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A$AP Yams: The man who changed hip-hop from behind the scenes

Photo via Rolling Stone

There’s rappers who change the game and then there’s those who love the art enough to let others make it and do their part in a different way.

Steven Rodriguez, better known as A$AP Yams, was one of the most influential characters in hip-hop of the early 2010s — becoming a legendary tastemaker without even gripping the mic.

Despite yesterday (Jan. 18) marking the seven-year anniversary of Yams’ passing, his impact still ripples throughout the music industry to this day. Fans may recall seeing the music mogul in the background of old A$AP Rocky videos such as “Purple Swag” and “Peso.”

Sporting the iconic purple birthmark on his right cheek, Yams was always hard to miss, yet at first glance it would be difficult to notice his stature among up-and-comers in 2010. At the time, Yams had been learning from New York legend Jim Jones as an intern while simultaneously embedding himself in the first iteration of Internet rappers — where artists utilized the power of social media to gain a following.

When he became an A&R himself, the combination of his education with Capo and his own self-taught knowledge of the industry became apparent. Using Tumblr as his primary weapon, Yams cultivated an audience through his unmatched knowledge of hip-hop while sneaking in posts about underground rappers.

After founding the A$AP collective alongside Illz and Bari (who have since been exiled from the group), Yams used his platform to push Rocky to his own audience. After proving the power of his following, Yams continued pushing his sway to uplift artists in a prophetic fashion.

A$AP Mob would prove to be the next iteration of hip-hop supergroups — combining the talents of rappers, producers and fashion designers alike. Each member brought something new and interesting to the table, pushing one another to innovate as Yams laid out the blueprint for his brainchild.

Playboi Carti is the latest addition to his movement, skyrocketing to stardom with assistance from the A$AP collective. Through the accumulation of a cult-like fanbase, the Whole Lotta Red rapper has followed in Yams’ footsteps to master his marketability.

Since his untimely passing, the A$AP CEO has been memorialized repeatedly in songs, events and more. Even in new wave hits such as “Gët Busy” by Yeat, Yams is mentioned by name, proving once again that his movement is everlasting.

I just poured an eight, I feel like Yams

Yeat — “Gët Busy”

Back in 2015, relatively unknown artists such as Vince Staples, Lil Uzi Vert and Chance the Rapper received reassurance from Yams that their success would come. Seven years later, all three have seen the forefront of the industry and continue to put out chart-topping tracks.

Although there is no 2022 Yams Day, the annual memorial event has seen appearances from some of hip-hop’s biggest stars. Joey Bada$$, Flatbush Zombies, Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd, T-Pain, Tyler the Creator, Danny Brown, Ski Mask the Slump God, Lil Yachty, Soulja Boy and Meek Mill are just a few of the artists to show love for the late-legend, putting on timeless performances at the New York festival.

A$AP Yams is proof that a hip-hop fan can be just as important to the industry as any rapper. Rest In Peace Steven Rodriguez, and “Always Strive and Prosper.”

Watch YAMS DAY 2020 below!