ASAP YAMS Before Dead
Before They Were Dead
Before ASAP Yams introduced the signature ASAP sound and style to the hip hop world, and groomed ASAP Rocky and ASAP Ferg into superstars.
Before his impressive hip hop knowledge and sense of humour won over thousands of loyal fans on twitter and tumbler.
Before ASAP Yams or Yamborgini would become a celebrity producer, with his distinctive tattoos and birthmark turning heads wherever he went.
Before his abuse of prescription drugs and alcohol would inspire his clothing line ‘burnout boyz’ and send him into rehab in 2014.
Steven Rodriguez grew up in Harlem and started selling crack at age 12. He was a burn out at school, but when it came to hip hop the kid was a walking encyclopedia, and by the time he was 17 was regarded as a hip hop guru. The genius watched his ASAP Mob take off while struggling with his own substance abuse problems. It wasn’t until several brushes with death that he decided it was time for a change, and tried to clean up. A change that sadly didn’t last and he passed away on abruptly with drugs in his system on January 18 2015.
Steven Rodriguez was born on November 13 1988 in Harlem New York to a Puerto Rican father and Dominican mother, Tatiana. A loving mother who would eventually take the stage in honor of her son.
The young boy, despite the large birthmark on his face, always seemed to have a positive attitude and enjoyed watching Pokemon and playing video games.
He developed a fascination with hip-hop culture and by the time he was 11 Rodriguez would spend hours on the internet finding old and obscure tracks on Napster. Then at the ripe age of 12 he started selling crack cocaine, spending his cash on expensive clothing.
His teen years were turbulent, and Rodriguez was a bit of a burnout in high school, cutting classes regularly. He went to four different schools before deciding to drop out, a decision Mama Yams was not happy about. She kicked him out of the house, and young Steven slept in Highbridge Park until he was welcomed back home.
Throughout his teens Rodriguez became something of a local legend. Aspiring musicians looked up to him as a kind of mystical hip hop figure who had immense knowledge, charisma, and an incredible taste in music. He landed an internship at Harlem’s Diplomats Records at the young age of just 16 and later at Asylum Records.
Rodriguez built his reputation as he shook hands with artists and helped producers sell their tracks to rappers. Then when he was 17, he founded the ASAP Mob along with friends ASAP Bari and ASAP Illz. He was so confident in his label the guy went and tattooed ASAP on his arm, which by the way stands for ‘Always Strive And Prosper’
When Rodriguez was 20 he was introduced to a young aspiring rapper who would go on to become ASAP Rocky. Rocky was looking for someone who could serve as a sort of mentor.
Kinda like that, with less robots and monkies and more Benjamin’s, Bentleys and Bitches.
They worked in the studio daily, creating a sound and style that was fresh and unique. While fine-tuning Rocky’s sound Yams had started to build buzz through his tumblr page, titled RealNiggaTumblr, this was back in 2010 before this Tumblr page was retired.
It served as a kind of retro hip hop archive, highlighting 90’s artists and pages out of old magazines. Part history lesson, and part comedy, nothing like it had ever been done, and the page began to draw a whole lot of attention. Soon Yams became a music curator that rap-heads and internet geeks respected.
When it came time for ASAP Rocky’s debut 2 years later Yams promoted the music on his Tumblr as if he had just discovered him. His followers, assuming there was no affiliation, started supporting it without question, and the genius-marketing move worked wonders.
Videos for the tracks ‘Purple Swag’ and ‘Peso’ went viral and within weeks started to get played on New York radio stations. When the mixtape “Live. Love. Asap” was released, record labels were looking for a piece of the sweet ASAP mob pie.
RCA Records offered ASAP Rocky 3 million dollars for a 2 year contract, and once the ink was dry on that check, the two formed their own label ASAP Worldwide.
The next break out single, ‘Fuckin Problems’ made ASAP Rocky a superstar and his album Long Live ASAP went to #1 and it’s an album I still listen to on the regular. Yams, who was getting comparisons to legendary producers like Irv Gotti and Sean Combes, was encouraged by Rocky to come out from behind the scenes and make himself more known. His distinctive look definitely made his face a memorable one, and soon Yams was getting recognized left and right.
But the brilliant man didn’t come without his demons, and he was never shy about them. With his clothing line Blackout Boyz and tattoos of Xanax pills, he knew his hard partying and addiction needed to be addressed.
A night at Coachella almost ended his life when he started choking on his own vomit as he slept. Then he got so high on Xanax and cough syrup during a plane ride; he had to be pushed out in a wheelchair when they landed. Urged by his friends to change his ways, Yams finally went to rehab in July 2014.
It seemed Yamborgini had kicked his bad habits. On new years he tweeted ‘Good Riddance to 2014 my worst year ever’ followed by his resolution, ‘become a more reliable friend and stop going hard on drugs’.
On January 18th 2015 Rocky was hanging out with him and a bunch of friends at their Brooklyn apartment. Then around 3 am ASAP Lou told them something was wrong. They found Yams had vomited and was facedown on his bed, unresponsive. He was rushed to Woodhull medical centre, but it was too late. The medical examination revealed he had died from an overdose of opiates and benzos.
The condolences flooded in, and artists like Chamillionaire, Danny Brown, Drake, Action Bronson, and Wiz Khalifa were paying their respects on Twitter. Rocky’s next album “ At long last ASAP” which Yams was executive producer of, also debuted at number 1.
His brief presence in the hip hop industry left one of the most influential legacies of the past decade. Earlier this year, on the anniversary of his death, his ASAP Mob crew held the first annual Yam’s Day concert at Terminal 5 in New York, where they intend to pay tribute to their friend and mentor for years to come.
And the rest of the story, it lives on in his music, and through his friends.
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