On a chilly Thursday afternoon I head to the corner of Bowery for a 10-minute chat with A$AP Rocky. Stepping into the GUESS Originals’ store is like entering a time capsule. '90s-era video games are clustered to one side of the wall and more than a few people are hunched around the monitors, doggedly reliving their childhoods via pixelated versions of Donkey Kong and Tomb Raider. Concentrated sounds of clicking game consoles and all-too-frequent groans of disappointment pepper the air, floating their way to the worn corduroy couch (quite possibly an actual '90s relic) where waiting interviewers perch.
Against another window-pockmarked wall sits A$AP Rocky’s capsule. Although the rapper is sitting in a back room fielding press questions, that doesn’t stop the more curious from examining the clothing up close, rolling the material between their fingers and murmuring amongst themselves about which items they’ll be buying.
When we’re finally ushered back to speak to Rocky he greets us with a bag of “Pop Rocks,” re-named “Pop Rockies” - it’s a throwback if ever there was one. The capsule, rife with new iterations of iconic GUESS styles, is equally worthy of #tbt status.
Rocky says he was inspired by the underappreciated role GUESS played in ‘80s and ‘90s urban culture. “You remember that corner-store scene in Menace II Society", he fires off with the intensity of a professor suddenly inspired to give a pop quiz. “What kind of shirt was he wearing?” The answer is GUESS, of course.
“Queens where my drugs be, I wear Guess jeans and rugbies,” Rocky is onto the next example without pause. This time it’s Nas’s “Affirmative Action”; Rocky raps it with the devotion of a person who has listened to the It Was Written album a few hundred times. “It’s what I grew up with,” he concludes, “I’m a ‘90s kid and GUESS was a huge part of that time.”
As the brand’s first collaborator, Rocky felt it was tremendously important to bring a fresh sensibility to a label some believe has lost its inherent cool. A huge part of that process involved the GUESS archives, which Rocky says he mined for inspiration. When I ask what other brands are inspiring his style in 2016 the 27-year-old becomes playfully cagey.
"I don't know if I can say all that," he tells me with a boyish grin. It's true, there is a tendency for the brands Rocky blesses to suddenly attain hype status. At the VMA's for instance, he wore the Tommy Hilfiger "Flag Hoodie" from Gosha Rubchinskiy's fall collection, sparking widespread interest in the Moscow-based designer.
Friends like Ian Connor, who makes an appearance in the capsule's Polaroid-style campaign images, and model Luka Sabbat, only add to his fashion-conscious image. At the time, Connor was engaged in a social media spar with Travi$ Scott. Connor's main issue was his belief that Scott consistently copied Rocky's style.
When I ask for Rocky's perspective, he pauses momentarily, carefully reviewing what he wants to say next. "I think if someone is coming up and they get inspired by what you're doing you can't really knock them for that," he says finally. "I don't really know what their deal is, there might be a reason he [Ian Connor] feels how he feels, but you know, I think it's whatever."
"That was very mature," I comment. A$AP Rocky shoots me his toothiest grin yet, "I've grown up a lot."