“WE ARE HARLEM,” A$AP Yams, April 2012
All we have in this world are our communities and our families. They raised us and molded us into who we are today. It doesn’t matter where you come from. No matter where you go you’ll always show your origins.
It might be the way you swagger down the street or that funny accent that surfaces in conversation every once in a while. Your community won’t ever let go, not even if you try to abandon it. It will always be there remembering you… And you’ll always have to go back.
You can’t ignore the cries from your hood especially when you’ve made something of yourself and you know what you’ve left behind. A place where many lack hope and opportunities are choked off by misfortune and poverty.
Just a couple of days before Christmas the ASAP Foundation proved that it’s necessary to put it on for their city, not only through the music but through community service. The service would be in the form of a toy-drive and it would flood the corner of Frederick Douglas and W 154 with smiles, hugs, and good vibes.
From outside of That’s Eso you could feel “New Level” vibrating the atmosphere and drawing people into the restaurant where tables and chairs were replaced with stands for donated fly clothing, stuffed gift bags, and fresh kicks.
Ready to bless a small community in Harlem the ASAP Foundation stood ready for little tykes to pull up with their brothers and sisters to enjoy the best part of Christmas. One native “Harlem New Yorker” named Shanna came with two small children, both no older than six years old.
Shanna gave off an aura of relief when she exited and looked over to her two children play with their brand new action figures. To her events like the toy drive are important for the community because they are “good for single moms, other mothers who are struggling, and for children who are struggling in the community…”
Executive Director of the ASAP Foundation, Darryl Phillips felt the toy drive represented another lane the initiative wants to take when it comes to restoring a community. He said,
“Even though we deal with drug awareness and give people the right information about substance abuse, the idea is also to deal with communities in a holistic manner. Not only do we deal with crisis moments, but we deal with victimization and giving back…”
Big bags filled with gifts trafficked back and forth through the entrance. The toy drive motivated people to get up, get out, and give. One woman donated hot wheels, two princess dolls, a Black Panther figurine, and winter gear. Her partner brought the daily necessities — toiletries and washcloths.
Lola Plaku pulled up with truck full of Puma and Puma/Fenty gear. Plaku and ASAP Ferg couldn’t have arrived at a better time. Ferg’s involvement in the toy drive was important. The Harlem native represents more than ASAP Mob he represents hope. He expressed to us the importance of the ASAP Foundation.
“The importance of the ASAP Foundation is continuing to bring our community together… To touch the people with my celebrity and show them I came from where you came from, you can also make it as well…”
Inside he would hug “Mama Yamborghini” who couldn’t be happier to see him. From Ferg’s bond with her, it was easy to tell that Yam’s legacy will never die. ASAP Illz would swagger his way in too with mad fly Disco Inferno gear in hand.
He reminded me of a Harlem superhero in a denim fit and a large patchwork bandana scarf draped on him like a cape while he was handing out gifts to kids wearing Yamborghini New Era fitted hats.
The glee he showed revealed that this was a very heartwarming experience for him. He told us about how poppin’ it felt to give back to his community. Illz said,
“Giving back to Harlem is heartwarming and just a good feeling because it’s the holidays and people less fortunate can’t afford gifts… It’s always valuable for rappers, people in the kulture, or the industry to give back to their own communities, no matter what the cause is.”
ASAP Twelvyy made an appearance as well and he brought with him an abundant amount LYBB shirts and merch. For Twelvyy, community outreach is a fundamental part of the ASAP Foundation.
During our conversation, he reminisced on past Christmases when he was a youngster in NYC. Twelvyy explained how some were tougher than others and if he was to receive any presents they would be from his mother who would work round the clock just to buy them.
“It’s cool to have this outlet. This is our outlet to be positive, our outlet to be creative, this is our community outreach outlet. We just keep going and keep building. It’s important to be in touch with the community because I know these kids don’t have hope. Look, I used to be out here and no one ever came to see me on Christmas…”
The event for sure did its job and inspired the community in a different way. Donnie an 18-year-old skater was encouraged to pull up and donate too after seeing a post for the toy drive on Instagram.
Although Donnie loves giving back the post motivated him to get his parents involved and bring whatever they had to donate as well. Truth be told, “anytime, anyone does shit for the city like this. It’s something that inspires you to give back wherever you’re from,” said Donnie.