else. It’s a collective of kids. It’s a way of the youth right now, a sign of the times.
Ruby Hornet: This is something I wanted to ask you. This is a sign of the times, as their are so many young collectives and groups out now, what do you believe are some of the causes of this resurgence so to speak?
Asaad: The reason for it is, it happens naturally. I can’t speak for everyone else, you know but I didn’t just like meet Troy like “Yo we should do this because I half-ass like you”, we are genuinely friends. I feel like a lot of people could have came up that way but it kind of makes things more interesting when there is more than one person doing things. One problem that speaks with the youth that is kind of overshadowed is that kids are real standoffish, real cliquish, individuals don’t even f*ck with each other. I know rappers that are solo artists, that don’t fuck with a lot of other solo artists. At this point its like, I wanna call it the “Young N*gga Movement”, all of us you know 25 and under, it all comes down to the mindset, that is still willing to grow, but still knowing that we’re young and we’re supposed to make mistakes. Rakim was f*cking 19 when he made Paid In Full, people don’t realize these things, that the first people to come up was young, it may be like a epidemic but here I can say Dirty Middle Class is more natural, me and Troy best friends on all accords. Troy is my buddy from Delaware, he doesn’t rap, he’s just a figure I’ll say that. He’s a character.
Ruby Hornet: So Troy is the figurehead. The mastermind behind the scenes?
Asaad: These guys come from Delaware, live in nicer areas and they are middle class kids. Whereas me, I’m from the hood, from the f*cking dirt, but let’s just say I have a greater vision for things that I like. I’m a premium kind of n*gga. If you saw me walking down the street I’m like in Balmain and Timbs in the middle of the f*cking hood where everyone is wearing Air Max 24-7. Like you would think I’m a suburban kid but I’m literally in the trap, like I’m laying my head in the trap as we speak. There’s bullet holes in my living room. Dirty Middle Class esthetic is like super, super trill. That’s another thing, a lot of the guys now, I dunno, I can’t speak for everyone else but everything I talk I live. There is not one lyric of mine I didn’t live. Or didn’t happen to me, and if it didn’t happen to me it happened to Troy.
Ruby Hornet: I know you’ve worked with some amazing producers. Bink being one of them, who are some others?
Asaad: I have a bunch of producers that love me. That’s one thing I can say about my career that is different from a lot of other younger guys. A lot of these younger guys have young producers in their crews. I don’t. I have guidance from a lot of these producers that have made classics in the game. And me being a fan of music, I genuinely want to create timeless bodies of work, that will last not to 2011 or 2012, but 2020. Bink is my mentor, these aren’t producers that just send me beats, these are mentors where I have to cut sometimes if the records aren’t good, I cut 3 records just to get it right. More recently, Sean C (Sean C & LV) has been bordered on as a mentor, I have so many relationships with these guys, Will I. AM, K-Os, Black Thought, you know I have these people in my corner giving me that edge that everybody else doesn’t have. I’m taking pointers from these guys, and also showing them what the business is on my end. Not just getting coached, but I’m showing that I’m a star player. Every Michael Jordan needs a Phil Jackson.
Ruby Hornet: With Casey and Mac on heavy right now, when do you expect to “break onto the scene” like it seems so evident now, are you waiting for this 6 x Dirty Middle Class to drop?
Asaad: See from here, there is nowhere to go but up. It’s not up like 3rd floor, its up like skyrocketing to the top floor. And then we taking it even higher, but to see Mac, like I met Mac last year he hit me up on twitter, and we met on like a whim. I ain’t even know who he was. And to see how he’s gone to this much success in one year is amazing. As far as Casey, I’ll say this out of all the new artists I have more respect for Casey Veggies that I have for any other artist right now. Casey is living proof of progression, and I tell Josh and Anwar this all the time, when I first heard that cat when he was 16 I didn’t like him. Now he’s growth is showing and he’s only 18 at this point, and he’s beasting on MF’s. As far as my end, it’s a little different than Casey and Mac, because they’re way younger, they got like little ass white girls, I’m knocking off… haha, you know what I’m saying. As we speak I have a San Pellegrino in my hand, I’m pretty sure these guys don’t care about mineral water. I’m very much in tune with an upscale culture. Like I said I really embody the Dirty Middle Class culture because I’m from the trap, but you’ll catch me on any given day in the middle of the f*cking hood with some thugs drinking syrup, and I’m drinking Martinelli’s apple juice.
Ruby Hornet: It seems throughout the interview if there is one recent album you have some words about would be, Watch The Throne. What are your feelings on the group/LP?
Asaad: I like WTT, I think everyone who heard about the LP then had this crazy ass expectation for the album, like it was supposed to change music. But people have to remember these dudes are old for one, and two their humans. But for them to show that, Jay-Z showed me new things in his rap scheme’s that I’ve never heard him do, and as far as Kanye being a dude in the crowd during the Hard Knock Life tour, its amazing to see. I’m all about exposing people to new things. Making a lot of the higher culture that a lot of people in other situation can’t access. I want to make that accessible. The same way they expose people to Riccardo Tisci, Givenchy or Takashi Murakami, I embody the same thing so I can show people from my standpoint.
Ruby Hornet: Any last words for the people?
Asaad: I want people to know that when you are f*cking with me you are f*cking with greatness, and to anyone out there who has ever felt they were great, and they didn’t have anyone to speak for them, I’m that motherf*cker, because I was a motherf*cker like that too, I didn’t have that voice. There wasn’t any rappers who wore these shirts. When you walk down the street and you feel like ‘Damn everyone is looking at me like I’m crazy.’ Na you not crazy, you the shit. And if you know you the shit, you’ll fuck with me because you know I know I’m the shit. At the end of the day before I die, you are going to remember my name.
Words by Sean CK
Photos by Michael Beon