A$AP Twelvyy was introduced to many fans on A$AP Rocky’s 2011 song “Trilla.”
Little did they know, the New York rapper wouldn’t drop his solo debut for another six years.
Multiple group projects later, Twelvyy, born Jamel Phillips, has finally released his breakout solo project, 12. Boasting features from his A$AP Mob cohorts A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg, A$AP Nast and A$AP Ant, as well as fellow New Yorkers Joey Bada$$ and Flatbush ZOMBiES, 12 serves as a family affair and an introduction into Twelvyy’s world.
The long writing and recording process taught the Castle Hill-via-Harlem rapper a lot, he says. Twelvyy estimates he created 20 to 30 different track lists with different names and songs.
“It was a journey. It was like Sylvester Stallone in Cliffhanger,” Twelvyy says. “It was cold. I had to go up the mountain. I had to feel it out. It was a process of me scouting myself and scouting the game, just holding the template to use for my other projects as well. I was testing the waters all the time.”
One of many members on the Mob’s long roster, Twelvyy keeps the tradition of New York rap alive within the cutting-edge group. From 12’s lyrically vivid, boom bap-flavored opening cut, “Castle Hell,” to the sleek and modern “Hop Out,” Twelvyy merges the new with the classic, giving new and old hip-hop heads something to latch on to.
His skills and range were inspired by his eclectic influences, which he says vary from Bad Boy Records, Roc-A-Fella Records, Wu-Tang Clan, Nine, Royal Flush, Nas, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Onyx to the Backstreet Boys, *NSYNC, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
“It was just everything I loved,” he says. “I would listen to it, study it and then be like, ‘Well, let me do this this way.’ Not even showing my full ability at the time, but just like, testing the waters.”
During the past half-decade, Twelvyy released a steady stream of non-album singles, including the ’90s throwback “Xscape,” which was meant to be on the Mob’s scrapped debut album, L.O.R.D. During this time, he gained many life experiences.
“I got to be on mad tours, I got to travel the world, then I got to come back home to the hood. I got to feel it out,” he says. “I got to really experience life in a different realm, because my brothers were already superstars by this time. They were already like the hottest things in the streets. And then I’m seeing other people become superstars right in front of me, so it was just dope to see the evolution of life and watching the flowers grow.”
While Twelvyy’s solo career is taking off with his long-awaited debut, he still finds much to be inspired by in his friends, who he describes as “exceptional musicians.”
“I feel like Steve Kerr on the Bulls getting to watch Jordan, Pippen, Rodman, Phil Jackson coach,” he says. “I just feel it. So it’s just like I just get to learn from them, I get to study them; there’s no other lesson like that.”
Last Halloween, the group released the first installment of its Cozy Tapes series, aptly subtitled Friends. Now, less than a year later, the Harlem rappers have released their follow-up, Cozy Tapes Vol. 2: Too Cozy. For the two projects, the Mob enlisted a jam-packed lineup of guests, including Juicy J, Lil Uzi Vert, Lil Yachty, ScHoolboy Q, Playboi Carti, Gucci Mane, Frank Ocean and Tyler, The Creator.
“I think the second one was kind of more spontaneous. It was more like, ‘Yo, we just put out a tape. We should put out another one,’” he says with a laugh. “It was dope…We on that grind. We on that heavy grind.”
Released in August, Too Cozy is the third phase in an organized takeover of the rap game by the Mob, preceded by Twelvyy’s 12 and Ferg’s Still Striving. The group is gearing up for a large-scale U.S. tour.
“There was a real synchronized, sequenced takeover, and we did it well,” he says, comparing the release schedule to Def Jam’s coordination of Method Man and Redman projects.
“They’re going to talk about August forever, because next year they’re going to be waiting for August and seeing what we’re going to do,” he says. “We changed the whole month of the year to August.”
A$AP Mob will perform at Mesa Amphitheatre on Saturday, October 21. Rocky, Ferg, Nast and Ant will join Twelvyy for the performance, with support provided by Playboi Carti, Key! and Cozy Boys. The Mob’s lineup varies from show to show.
“This is kind of equivalent to the Scream Tours, the Warped Tours,” Twelvyy says. “To have a bunch of young cats from the hood go this crazy. For real. I don’t even know how to feel.
“I’m a super excited person and a blessed person, and I don’t ever expect anything but I know God got us, and I know sold-out shows, screaming fans — it’s going to look like The Beatles when they first came to the States.”
A$AP Mob w/Playboi Carti, Key! and Cozy Boys, Mesa Amphitheatre, 263 N. Center Street, Mesa, 480.644.2560, mesaamp.com, 6:30 p.m. Saturday, October 21, $42.50-$195.