The hip-hop world poured some out this past weekend upon hearing the news that J. Scott, the beloved A$AP Mob member and all-round polymath, had passed away. The cause of his death remains unknown, but the outpouring of grief from those that knew him — among them ScHoolboy Q, Vince Staples, Kenny Beats, and The Internet — has made it clear how much he’ll be missed.
Justin Scott, aka A$AP Snacks, joined the A$AP Mob after moving to New York from Atlanta, having already been friends with Mob founder A$AP Yams (whose untimely passing in 2015 is still being felt). Scott became the Mob’s official DJ, spinning live for A$AP Rocky and also taking on A&R duties for Rocky’s label, A$AP Worldwide. The Mob have attracted comparisons with the Wu-Tang Clan since their inception (“Cash rules everything around me,” Rocky rapped on “Money Man”), and when asked which member he was most like back in 2012, Scott said GZA: “because he was the spiritual one.” Like GZA, Scott was a level-headed, calming influence in his rap family and, by many accounts, the glue holding it all together.
On the track “Purity” from his 2018 album TESTING, Rocky reflected: “Lose someone every release, it feels like the curse is in me.” After losing his father, his friend Yams, and his sister during periods immediately surrounding three different album drops, Rocky’s talk of feeling cursed seems especially poignant when you consider his next album, All Smiles, is expected soon. “IM LOST FOR WORDS,” said Flacko on Instagram, echoing the words of an industry upon which Scott’s influence should not be underestimated. Though he would only ever play it down, his imprint remains clear on the Mob and beyond.
When Rocky first emerged with the syrupy “Purple Swag” in 2011, many said he sounded like a Houston rapper — even though he’s actually from Harlem. With its tempo lagging in stoner slow-mo, “Purple Swag” employs the chopped and screwed production technique that Houston’s DJ Screw pioneered in the late 1990s (essentially slowing tracks down “so that everyone can feel them”). Scott has often said in interviews that Screw was the main reason he started DJing.
Artists like Screw were commonplace in Scott’s DJ sets on Ballers’ Eve, a radio show started as a way of bringing Southern rap sounds to New York. “Ballers’ Eve is two hours every week of just trill, crunk, turnt up, Southern comfort music for us and the listeners,” Scott once told the Village Voice; those descriptors could pretty easily be applied to most of the rap sounds now in vogue. Among many others, perhaps the greatest legacy both Scott and Yams left behind is making Southern, drugged-out beats cool in NYC and, therefore, the world.
Which is not to say that Scott was on drugs himself. “This was one of the healthiest guys I knew,” said A$AP Ferg in his Instagram tribute. At least according to his most recent interviews, Scott didn't smoke weed, drink lean, or eat meat, preferring instead to stay 'cozy,' a word he helped redefine for the millennial generation. As per the Mob definition, cozy has come to mean fresh, cool, and, above all, chill, a life philosophy best captured by AWGE DJ duo Cozy Boys, which comprises Scott and A$AP Lou. Like the aural equivalent of smoking a doobie in a bubblebath, Cozy Boys mixes range from the steamy to the soppy. “Fuck Cozy Boys II,” featuring dewy-eyed cuts from Madeintyo, Trippie Redd and 03 Greedo, is the best of all.
Yet Scott’s talents extended well beyond the DJ decks. Many credit the A$AP look — sharp yet comfortable, eye-catching yet understated — to Scott more than anyone else. Testament to his management skills, meanwhile, is the ascent of Kilo Kish. The two of them met at an N.E.R.D. gig (obviously), and soon after Kish was living at Scott’s house in New York. Along with Atlanta rapper Smash Simmons, Kish began making tunes in Scott’s bedroom. She’s since worked with The Internet, Chet Faker and Gorillaz.
It’s on a Kish track (2013’s brilliant “Trappin”), that Vince Staples spoke the immortal line “Me and J. Scott get ribs from the vegan.” As the track fades out, Staples and Earl Sweatshirt (who produced the track) take turns ad-libbing semi-nonsensical quips about their friend, apparently out of nothing more than mutual appreciation. What’s telling is that none of the three artists on the track are even Mob members: far beyond the close-knit confines of his immediate rap family, Scott’s influence reached much of contemporary hip-hop. But, as evidenced by the heartfelt messages of the last few days, more important than Scott’s status as a mogul that might have been is how much he was adored simply as a friend.