‘I Was Slap Boxing With My Auntie’: A$AP Rocky Explains His Babushkas—and Nail Art—as His AWGE Label Finds a Home

ASAP Rocky attends the 2018 LACMA Art + Film Gala at LACMA on November 03, 2018 in Los Angeles, Calif.
Photo: Axelle (Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic)

We know aunties hold a special place in black culture, but who knew one was the catalyst for one of the most confounding fashion trends of the last few years? But according to A$AP Rocky, it was his auntie who inspired his now well-known “Babushka Boi” image.

“So basically I was slap boxing with my auntie,” he explains to Vogue. “And she has these long-ass nails. She slapped the shit out of me and scarred me for life. So I had to borrow her babushka.”

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And a fashion trend was born—as well as a moniker Rocky, born Rakim Athelaston Mayers, has leveraged into a hit single. And predictably, babushkas are also being offered as part of his AWGE Collective’s capsule collection, as it moves into its official retail home in the always on-trend Selfridges & Co. department store in London.

As reported by Vogue:

Housed in the first-floor streetwear-focused menswear room of London department store —a highly entertaining retail space that also features a skate bowl and men’s make-up concessions—the AWGE space will be set in a re-creation of Rocky’s home turf, Harlem. According to Selfridges: “Scaled city icons include record, barber, and bakeshops; billboards, traffic lights, and yellow taxicabs; as well as personal memories, messages, and locations important to Rocky and to AWGE, all there to be explored and discovered.” Like much streetwear, AWGE’s collaborative products will be released in drops, with around 40 on offer tomorrow at launch. These will include “Ben Hundo” $100-bill-print pieces, a hand-stitched babushka-wearing Rocky doll, a collaboration with Japanese brand Needles, and more pieces with Midnight Rave. And yes, there will be babushka scarves.

The launch is a permanent installation, following the label’s 2017 “Bodega” popup. Presumably speaking after his trial and eventual release from Swedish prison earlier this summer (despite a conviction), Rocky doesn’t speak about the incident that threatened to end (or at least, derail) his career. Instead, the musician, model and frontman of the “mysterious creative collective” known as AWGE talked about the trend that launched a thousand nana-like imitators, his return to Selfridges and his recent penchant for nail art, which he was seen rocking in the front rows of several Fashion Week shows.

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“I feel like men should be able to do nail art without feeling feminine,” Rocky tells Vogue, reportedly showing off nails painted with Prada motifs, inspired by his recent collaboration with the Italian luxury label on his “Injured Generation” tour wardrobe.

“Making music is fun. It’s always fun,” Rocky says of the natural synergy between music and fashion. “In a way, it’s a parallel with fashion because I think the right key, the right silhouette, the right look—the right expression—can trigger an emotional connection: sometimes a nostalgic connection and sometimes an enticing connection with people.

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“AWGE is just a collective of creative people. Everyone bounces ideas off each other, and that goes on and correlates to the designs and aesthetic and sometimes even the videos and music,” he continues, explaining that while he is the face of the brand, the product line is collaborative. “So it’s about a collective of ideas. Brainstorming: That’s the best part. It’s like exercising...It is my interpretation of still being in the race and dictating things that I think should be.”

And as for the story behind the babushka? Again, you can thank his (seemingly volatile) relationship with his auntie—and the sometimes random (read: bored) fancies of fashion.

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“I was walking around like that in the babushka that day because my face got cut,” he explains to Vogue.

“He got into a fight with his aunt at four in the morning,” interjects his fashion director, Matthew Henson, “and at 8 a.m. he had a Vogue shoot...So he came out of his room with it on, and he went on set with it on, and it became a thing...And it makes everyone look better.”

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“I really do think so, you know?” Rocky agrees. “It started out as that, and it just looked dope, so I stuck with the aesthetic.”

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About the author

Maiysha Kai

Maiysha Kai is Managing Editor of The Glow Up and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. Minneapolis born, Chicago bred, New York built. Nuance is her superpower.