“For me, music and fashion always went hand-in-hand,” A$AP Nast tells me over the phone. “Especially in this day and age, people don’t want to hear your music unless you dress really nice.” On the occasion of the interview, Nast – real name Tariq Devega – is gearing to drop the visuals for his single “Designer Boi,” his first solo project in seven years. While he’s occasionally blessed us with a coveted verse alongside the likes of Skepta and A$AP Rocky, the A$AP Mob member took a detour from music in recent years, bringing his natural stylistic flair to fashion and design instead.
A$AP Nast has lent his style tendencies to designing sneakers with Converse, presenting a capsule collection at Copenhagen Fashion Week, and most recently styling the Hermés scarf for our Not In Paris online exhibition. While for many rappers being buddies with the Maisons, starring in lookbooks, and sitting front row at fashion week comes with the territory, Nast was one of the few who chartered the territory of hip-hop in high fashion. “I cared about the way I dressed before I had enough to actually record music or really care about making music like that. Loving to dress myself has always been a thing,” he explains. “I’ve been that way from my early childhood, I’ve always loved to dress myself. My mom wanted to dress me and I’d be like, ‘No I want to dress like this.’”
Nast made the jump from rapper to self-described “fashion icon” without the stylists and antics many rappers rely on. “I’m not really trying to be a part of the fashion world to be honest. I know that sounds fucking crazy, but like I really don’t. I’m extremely true to my own level of style. I just think that people genuinely gravitate towards that. Now when I go outside, every day I see people who dress like me, except they probably would have got shit for it a couple years ago.”
For the fans, Nast’s affinity for fashion and taste-making has been inspiring and frustrating all at once. It feels like he’s done more fashion than music lately. “I’m always making music even if I don’t release it,” Nast laughs, “that was an inside [joke], my fans will get that one.” However, with his new single “Designer Boi,” Nast finds the perfect midway between rap and fashion. Different than the hardcore New York style of hip-hop he’s know for, on the new track, Nast lends his nimble flow to rhymes about his “love for high end designers and fashion in general.” It’s bouncy and different, but nevertheless catchy, accompanied by an infectious chorus by producer D33J.
Ahead of the single’s video release, Nast gave us a look at the visuals and spoke about his inspirations. The clip shares Nast’s nostalgia for the style of the ‘60s and ‘70s over almost three minutes of 35mm footage and countless outfits styled by Shirley Kurata. The Eliel Ford-directed video follows a series of models auditioning for a frustratingly perfectionist director: once again A$AP Nast is running the show. “I felt like that era was appropriate.” Nast reveals that a lot of his style has been informed by looking back what has been done in the past. “Some of [my aesthetic] has been taken from watching those movies, and watching old rap videos, and just looking at all things nostalgic and looking at it from my own angle, adding my own touch to it and making it mine.”
It’s unsurprising that A$AP Nast’s return to music would be a fashionable one. We expect no less from the “Designer Boi” himself. But why the long wait? “For a while I just wasn’t inspired to really make music like that. And part of it was just me living, trying to find myself. In order to make really great music obviously I feel like you have to live,” he tells me. “I didn’t want to be another rapper coming from where I come from, which is pretty much the slums, the ghetto, with the same old sad story. Like I’ve seen that movie, we’ve all seen that movie. So, I just felt like I had to find myself, just find the angle I wanted to come from.”
He lets on that he’s been recording music all these years, just never felt like putting it out and his sudden return to music had an unlikely reason. “This whole pandemic thing made me want to be more active and creative. It’s also given me the time to be as creative as I probably always wanted to be,” he says. Nast’s return has been hotly anticipated, when I ask him if “Designer Boi” is the lead up to a new album he responds, “Yeah, definitely.” However, Nast wouldn’t reveal anything beyond that.
“All I can tell people about what’s to come is that you got to wait to see it, you got to wait to hear it. But yeah, I’ve been working on so much music like I said I’m extremely excited to put out new music, and I know people have been waiting for a long time, and it’s on the way, everything is on the way.”
Watch the video for “Designer Boi” below.