During the Wednesday’s impeachment hearing on Capitol Hill, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland name-checked rapper ASAP Rocky several times during his testimony. In his opening statement, Sondland recounted a July 26 call he had with Trump and notes, “I think we primarily discussed ASAP Rocky.” Around 30 minutes later, when Democratic counsel Daniel Goldman pointed out that Sondland had not mentioned the July call in his initial deposition, the ambassador explained, “What triggered my memory was someone’s reference to ASAP Rocky.” Goldman responded, “That’s one way memory works.” Sondland made the same point again when Republican counsel Steve Castor brought up the call.
So why does ASAP Rocky, also known as Lord Pretty Flacko, keep coming up during the impeachment hearings? Here’s a quick refresher on the strange journey that led the rapper to cross paths with the Trump administration.
Who is ASAP Rocky?
ASAP Rocky, real name Rakim Athelaston Mayers, is a 31-year-old rapper known for his woozy, psychedelic hip-hop. He often raps about acid, swag, Harlem, materialism, and death. In 2007, ASAP Rocky joined the New York hip-hop collective ASAP Mob. He first enjoyed mainstream success with the mixtape Live. Love. A$AP. His subsequent album, Long. Live. A$AP, topped the Billboard 200 and would later receive double platinum recognition. Some of his most well-known songs include “Purple Swag,” “Fuckin’ Problems,” and “Everyday.”
Why would Sondland and Trump be discussing ASAP Rocky?
It’s safe to say Sondland and Trump weren’t talking about how much they stan the ASAP Mob. Rather, they were likely discussing a legal quandary that ASAP Rocky faced at the time. In late June, while on tour in Europe, ASAP Rocky and his entourage were involved in a brawl in Stockholm. The fight led to the hospitalization of a man named Mustafa Jafari. Swedish police arrested the rapper and his associates on July 3 on assault charges. ASAP Rocky was then detained for nearly a month. He maintained that he was acting in self-defense.
After Kanye West and Kim Kardashian West lobbied Trump to help secure ASAP Rocky’s release, the president brought up the issue in a phone call with Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and later dispatched a hostage affairs envoy to watch over the trial in Stockholm. A court found the rapper guilty of assault in August but was not sentenced to the six-month prison sentence prosecutors had requested. The judge instead ordered him to pay Jafari $1,300. ASAP Rocky has pledged to never return to Sweden.
What does ASAP Rocky have to do with impeachment?
Not that much. In October, Sondland spoke to Congress in a closed-door deposition concerning his role in the Ukraine affair. The ambassador later sent Congress a four-page sworn statement modifying his original testimony, bringing it more in line with the accounts of other witnesses.
In the statement he claimed he did believe that U.S. military aid was being held up to pressure Ukraine’s president into releasing a statement announcing that they were investigating Burisma, the energy company for which Hunter Biden served on the board.
Sondland also added that he had talked with Trump after the president’s infamous phone call in which he requested that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky investigate Joe and Hunter Biden. He made this addition because David Holmes, an American diplomat serving in Ukraine, claimed to have overheard a phone call between Sondland and Trump on July 26—when ASAP Rocky was still in Swedish custody. Holmes told Congress that he heard them discuss ASAP Rocky, but also the prospect of a Ukrainian investigation into the Bidens. According to Holmes, Sondland assured Trump that Ukraine would pursue the investigation because Zelensky “loves your ass.”
Sondland said on Wednesday that he had forgotten the call until Holmes mentioned ASAP Rocky in his testimony, which apparently jogged the ambassador’s memory. He claims, though, that the discussion mostly centered on the rapper’s legal situation.
Anyway, here is a fantastic music video in which ASAP Rocky raps into a cracked mirror: