By Jackson Connor
9:50 AM EDT, August 21, 2013
When I call up A$AP Ant he's already in Connecticut, getting ready to perform at the Comcast Theater in Hartford alongside chart-toppers Wiz Khalifa, B.o.B., and a slew of other young, up-and-coming rap stars. It's one of the final stops on the Under the Influence Tour and with him somewhere are the other members of A$AP Mob – A$AP Ferg, A$AP Yams, A$AP Nast, A$AP Bari, A$AP Illz, A$AP Ty Beats (the list goes on) and, of course, A$AP Rocky, whose debut album Long. Live. A$AP premiered at #1 on the Billboard 200 back in January. But while Ant is certainly comfortable playing sold-out stadium shows — and busy enjoying the lifestyle that goes with it — on August 24 he will be performing solo at Rampage Skatepark in Bridgeport as part of an event hosted by local designer Elvin Roman and his clothing brand, the Unico 1990.
"It's crazy up here," says Ant, who appeared at another Unico-sponsored event at Rampage earlier this year. "Any type of artist that comes through Connecticut, it's going to be a sold-out show. You're only, like, 30 minutes from New York, from the Bronx, so it's not even that far from the city. Dudes from Connecticut sometimes go to New York shows, or people from New York come to Connecticut shows, you know what I'm saying?
"CT's definitely got a hip-hop fan-base," he adds. "I fuck with it heavy."
Since forming in 2007, Harlem's A$AP Mob has established itself as the new face of New York rap. Though Rocky's success (his Drake features, his collaborations with Lana Del Rey, his countless magazine covers and fashion shoots) has undoubtedly done much to propel the group into the public eye, the strength of his supporting cast is what's led critics to draw comparisons between A$AP Mob and other great hip-hop collectives like Wu-Tang Clan — a group that's been synonymous with New York rap since the early '90s.
"It was good seeing Rocky blow-up 'cause I got to see the ropes, know what to do and how to handle things," says Ant. "You see how to perform at shows, the little things. You just shut the fuck up and watch. You just shut the fuck up and watch until you get your turn."
But Ant and the rest of A$AP Mob don't see themselves as a backing band. They're a tight-knit crew, yet also fiercely competitive with one another, each rapper trying his best to out-do the next on every verse, every song, every mixtape and every album. Ant's style is more raw than Rocky's — less polished and not so ready for radio — but it brings an authenticity to A$AP mob, and fits well with the group's themes of money, girls and drugs. (Seriously, one of the best tracks off of Long. Live. A$AP is titled "PMW" (Pussy. Money. Weed. What else?) and one of Ant's biggest songs to date has been "Coke and White Bitches.")
"Of course you've gotta go hard," says Ant. " If you see Ferg go hard, then of course you wanna go hard…Everybody in A$AP has the chance to blow up and be bigger than each other. That's the good thing about it. We're competitive. Everyone in their own way is crazy."
While rooted in New York hip-hop, the group's sound is indeed eclectic, with Rocky most notably paying homage to the styles of Houston rappers like the Geto Boys, Mike Jones and Slim Thug in his music. Still, Ant is in many ways the true outlier in A$AP Mob, one of the only members to not come of age in any of the five boroughs. Instead, Ant grew up in West Baltimore, a city known more for its violent crime and drug epidemic (see: HBO's "The Wire") than any semblance of a rap scene.
"It's crazy in my city," he says simply. "I'm still growing up in Baltimore."
At just 20-years-old Ant is also the youngest MC in the group, and he started making trips to New York and meeting A$AP Mob members, not because of music, but because of a clothing brand he started called Marino Goods (the shirts, too, read "Coke & White Bitches" across the chest). The fact that he was asked to join the group so young and from out-of-state speaks to Ant's talent, his potential, and the way he carries himself in the midst of impending fame.
Streetwear was also the way Ant linked up with the Unico 1990. Roman had been a longtime fan of Marino Goods and reached out to the rapper over Facebook, asking to send him Unico T-shirts and hoodies to wear at events.
Opening for Ant at Rampage this Saturday will be Black Dave, Da Kid Feness, Derty Chubb, Maxo Kream, Retchy P, Inner City Kids, Bitches Is Crazy and INS ft. OZONE — none of which have an "A$AP" before their name.
There's "no difference," according to Ant when it comes to playing solo, or playing with the rest of A$AP Mob, though. "When you're by yourself you gotta go hard because there's nobody backing you," he says. "When you're with Rocky sometimes you need to take the back seat, but you still have to go off 'cause you're the hype-man."
So are Ant and the rest of A$AP Mob worried about being eclipsed by Rocky's recent success?
"Nah, kid. That's not even in our minds," he says. "That's impossible."
Aug. 24, With Black Dave, Da Kid Feness, Derty Chubb, Maxo Kream, Retchy P, Inner City Kids, Bitches Is Crazy and INS ft. OZONE, at Rampage Skatepark, 1625 Railroad Ave., Bridgeport, 9 p.m., $15