The cover art for 20-year-old North Philadelphia rapper Asaad’s newest single, “Boss Status,” is a watercolor painting of dead rap legend Tupac doggystyle fucking dead rap legend Notorious B.I.G. in what looks like a cheap hotel room. Pac points his pistol to the ceiling with his left hand, and slaps the big man’s ass with his right.
The image upset people.
When 2DopeBoyz posted it last month, about four of the 94 comments were supportive. The general consensus was expressed by commenter Outlawz Jr. Mafia: “hopefully this bitch asaad will catch a slug in his fuckin dome for this bullshit.” Even when Asaad revealed his intentions—to foster a dialogue about how the media and music industry turned the two legends against each other in order to profit from black-on-black violence, how this led to their murders and how the industry continues such racist tactics today—few people listened.
“It ruffled feathers,” brags Asaad from the sofa in his engineer’s apartment/recording studio in West Philadelphia. “Evoking that much emotion with cover art’s a move only a boss can make. Unfortunately, people are one-dimensional. They looked at it from just one perspective, but I look at all things from many angles.”
Asaad’s cocky and flippant—he describes himself as a precocious, straight-A student who graduated two years early from Cheltenham High School—and this comes across in his music. He’s released about seven mixtapes, but his last two—Dirty Middle Class and New Black History Month—have earned him some national attention. They’re the first installments in a conceptually ambitious trilogy in which Asaad’s articulating his life story and creative trajectory.
“It’s about black people elevating their social status; going from dirt poor to working,” he says about DMC . “But they’re entering the land of the lost. It’s like a nigga who’s finally getting outta the hood, but the hood’s still in him.”
About NBHM , which he recorded in four days and released in February Asaad says: “When he [the “character” from DMC ] goes back to visit the hood, kids don’t know about Martin Luther King, and that fucks him up. That fucked me up! It’s a remembrance for all those who worked hard so black people can be where we are today, and it’s about how kids don’t know this history.”
The final installment is the double-album #WHITE, which dropped April 20. “It’s all about enlightenment,” says Asaad. Immediately after, he’ll release 6—an EP named after the age he was when his father, a former music producer for Philadelphia International, left him and his mother. They recently reunited and have been working together in his father’s California studio.
Despite Asaad’s talent and hyper-productivity, he hasn’t signed a label deal. Several offers are on the table, but it’s a matter of choosing the right one. “I fucked up a $2 million deal ’cause I got too big,” he says. “Two million isn’t enough now. That’s what boss status can do for you.”
Asaad performs Thurs., April 26, 7pm. $15. With Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, Paris Artelli + Gianni Lee. TLA, 334 South St. 215.922.1011. tlaphilly.com