In a GQ cover story on A$AP Rocky, the rapper announced that he had recorded a new album over the summer of 2020 tentatively titled All Smiles, and that it would feature writing, production and vocal contributions from Morrissey. He also spoke about fashion, love, and his stay in a Swedish prison, but that’s for later in this story.
Rocky didn’t reveal much more than that about Morrissey’s contributions. He said he’s a huge fan of the rock icon and stated, “Anything you need him to do, he show up and do.” That said, he has mentioned wanting to work with Morrissey previously, in 2018. He told Peter Rosenberg, “I might have to fuck with Morrissey on some Smiths shit. Make some emo, real, retro-infusion, motherfuckin’ 2018 shit, man.”
He says he began writing the album while on a road trip around the country with his now-official girlfriend, pop culture superstar Rihanna. “Work with what you got,” he said when asked about the tour bus-friendly mobile recording setup he used to begin recording the album. “God blessed me with a lot, so I’m working with that, and that’s enough to make some fuckin’ fire.”
Rihanna was “absolutely” a huge influence on the upcoming record as well. “I think it’s important to have somebody that you can bounce those creative juices and ideas off of,” he stated. “It’s just a different point of view.”
All Smiles is “all about the evolution,” he says. “If I’m still doing the same shit with the same sounds and the same bars and the same visuals from years ago, what’s the point? You got that catalog. You can go revisit that.” He didn’t mention any specific influences, but commented that he and Rihanna had been listening to artists like The Rolling Stones, The Grateful Dead and Curtis Mayfield while they were driving around.
When asked about whether he reads what critics say about his music, Rocky replied, “I don’t think that’s really my concern. I’d be confused, man. I just want to make some good music, that’s all. I want to feel great about doing it, and I want people to feel great about hearing it.”
Rocky called All Smiles a “ghetto love tale” and claimed it’s “way more mature” than his 2018 record, Testing. He told GQ that the album’s about 90 percent finished.
The cover story has much more to it other than his comments on the album. It dives into his music, his relationship with Rihanna and his work as a style/fashion influencer, but the main story it deals with is his experience with being locked up in a Swedish prison for a month following an assault charge against some young men that Rocky claimed had been harassing him and his crew.
“I’ve been locked up,” he said, meaning it wasn’t his first time in a prison cell. The other time had been for firing a gun at “a neighborhood bully” when he was 16 years old. Rocky stated that the Kronoberg remand prison was cleaner than the American jail had been at least, but that was the only positive thing he could manage to say about the experience. He called Nordic prison food “trash” and said that the month-long near-total isolation was “probably the most boring thing you could think of.” It’s worth noting that he was kept in a private room that was rarely dark due to the length of the days in Sweden during the summer.
GQ also had a lot of interest in then-President Donald Trump’s response to the rapper’s case. Rocky found out about Trump’s involvement through the news on a TV in his private cell. The news was talking about Trump’s tweet that stated that he had spoken with Kanye West about Rocky’s incarceration and intended to call the Swedish prime minister about freeing him. Trump proceeded to vouch for Rocky’s bail and play up his interest in the situation over the following week, involving a couple of US ambassadors and diplomats. At one point, the president tweeted, “Sweden has let our African American Community down in the United States.”
The week that Trump got involved was already supposed to be the last week of Rocky’s stay in the prison. After hearing the news, Rocky stated that he was “hoping it wouldn’t turn for the worse.” He had feared it might actually make his stay longer, “because they felt like they had a point to prove because he kept saying stuff…. We knew what was going to happen, and it happened the same way they said it would weeks prior.”
He was released from prison at that time. The rapper was judged “guilty” for assault later on, but not required to serve any additional jail time. Instead of avoiding Sweden from that point on, Rocky went back soon-after to play a show in Stockholm in 2019 in support of the Swedish Network of Refugee Support Groups non-profit.
Photo credit: Mauricio Alvarado