Tariq Devega never dreamed of a professional rap career – rather, it found him.
Initially chasing a career in fashion, rap came hand-in-hand with the culture that surrounded being a young Harlemite hustling for success. “It was just a hobby that grew with me,” Tariq, better known as A$AP Nast, explains.
“Being from Harlem – we’re known for the flashy, fly behaviour, so it just kind of came with it. At the time I was more into fashion, but rapping was always something I had as a hobby. I never saw myself doing it as a career.”
While the young entrepreneur pursued the fashion world – and hustled a bit of weed on the side – he would freestyle with his brother at home in an attempt to make the days go faster. Eventually, through practise, he began to improve, although he didn’t record any of his material until his childhood friend Jabari Shelton (aka A$AP Bari) formed the collective now known as A$AP Mob.
The Mob began travelling back and forth to a studio in Brooklyn where they would record tracks, both collectively and solo. Their breakthrough came when a track by A$AP Rocky, ‘Purple Swag’, went viral on YouTube, eventually pushing him into the mainstream. While Nast doesn’t stand in anyone’s shadow, it was Rocky’s success that made him focus.
“I was like, ‘F*ck that. I need to get some rap money too!’” he remembers. “I just started going off on records. We went into the studio to record verses for Rocky’s first mixtape, ‘Live.Love.A$AP’. I had two joints on there – ‘Purple Swag Chapter 2’ and ‘Trilla’ – and killed both verses. I could see a rap career then.”