ASAP Yams, founder of hip-hop collective ASAP Mob, has passed away at 26, according to various posts on social media from members of the group. Born Steven Rodriguez, Yams helped bring young, talented acts like ASAP Rocky into the spotlight, spearheading a New York-based movement that quickly found fans worldwide, and whose influence extended beyond music into fashion and the arts.
As a sort of behind-the-scenes mastermind for ASAP Mob—“Rocky’s like Luke Skywalker, and I’m Yoda,” Yams told the New York Times in Jon Caramanica’s 2013 profile—Yams made his mark in a wide-ranging manner that made him more than just an executive producer, manager, and marketer. “Yams is the hip-hop encyclopedia,” Rocky said, describing how Yams’ erudition and ambition were at the core of ASAP Mob’s early success.
Perhaps Yams’ crowning achievement was his canny use of the internet—much of ASAP Mob’s initial popularity was rooted in his innovative engagement with Tumblr and other social media, a strategy that combined his technological savvy with his skills as a tastemaker. His partnership with Rocky was the latest iteration in a long line of entrepreneur-rapper duos like Jay Z and Damon Dash, Biggie and Puff Daddy.
Yams himself once tweeted his own wishes for a eulogy:
Leaving no doubt about the scale of Yams’ influence, many of hip-hop’s biggest artists were quick to pay tribute: