It’s mid-afternoon at the Four Seasons in Milan. Outside, fashion week is in full swing, with celeb-spotters and paparazzi crowding the narrow sidewalks. Deep in the bowels of the palatial hotel, in a cavernous suite guarded by two large Italian men, the vibe is a bit more peaceful, the way A$AP Rocky likes it. The rapper and style icon is reclining in a lounge chair. He’s just arrived in the city for the Gucci runway show, which coincides with the launch of his new campaign for Gucci Guilty, the Italian house’s flagship fragrance, alongside Elliott Page and Julia Garner. Tea and sliced fruit have been delivered, and a set of the perfumes are placed on a table next to Rocky.
Wearing a tan Gucci blazer and what he calls a “one-of-none” custom AWGE x Gucci trucker hat, Rocky is playing the part of old-school cologne pitchman. But Rocky is, of course, one of the most of-the-moment guys alive right now. As the world saw at the Super Bowl, Rocky and his partner Rihanna are expecting another child this year—a year where Rocky is rumored to be releasing his long-awaited fourth album. (Baby number one starred with mom and dad on the March cover of British Vogue—an intro fitting the prince of music and fashion.)
Even in the run of such momentous—and relentlessly discussed—life events, Rocky remains extremely geeked about selling fragrances. For one, Rocky has a reputation for always smelling amazing—and is, in fact, something of a scent obsessive himself. (The first time I interviewed him, at the Barclays Center several years ago, I took a whiff to see if the hype was real. Despite our chat following several hours of Rocky moshing and sweating on stage, he smelled like he had just stepped out of a spa.) He’s also a longtime Gucci guy, a fan and friend of the house who studies each collection with the eye of a seasoned fashion critic.
“I love what [former creative director] Alessandro [Michele] did,” he says. “I love what they’re doing now.” He’s “really, really, really” excited, he says, to see the direction newly-minted Gucci creative director Sabato de Sarno takes things come September.
There’s a debate in the room about just how many Gucci shows Rocky has attended over the years. A member of the Gucci team pegs it at four. “That’s impossible! That’s impossible,” says Rocky. “All right, so let me do the math. I did the Gucci Cruise show. That was in 2016…” Rocky thinks this week’s show (women’s Fall-Winter 2023) will be his eight Gucci front row, an exceptionally consistent relationship between a celebrity and a luxury brand when everybody else seems to be speed dating. (Gucci later confirmed it was indeed number eight.)
Rocky is also clearly enamored with the scent of the fragrances sitting next to him. His review: “It’s a distinguished smell. It’s a particular smell, and it sticks with you and you smell unforgettable, so to speak.” He’s way more enamored than he has to be, officially. “I do sound like I was paid to say that, so I want you to know that was really, honestly, organic. Nobody told me to say that.” One of the bottles is dark gray, the other light pink—Gucci Guilty pour homme, and pour femme. He’s wearing pour femme. “I don’t think it should have any binary,” says Rocky, who has a long history of showing men that they, too, can look fly wearing skirts and silky grandma scarves. Which explains his favorite piece from the most recent men’s show in June: “A plaid mohair skirt comin’ down the runway? Fuck outta here!”
If he does say so himself, casting A$AP Rocky in the campaign was an inspired move. “I think that, besides Elliot and Julia, getting a rapper, an artist, a guy such as myself is genius.” Because Rocky thinks that men everywhere need a little help to start smelling as good as he does.
Before we get started, he spritzes both fragrances on my wrists.
GQ: I want to ask you a few questions about your fragrance routine. In terms of scent profiles that you’re attracted to, are you into warm scents or fresh scents?
A$AP Rocky: Musk. I like a musky scent. It depends, too, on the year. I think I change fragrances every seven years. They say you change as a person every seven years, so as I go into my next seven, I don’t know. Right now, it’s this [picks up the Gucci Guilty perfumes]. This is bussin’.
Is it musky?
You tell me.
Are you a morning fragrance guy or a night fragrance guy?
Morning. You got to.
Before you start the day, not before you go out?
Well, usually I go out to start the day, so you know what I’m saying.
And what’s the methodology? Do you spray fragrance on your pulse points, or do you spray it in the air and walk through?
I OD. I use an excessive amount. That’s probably why people smell me. I use half a bottle a day in the morning. Honestly, I use too much. I probably do nine spritz.
Do you remember the first fragrance you ever bought?
Well, I didn’t buy it. I probably was four years old when I first started using cologne. And it was Old English.
How did that work exactly, as a four year old?
My dad used to use it, he sprayed me every day. My mother would make sure that I did it every day, too. Every morning they bathed me, got me ready, and sprayed me down. Got me ready for school. And manicures too, is another thing that I picked up from my dad. I think it’s kind of natural for me, because that was just part of my lifestyle. My dad was into that pretty boy shit, so he just would wake up making sure that his four year old smelled like a grown man.
Tell me a little bit about the campaign. What was it like shooting with Elliot and Julia?
It was fun. It was a crazy experience. Man, they cool as a fan. Cool as an AC in the summertime. It was chill. It was easy. It felt so natural. It felt organic.
Are you a fan of their work? Do you watch The Umbrella Academy or Ozark?
I love Umbrella. I loved the first couple of seasons and stuff. I loved Juno. I think Elliot’s amazing. Julia is too.
How’s the new music coming? Are you finding time to record when you’re not busy being a dad?
My purpose of living is to record music, direct films, and be a dad. That’s my purpose. Other than that, I have no purpose of living. So music, for sure. I’m working on music as we speak.
Can you say anything about the new album, Don’t Be Dumb? Is it still coming out this year?
I don’t want to say too much about it, because I want it to speak for itself. Maybe later on today, I’ll play you some shit and vibe out. But for the most part, that shit is lit. It’s fire. I’m just figuring out the kinks. But it’s fire, man.
Tell me a little bit more about your relationship with Gucci, and how you became interested in the brand and aesthetic. Did you discover it when you were growing up in Harlem? Was there a Dapper Dan connection there?
Absolutely. That’s exactly what it was. Just Dapper Dan. I think everybody’s introduction in the hood to luxury brands was because of Dapper Dan. The way he would put it together in the ’80s was different.
I borrowed and lost a few Gucci bags from my grandma and my mom, and they’re pissed to this day about that. But that was vintage Gucci. That’s where I remember seeing it in the house. But by the time I was 14, I bought my first pair of Gucci shoes. I saved up my little bit of money and I went back to school with some Gucci shoes. They were orange and had two straps on them. This was around ’04, ’05.
Is it fair to say that your involvement with Gucci as a fan and as a partner has influenced your personal style over the years?
I wish all my friends from Harlem were here. Because they would tell you that in my bedroom, it would just be Gucci boxes stacked. Gucci, Gucci, Gucci, Gucci, Gucci, Gucci. I was a Gucci fanatic. I had Gucci boat shoes, Gucci moccasins, Gucci trenches, all of these things. This is all 17, 18, 19 years old. I never thought and imagined that I would work with these guys on the level that I work with them on. So it’s actually just a dream come true. I could sit here and tell you how much I really fuck with the brand, but my friends and my people who know me best could tell you better. Real deal Holyfield. No bullshit. It’s my culture.
So you’re sitting next to these scents. You’re a fragrance ambassador now. Give me the pitch. What’s the tagline? What are these scents going to do for me?
Gucci Guilty. [Holds up the pour femme fragrance bottle.] This is going to change everything, because this is supposed to be feminine. It’s supposed to attract women and be appealing to women, but it’s just calling me. So men like me are going to love this. I’m going to show them how to feel masculine with this, and feel macho with this.
I think that, besides Elliot and Julia, getting a rapper, an artist, a guy such as myself is genius. Obviously, the influence on the culture is heavy, the cult following and whatnot, but I have an innate kind of connection to the brand. I love what Alessandro did. I love what they’re doing now. I’m really, really, really excited for the new creative director, just seeing everything he’s been doing. I loved the last collection, I thought it was a breath of fresh air, even though some people were used to the traditional Gucci look. I liked the fact that it was just a mixed medium, going down the runway, and that it kind of appealed to all of us, and it didn’t exclude anybody’s style or nothing. I just want to advocate for the fragrance like that.
It’s a culture, right, and there’s a ton of men who want to be groomed and who want to smell good, and I want to be a catalyst for this and to show them—here’s a new way to get fresh. [Flashes smile] Gucci Guilty. Guilty as charged.