We at the Weekly were saddened this past weekend to hear of the passing of A$AP Mob co-founder A$AP Yams. His official cause of death is still unknown. He was 26. A young mastermind who created the strongest movement in Harlem hip-hop this decade, as well as guided friend and protege A$AP Rocky to the number one album in the country in 2013, his contributions to hip-hop stretched far past the projects he had a hand in making.
Originally known to many as East Side Stevie, Yams changed and impacted the way rap was discussed on the internet. Frivolous as that sentence may sound, Yams' blog, originally “RealNiggaTumblr” and then his personal page, started just as a hip-hop head curating his posts around his passions. His combination of sheer zeal and vast knowledge made his online presence spread rapidly. More than just a tastemaker, Yams made having a substantial knowledge of music and thoughtful discussion of it seem cool for an entire new generation of music fans, especially young New Yorkers who've utilized the Internet to study rap music from outside the five boroughs with an interest seldom found in previous generations.
Yams shared a lot of great music with us all. It is in that tradition and in memory of one of our favorite personalities in hip-hop and fellow music writers that we present five tracks Yams put us on to from his various mixes.
Shyheim – “Shaolin Style” 1996
The Internet is an endless echochamber of nostalgia. But in a world of “hey, remember when,” Yams was able to balance an academic level of knowledge dropping without sacrificing the visceral emotional connection we all shared in regard to music and the context in which we first heard it. As he wrote about “Shaolin Style” in 2010 – “Real summertime smooth shit for you to just cruise around to. I get a flashback of streetball tournaments & block parties every time I hear this song. Remember the USA Basketball team in the '96 Olympics? Better yet remember Fila sneakers? Karl Kani denim suits?”
The Fugees – “Ready or Not” (Chopped and Screwed) 1996
In the mid-2000s, very, very few in New York really messed with Chopped and Screwed music all that much. In 2010, those numbers remained about the same, which is why I personally found it so thrilling that Yams had acquired such an amazing DJ Screw collection. Among his numerous Chopped and Screwed mixes, which were curated to be so accessible that it converted countless new listeners into Screwheads, he knew exactly how to highlight what a great chopping and screwing could do to a song. “Ready or Not” was a staple, and it is incredible.
Waka Flocka Flame – “Hard in Da Paint” 2010
By now we've all become quite familiar with Waka Flocka's breakthrough megahit “Hard In Da Paint.” But for many, their first exposure to not just this song but Flocka and producer Lex Luger himself was through Yams' various posts and mixes celebrating their work. He came under some scrutiny for his Flocka co-sign, which he eloquently dismissed by saying “Haha whether you like it or not, my dawg is Hip Hop. I find it funny that the same folk that dismiss his music as bullshit put O.D.B. on some type of pedestal (Rest In Peace Big Baby Jesus). Let's be serious here, Dirty was as non-rappin as any non-rappin ass rapper could be. We're talking about a dude who took cameras with him to get his welfare check. Flocka is really a reflection of what O.D.B. was. That wild mothafucka that just don't give a fuck what anybody think. The message is all the same. Just because it's a different approach you shouldn't knock it.”
DMX – “Slippin'” (Live at Woodstock '99) 1999
Yams would also assemble mixes of his favorite artists which would include, along with the known singles, the more obscure cuts from mixtapes/compilations/soundtracks/etc. that would have been otherwise long forgotten. The second disc of his stellar DMX mix Dog 4 Life closed with this recording of X performing “Slippin'” at the infamous 1999 Woodstock Festival. There's not a whole lot of positive things people remember about that event, leave it to Yams to find the gem.
Will Smith – “Gettin' Jiggy With It” (So So Def Remix featuring Big Pun, R.O.C. and Cam'Ron) 1998
It was hard choosing which track to end this playlist with, but I think Yams' legacy can be best compared to the So So Def Remix of “Gettin' Jiggy With It.” For an original song that absolutely everybody knows, this super-obscure remix with really beloved artists was un-Earthed by Yams for his Cam'ron tribute mix Camuel L. Jackson – Girls, Drawls, Drops (No Homo), the So So Def remix of “Gettin' Jiggy With It” is as much of a refreshing cool take on something super-overplayed as Yams' writing was to hip-hop journalism.
From repping Dipset and No Limit as well as new burgeoning artists in the same breath to randomly shouting out Diamond Dallas Page and Val Venis in his file descriptions, to just being a super accessible to everybody, there's a lot about Yams that's going to be missed. While it's human nature for deaths to be surrounded by numerous people coming out of the woodwork to share a story about the deceased to various questionable degrees, with Yams these stories seem more genuine because he truly did take the time to know everybody. More than just being a kind soul to meet, there's countless stories that follow a similar narrative of encountering Yams by chance and then seeing him again years later, only for him to still truly remember the person. He leaves a legacy of making a lot of people happy just by being himself.