The musician and face of Gucci Guilty opens up about his experimental new album, his current obsession with German Expressionism, and bonding with Elliot Page over their mutual love for Brian Eno
A$AP Rocky is currently obsessed with German Expressionist cinema. In particular he loves Metropolis, Fritz Lang’s 1927 masterpiece set in a futuristic urban dystopia where unrestrained capitalism has created deep class divides. The two-and-a-half-hour-long silent film from Weimar Republic-era Germany might initially seem an unlikely source of inspiration for the rapper, but scratch beneath the surface and you’ll find that many of the ideas at the heart of the Expressionist movement can be found in the A$AP Mob universe.
Translated into music, the distorted visuals, warped reality, and shadowy, dreamlike atmosphere of Expressionist cinema might come out sounding a bit like the stoned pace of Rocky’s early chopped and screwed sound, with its warped, pitched voices and abstract, surreal lyrics. For Expressionists, realism is stripped back in favour of a distorted and surreal world that reflects a purely subjective internal reality. It’s not surprising, then, that this resonates for Rocky, who has long created music – so different to the realism of traditional New York hip hop – that mimics his emotional state.
It also might explain his love for Tim Burton, another artist who has been deeply inspired by the macabre, nightmarish style of German Expressionism, and The Nightmare Before Christmas which has been a favourite since he was five years old. “He’s the man. The greatest,” Rocky tells Dazed over Zoom. We’re speaking to him on the occasion of Gucci’s new Guilty Elixir scents for which Rocky is the face, alongside Elliot Page and Julia Garner. It’s his first fragrance campaign and a long time coming, considering his love for cologne which he has been wearing since the age of two or three.
Describing himself as a “sweet and musky kind of guy” when it comes to fragrance, Rocky says that the ambery leathery scent of Gucci Guilty Elixir and its notes of vanilla give him instant nostalgia. “I can’t really pinpoint what it is but I know that when I smell it, man, it just brings me back to my childhood, my youthfulness,” he says. He’s now fully incorporated the fragrance into his life – “it’s part of my routine now, it’s part of my attitude” – although it will always come second to his latest favourite smell: newborn baby. “I just love how my babies’ heads smell, like newborn babies when you smell their heads, sniff their heads, there’s nothing like that smell,” he says. “I think that needs to be the new Gucci fragrance.”
His babies aren’t the only thing in Rocky’s life bringing him joy. When asked about what he’s most excited about right now he says, with an almost reverence, “everything”. It’s the most expressive and emotional he gets all interview, a true and genuine sense of pleasure and excitement in what he has coming up ahead. “The music, these campaigns and these partnerships, designs, the creativity, everything, the visuals. Really excited for everything that I’ve been working on thus far and I’m excited to finally release it.”
Here, Dazed chats with Rocky about Gucci, his new experimental music, which he thinks is his best yet, and his Halloween plans.
Hi, how are you?
A$AP Rocky: I’m good and yourself?
Not too bad. It’s been really hot in London.
A$AP Rocky: That’s something you never hear.
It never happens! So you’ve been collaborating with Gucci for years now – you’ve done campaigns and performed at the show. Why do you feel so creatively connected to the brand?
A$AP Rocky: I think Gucci is one of those brands that is really open-minded to a lot of new and fresh and fun ideas. And usually that’s what I try to bring to the table. I love how they are always willing to make revisions or changes to certain pieces to my liking or my style preference. I love it, man. We go hand in hand like that.
Before now, you’ve mostly been on the fashion side. What did you think when they approached you for fragrance?
A$AP Rocky: It was an honour to be part of the Gucci Guilty campaign. When they approached me for it, I was astounded. I was actually happy, I was glad that they recognised my beauty [laughs].
How could they not!
A$AP Rocky: They showed me love.
How was the experience of filming the campaign?
A$AP Rocky: It was so fulfilling, man, because I’m really into film and I think the cinematography of it felt really authentic. Not only was it authentic, but I got to co-star with some really talented actors and actresses. It was amazing, it was an experience that I had never really had before – one for the book.
Yeah, I interviewed Elliot a while ago and he spoke so passionately about you and Julia and how much the three of you immediately connected – how much chemistry and how much fun you had. Is that how you felt as well?
A$AP Rocky: Absolutely. Yeah, like I said, going into it, it was a pleasure to be co-starring with them. But after meeting them, they were sweethearts and amazing and I think with everybody, the chemistry was just perfect. And the music selection was good. We all were going through songs and me and Elliot talking about Brian Eno for hours. It was amazing.
A$AP Rocky: Yeah, we were just talking about him for hours. Elliot loves him, he fucks with him. And what else was on the playlist that was a really great one. We had some good Frank Sinatra, yeah it was a good rotation.
What does Gucci Guilty smell like to you? Does it remind you of anything?
A$AP Rocky: It does, man, it brings me back to some type of nostalgia. I can’t really pinpoint what it is, but I know that when I smell it, man, it just kind of brings me back to my childhood, my youthfulness. I don’t know if it’s the vanilla or the leather notes but it definitely brings you back to a time.
How has your relationship with fragrance changed or evolved throughout your life? Do you think you use it differently now than you used to?
A$AP Rocky: No, I always used it the way I do. I started using cologne when I was around two or three years old. I’ve always applied it [when I’m] freshened up and groomed up. After brushing, washing, moisturising, the last step is you put on a fragrance and you go about your day. Before I leave every day, I just got to make sure I smell like me.
I was gonna ask if you have a different fragrance for when you perform? One that helps you get into your mindset for performing?
A$AP Rocky: Yeah, Gucci Guilty. No bullshit.
Of course! And has becoming a father changed your taste in fragrance?
A$AP Rocky: Not at all. I just love how my babies’ heads smell, like newborn babies when you smell their heads, sniff their heads, there’s nothing like that smell. I think that needs to be the new Gucci fragrance [laughs].
Newborn baby by Gucci [laughs]. The campaign for Gucci Guilty is about inviting us home – a place where we can be ourselves very authentically. When do you feel most at home?
A$AP Rocky: At home [laughs]. When I’m at home, I feel most at home.
Fair enough [laughs]. Anywhere in particular, you must travel a lot, where do you think of as home?
A$AP Rocky: Anywhere that I have my lady and my children – that is home.
You carry the feeling with you, then.
A$AP Rocky: Yeah, yeah.
You have a new album coming soon – can you talk about it?
A$AP Rocky: I’ve been really experimenting as usual and what I like about this is it feels like my best work yet.
What can we expect?
A$AP Rocky: I want to leave expectations wide and open. I don’t want to tell you what to expect. I just want people to experience it how they do naturally.
You’re known for your great style, for being really experimental with fashion. Do fashion and fragrance play a part in your self-expression?
A$AP Rocky: Absolutely, I cannot agree with that more. I mean, fashion – you got to get dressed to leave, to walk out the door, right? You can’t walk out naked. I mean, you could but you might get a couple of fines and charges for indecent exposure. But I think every day you got to get dressed and I would hope most people have the privilege to shower every day. Personal hygiene is definitely a major factor. And I think the worst thing is just feeling they have no clean clothes and not feeling clean. You know, more so than anything, I think feeling fresh and clean and starting your day requires good grooming. And some Gucci Guilty.
Who has had the most impact on you in terms of style and how you like to dress? Is there someone in particular that you’ve looked up to?
A$AP Rocky: No, it’s not just one person in particular. I would say cultures, different films, hip hop, different rappers. People in my neighbourhood, older people, relatives, I take inspiration from everywhere, you know, different regions, different backgrounds, different nations. I find inspiration in everything and I think being able to flip things and make it your own and make an origin out of it and start something new, that’s the trick and that’s the magic within it all – creating an expression and expressing yourself.
Is there something in particular at the moment that you're really inspired by?
A$AP Rocky: I’m inspired by German Expressionism film. I really love Metropolis. And Tim Burton. He’s the man. The greatest.
Which film is your favourite?
A$AP Rocky: It’s really hard. It’s difficult to answer this but if I had to go with one, maybe The Nightmare Before Christmas.
That’s my favourite too!
A$AP Rocky: Exactly. Since I was like five.
My birthday is on Halloween. So I love the Halloween song, I always play it on my birthday.
A$AP Rocky: Yeah, Halloween is my favourite holiday.
It’s the best one! Do you have Halloween plans for this year?
A$AP Rocky: No, not really. Probably just put on some mask and chill out. My babies are too young to be eating candy and sugars and stuff, so you know, going to take it easy.