Calling A$AP Rocky simply a rapper is limiting. He's an artist through and through. Everything from his fashion choices to his sonic and visual aesthetics are deeply woven together into one singular preconceived medium. This solitary vision is always driven by Rocky's current artistic period. This is why he is dope.
No matter where the artist is creatively in his career, he works meticulously to interlink his evolving interests into one vision. It has served the artist well during each of his projects. So, it would make sense that Rocky would find a way to integrate these philosophies into his creative collective AWGE. But, we are getting ahead of ourselves.
What is AWGE? Who are the people behind AWGE? And what the hell does AWGE even mean? All valid questions. On its surface, AWGE is a known-unknown creative agency packed with creative talents from a wide array of fields. AWGE has directed prominent music videos, designed experimental physical and digital experiences, produced music, and have collaborated with leading fashion brands. They even got into the NFT hype. AWGE has also simply just created art. They have their creative fingers just about everywhere. Yet, there is still very little known about this A$AP-led collective.
Here is what we know about this pseudo-mystery.
What is AWGE?
A$AP Rocky and his A$AP Mob crew have worked to create an insulated agency that can help them streamline their creative output. Featuring other prominent creatives, AWGE works in the shadows to maximize their creativity. Rocky himself shared this sentiment with Trevor Noah in 2018, "We all get together and mastermind how we want to takeover, manipulate, or change the world in music, culture, film art."
Nonetheless, AWGE is not a creative agency in a traditional sense. Words and phrases like “DIY”, "free-thinking," "collective," and "free moving" have all been used to describe the group.
In some ways, AWGE looks to recreate the same bohemian collaborative art scene found in mid-town Manhattan during the 1970s that gave rise to some of the most prolific cultural forces - names still relevant today like Jean Michael Basquiat, Andy Warhol, Madonna, Keith Haring, and Fab 5 Freddy. However, AWGE is doing this on a global, digital scale.
But, most of that is just speculation. We may know what AWGE does, but their grand plans are shrouded in mystery.
AWGE has two rules: 1. "Never reveal what AWGE means." 2. "When in doubt, always refer to rule #1". This has only further fueled speculation around the group.
Like a secretive fight club, when members are asked about the collective, they either choose not to speak on it or will give listeners a somewhat generic response. We even reached out to a few members of the crew but got the same reply: "The first rule about AWGE is you don't talk about AWGE."
A$AP Rocky on AWGE during The Daily Show with Trevor Noah
"I feel like your sound should match your outfit, your outfit should match your video, your video should match your girlfriend, ya know?.... Everything is aesthetic."
Even their nostalgic 90s style official website tends to create more questions than answers. Littered with timeless references to film, art, music, and design AWGE.com gives curious cultural detectives insight into their members, creative direction, video mixtapes, and their latest fashion collaborations.
Regardless of what they are secretly masterminding behind the scenes, AWGE has managed to produce some pretty dope shit over the years.
AWGE’s growing influence
In 2015, A$AP Rocky relaunched his Instagram with a series of seamless, curated collages. When viewed on any smartphone, Rocky's feed could be scrolled through as a continuous visual experience, transcending the conventionally squared format of Instagram at the time.
Though the day of the relaunch saw Rocky's Instagram lose over 100,000 followers, this unique reimagining of his social media presence through bold, new visual aesthetics inspired many of the artist's young followers to rethink their own Instagram profiles and ushered in a new era of iPhone curators.
While, in and of itself, this undertaking was an important moment for the artist's aesthetic identity, it is perhaps most noteworthy as the inaugural project of the AWGE collective. The A$AP Rocky's secret cabal of artists, designers, and creators would come to describe the relaunch of his Instagram as a 'digital installation.'
Through the project, the world was introduced to two of AWGE's core members: Robert Gallardo and Tan Camera. Gallardo and Camera (real name Kimi Selfridge) were credited as the masterminds behind the project, with Gallardo taking the lead on creative direction and Selfridge as responsible for much of the installation's photography and design work.
In describing her involvement in Complex, Selfridge says: "I made each collage by hand with various materials, including photographs shot on 35mm film and Polaroid film."
The photographer's work is instantly recognizable for its mixed media collage style, pop-culture references, and off-the-cuff references to iconic brands such as Palace and Goyard. Since the relaunch, Camera's DIY aesthetic has become a staple throughout the A$AP Mob's social media platforms and across AWGE projects.
An A$AP-led collective
If anything, the A$AP-led collective creates fresh forms of creative art by sampling components of the upper echelon and mixing them with the underground. They strive to create thrilling artistic amalgamations of various cultures. Just take a look at their directed videos like the fan-favorite A$AP Rocky and Skepta visual for Praise the Lord.
Directed by AWGE, the video splices the respective rapper's home bases together, seamlessly merging NYC and London together throughout the AWGE directed visual. The editing, low aesthetic, mixed media collage-like visuals are all signatures to the collective's creative direction. Similar styles also appear in Playboi Carti's Magnolia Kodak Black's Roll in Peace, A$AP Ferg's Plain Jane, and Gunna's Richard Millie Plain.
Though not always explicitly referenced, AWGE seems to have its hands in many of its members' projects guiding everything from fashion choices to music production. This is apparent in the A$AP Mob's Cozy Tapes series.
In the run-up to the release of Cozy Tapes Vol. 1, A$AP Rocky premiered the AWGE-directed short film "Money Man." The film, a partnership with Red Bull, was a contemporary reworking of the French cult film La Haine, shot by frequent A$AP Mob collaborator Dexter Navy and featuring London grime artist Skepta. The short film was AWGE flexing its creative muscle, an exercise in cross-discipline expression.
AWGE’s fashion world
AWGE's scope has not been limited to music. In 2016 rumors of a potential collaboration with fashion critic favorite J.W. Anderson were confirmed, with Rocky often seen sporting the collection's standout piece, a faux fur teddy jacket.
Similarly, Rocky's collaboration with GUESS was holistically conceptualized by the AWGE team. Buoyed by the success of their first collaborative collection, which sold out worldwide, and to coincide with the collaboration's second iteration, AWGE presented the 'A$AP Rocky x GUE$$ Clubhouse.' The launch of the clubhouse, itself a pop-up shop and installation inspired by a '90s treehouse, welcomed in attendance a who's who of the Los Angeles creative scene.
The known most unknown collective has designed merch for Kanye's Jesus is King, partnered with Midnight Studios to bring back some famed 90s looks, and have dropped a highly coveted Marine Serre collab. AWGE even collaborated with Under Armor to revive skateboarding's most polarizing shoe, the Osiris D3.
Who are AWGE's members?
This is less of a mystery. On the AWGE about page, you will find two sections, "People" and "Artists." Prominent artists involved with the collective include slowthai, Playboi Carti, Smooky Margielaa, the A$AP Mob, and Key! Some of the "people" part of AWGE include the legendary creative stylist Matthew Henson, Shane Gonzales from Midnight Studios, and the super jeweler Ben Baller just to name a few. All the people on this list are extremely talented in their respective fields. Other big names tied to the brand include Tyler the Creator, and Lil Uzi Vert. So, what about the name?
What the hell does AWGE mean?
Though the collective is more pseudo-mystery than conspiracy, there is a lot of confusion around its name. Does AWGE stand for A$AP Worldwide Global Enterprises? A Weird Genetic Experiment? Are We Gonna Eat? No one really knows, and that probably is the point (see rule #1 & #2).
"The first rule of AWGE is don't ask questions about AWGE," Rocky replied when asked by The New York Times. "No one needs to know what the letters stand for. We know what it is, and that's how we want to keep it." Though we will likely never know what AWGE means or their inner workings, we do know their work. AWGE has gone on to create some exciting cultural moments.
Be it clothing, music videos, or expansive events, one thing is for certain, AWGE has more surprises in store
Meanwhile, A$AP Ferg just keeps getting fresher.