Like many celebrities who wrongly employ the phrase as a means of evading responsibility for their actions, A$AP Rocky doesn’t seem to know exactly what “taken out of context” means. There are not many ways to interpret, “What the f—k am I, Al Sharpton now? I’m A$AP Rocky. I did not sign up to be no political activist.” It’s a sentiment as clear as the color of the sky in Los Angeles on a relatively smogless day.
The same goes for the rest of the quote: “I wanna talk about my motherf—kin' lean, my best friend dying, the girls that come in and out of my life, the jiggy fashion that I wear, my new inspirations in drugs! I don't wanna talk about no f—king Ferguson and s—t because I don't live over there! I live in f—king Soho and Beverly Hills. I can't relate. I'm in the studio; I'm in these fashion studios; I'm in these bitches' drawers. I'm not doing anything outside of that. That's my life.”
Some of us knew of his 2015 TimeOut interview when it was first published. Despite Rocky’s claim in an interview Wednesday with Power 105.1’s The Breakfast Club, reading the TimeOut interview in full will do little to alleviate any frustrations with his thought process. And before that radio interview, the Harlem rapper, who now lives in “f—king Soho and Beverly Hills,” said something equally clueless while speaking before the Debate Society of Oxford University. During that conversation, Rocky said, “Why are we exploiting the beef between the urban community and the police force when 60 people got shot on a Friday and Saturday [on a July 2014 holiday weekend] in Chicago in black-on-black crime?”
A$AP Rocky’s issue is not that he was misquoted or that his remarks were received differently than intended; it’s that his words have come back to haunt him several months later. They haunt him because as state-sanctioned violence against black people in this country continues to happen, those who enjoy a platform but do not advocate on behalf of black people are widely viewed as part of the problem. In his more recent radio interview, Rocky did not so much offer clarity about previous comments made as he tried to parse his words.
In his initial response to the social media pile-on, he took to Twitter to take shots at those finding the TimeOut interview late, though he did now acknowledge “all this social injustice makes me f—king sick, tho I’m still no politician.”
On The Breakfast Club, he said, "I feel terrible as a black man, as an American. It's crazy. This Donald Trump s—t … I just don't understand how they keep saying a dark-skinned n—ga don't like black people."
Still, he asked, “How come black lives only matter when a police officer takes it? It should matter when a black life take it.”
That said, there was one somewhat better explanation about why he does not speak on police brutality:
Your favorite rappers today—I don't know if it's [Young] Thug, Future, Drake, anybody—you don't always hear their content being about the political s—t going on or all the other s—t. I feel like, why put me on a pedestal for that, especially when I'm not asking for that? I want to make music, I want to inspire, I want to promote peace because at a time like this, I don't have all the answers. I'm not trying to run for Congress or office. I don't have all the answers. I want to promote prosperity especially for black people, especially for just young people, ambitious people, underprivileged. I'm not here to talk about supremacy, who's dominant. It's f—ked up.
An inconvenient truth is that, as helpful as it is for each of us—especially those with huge platforms—to advocate on behalf of black people in the wake of what’s happening to so many of us, it is still by and large a choice. Moreover, it is a choice that some may elect to do but are unfortunately not equipped to handle. A$AP Rocky can talk about many things with precision: fashion, his flawless skin, the women he screws, the friends he’s lost along the way and whatever else involves his private life. Unfortunately, as he’s made it painfully clear over and over again, social unrest, police brutality and racism are not his forte.
The people who conflate “black-on-black crime” with state-sanctioned violence are of the Stacey Dash school of thinking. It is a pool as deep as a wad of spit on a New York City sidewalk on a hot day in July. There are many other celebrities—namely those minority ones who mistakenly invoke “All Lives Matter”—just like Rocky. They don’t know any better, and while we hope they get better, in the meantime, it’s probably better off for all parties involved if they shut up.
Maybe we shouldn’t put certain celebrities on pedestals and expect more than what they can give intellectually. Even so, if you go out of your way not only to misrepresent the movement but also to lend your black face to a white-contrarian narrative seeking to discount the racism happening in this country, as A$AP Rocky did, then you deserve whatever comes your way.
Michael Arceneaux hails from Houston, lives in Harlem and praises Beyoncé’s name wherever he goes. Follow him on Twitter.