Last year, hip-hop was left reeling by the untimely passing of A$AP Yams. The charismatic A&R and A$AP Mob founding member played an instrumental role in sculpting hit albums like A$AP Rocky's LONG.LIVE.A$AP and A$AP Ferg's Trap Lord, before falling victim to a drug overdose in late January.
This past Monday (Nov. 13), on what would have been his 28th birthday, his mother Tatianna Paulino wrote an emotional essay for Noisey, where she reflected on the death of her son, and the devastating phone call she received that morning of his overdose.
"At about 3 AM on the morning of January 18 2015, the phone rang displaying the number of his roommate. Steven, aka A$AP Yams, was the founder of the hip hop collective A$AP Mob; he would sometimes phone me from his friend's number. But at this hour, I knew it wasn't good. 'Mama Tati, Steven isn't feeling well.' I could barely make out the anxiety-ridden voice on the other end, and my heart began beating wildly," she wrote.
"It was Steven's roommate and he continued, 'We are in an ambulance headed to Woodhull hospital in Brooklyn.' 'What? My God, is he alive?' I asked because I knew something was very wrong. Amidst the clamour in the background, he tried to reassure me that Steven would be fine."
Sadly, she received news 15 minutes later of her son's death. According to Paulino, her son's toxicology report indicated that he had several drugs in his system including codeine, oxycodone, and alprazolam.
"Sure enough, Steven's toxicology report revealed that he had not only taken codeine, but he also had taken oxycodone (an opioid) and alprazolam (a benzodiazepine). Was he aware of the potential dangers of mixing opioids with other sedatives? I certainly wasn't. Even if it makes us uncomfortable, I wish public health messages about drugs were more clear and simple in emphasizing real concerns as oppose to hyping less likely outcomes. I wish such messages simply stated, "Don't combine opioids with other sedatives!" If they did, perhaps my son would be alive today."
Later, Paulino explained her arduous journey to educate herself on some of the drugs Yams was taking and the effects they have on the human body. She spoke to a professor from Columbia University to provide insight as to what "lean" was, and why was it such a lethal drug of choice. Later on, she candidly touched on the numerous struggles Yams had in terms of balancing his personal life with his business endeavors, involving A$AP Mob. For him, the life of being a manager and businessman was quite taxing on his body.
"My son was under a tremendous amount of pressure to keep the A$AP Mob collective striving together, successful and producing hit recordings. At the same time, he told me he felt as if he was being squeezed out of the group of creative friends he had spent so much time and energy putting and keeping together. For Steven, money was tight; he never had much. In fact, I had to pay for his drug treatment through my employee benefits plan. This was not missed on Steven. Over time, he grew less comfortable with his role and place with A$AP. The business began to weigh on him mentally and physically. He often felt uneasy in having to make the transition from a fun collective of friends, to a business partner in A$AP Worldwide, the business. In my mind, his drug use was a strategy to decompress and release."
Read the entire piece here.