When American rapper A$AP Rocky was freed from a Stockholm prison in early August after three weeks, his release — and immediate departure for the United States — appeared to mark the end of a high-profile assault case that provoked a low-level diplomatic spat between Sweden and the United States.
Following the artist’s late June arrest after a street brawl in Stockholm and throughout his trial, President Donald Trump had tried repeatedly to intervene. Despite the efforts, A$AP Rocky was convicted of assault for stomping on a man after throwing him to the ground, but he was not sentenced to time in prison.
More than three months on, however, A$AP Rocky’s Sweden saga is still in the news, in both Europe and North America.
In Washington, D.C., the rapper — whose birth name is Rakim Mayers — has kept reappearing during this week’s presidential impeachment hearings. The U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, said that a crucial July 26 call with Trump — during which Ukraine also came up — was in fact “primarily about A$AP Rocky.”
The call made headlines because it was overheard by a U.S. Embassy official, David Holmes, who said last week that he recalled Sondland as advising Trump to “let (A$AP Rocky) get sentenced, play the racism card, give him a ticker-tape when he comes home.”
Meanwhile, in Sweden, the rapper made headlines this week with a proposal to donate to a Swedish refugee support organization and to contribute new clothes for the inmates at the Kronoberg remand prison, where A$AP Rocky and his associates were held.
“When I was in Sweden, I met so many people like myself, you know — all those immigrants, they didn’t really have the kind of support that they needed,” he told TMZ. “I just felt like I wanted to give back.”
In a statement, Kronoberg prison officials confirmed Friday that they had received an email from the rapper’s lawyer proposing to donate green sweatshirts and sweatpants.
“We appreciate Mr. Mayers’ good will. As soon as I have the possibility, I will give him and his lawyer an answer to whether it is possible,” Fredrik Wallin, director of the Kronoberg remand prison, wrote in an email.
The Swedish lawyer who represented A$AP Rocky during his trial did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.
A$AP Rocky is set to return to Stockholm for a concert in mid-December and has vowed to also visit a disadvantaged area. “I’m going to the no-go zone, so that’s where all the immigrants live,” the rapper told TMZ.
A$AP Rocky’s remarks may stoke a lingering debate in Sweden over the treatment of refugees and migrants. After the rapper’s arrest, President Trump had implied that A$AP Rocky’s skin color may have played a role in his detention. “Sweden has let our African American Community down in the United States,” Trump tweeted.
In Sweden, the President’s public interventions were widely perceived as an attempt by a foreign leader to interfere with an independent judiciary and an attempt to woo African Americans voters.
A$AP Rocky’s support for migrants living in Sweden was welcomed by some this week, but others voiced concerns that the initiative could result in a misleading impression. Even if the artist has a genuine interest in helping disadvantaged migrants in Sweden, speaking of “no go” zones defeats the purpose, researchers cautioned.
“I’ve been in those estates for 30 years — there are very few people who feel afraid of going there,” said Roger Andersson, a professor in social and economic geography at Uppsala University. Even though he acknowledged that authorities were encountering higher-than-average crime rates in some of those areas, he pointed out that the concerns were not “nearly as big as in North America.”
A$AP Rocky’s contribution to the debate had been taken note of in Sweden, he said, but — like Trump’s involvement earlier this year — “not in a serious way,” he said.