The rapid rise of Harlem rapper A$AP Rocky has been a bit of puzzle to figure out. Sure his east coast-meets-Houston chopped 'n' screwed flow is pretty unique, but there's more to it than that. Maybe it's the fact that, unlike many of his homophobic rap peers, being gay isn't a big deal to him. Or maybe it's that Rocky's classic hoodie and leather jacket combo makes him look like a long-lost Ramones member. To hear the man born Rakim Mayers say it himself, he stands out because he's punk.

"We're like the punk rock of rap," Rocky -- who plays The Bout That Life SXSW Showcase Friday night in Austin -- tells our partner site Spinner. "The punk rap, y'know. We're like the f---in' twisted metal hop. Honestly, we're rebels, but the attitude isn't hardcore to the point of where we're untamed boys, you just can't deal with us. It's like, we have our beliefs and we just live like a society, a rebel society."

That rebel society is running the risk of mainstreaming pretty quickly. During a recent appearance in Toronto, king-maker Drake took it upon himself to join Rocky onstage for a song. Meanwhile, his 'Live.Love.A$AP' mix tape has been so well received that Sony Music sent him into the studio to re-record the whole thing more professionally.

Likewise, fashion designers are already all over Rocky -- he's been seen in 3.1 Phillip Lim, Rick Owens, Raf Simons, Black Scale, Y-3, Christian Louboutin and Givenchy amongst other big names. Despite the flashy threads, Rocky has no interest in being a jiggy rapper. He's far more interested in saving his money and living the life of an artist.

"I don't spend money like that, bro," he says. "I don't need to. I take cabs if I need to get somewhere or I take car service. I don't drive, I wouldn't mind riding a bike... People think that because you become an entertainer you gotta have this rock star thug image. I'm an artist, man. I'm going to live like an artist. Artists, they have mattresses, no box spring, sittin' on the floor with a bunch of expensive-ass paintings, sippin' wine with like three mad naked bitches. That's what I am, a f---in' artist. F--- that other s---."

Statements like that sound a little on the braggadocious side, but hunt down Rocky's 'Deep Purple' mixtape and listen to his reworking of the Verve's classic 'Bittersweet Symphony' into the diary-like 'New York Bittersweet Symphony' and you'll quickly realize there's an artistry to his work.

Watch A$AP Rocky's 'Purple Swag' Video

It doesn't hurt that he knows and respects the music that's come before him.

"Yeah, you have to pay homage to your forefathers and all the people who came before you because they set the blueprint of how to do everything," says Rocky. "Why wouldn't you pay homage? Why wouldn't you respect them?

"Honestly, man, it goes deep as f---. I mean where do I start, bro? Kool G Rap or Slick Rick or Rakim and Eric B., or LL Cool J, Run-DMC, the Beastie Boys... it goes deep to Michael Jackson, Curtis Mayfield, Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers, the Platters -- my music collection is outrageous. Jimi Hendrix, Red Hot Chili Peppers, f---in' Coldplay. It's not that I know the music, it's just that I like music."

Rocky likes music, but he loves beats and compares the sound his A$AP Mob crew produces to a divine experience.

"That's the most important part," says Rocky. "That's the core. Man, beats is a f---in' gift from God. Oh man, it's like you just walked into a hotel room and this bad ass full-on big booty, big titty, pretty face, long-haired bitch is just sitting on the bed, just waiting for you to stick your d--- in. Honestly, though, that's what a good beat is like."

Maybe that's the whole reason everybody's getting on the A$AP Rocky train. To him, it's all about making music with his friends. It's a commodity that's become increasingly rare in the rap world.

"Sometimes I forget that I'm supposed to keep people entertained because I'm just making music for my lifestyle and for my people who live my lifestyle," he says. "We forget that there's a world waiting on us."

Will Middle America be ready when A$AP Rocky comes at them? His answer is classic punk.

"Middle America is probably not ready for a lot of s---, but they're gonna get it."

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