As the clock nears midnight on a Monday evening in early April, A$AP Rocky is in an enormous production studio near the Gowanus Canal in Brooklyn doing what creative directors do.

“Act like you know each other. I need y’all to swag this out,” the rapper says to a half-dozen 20-something models who had, apparently, not been swagging out appropriately. “This is Frank Lucas at the boxing match. We got money. It’s Harlem. Aight? Fellas, get it together.”

We’re on the set of A$AP Rocky’s first full campaign as the official creative director of Puma’s partnership with Formula 1. His initial responsibilities, announced last October, include designing and launching limited-edition clothing collections around a handful of F1 races, starting with this weekend’s Miami Grand Prix. On the one hand, it’s an unexpected pairing. Rocky didn’t grow up worshiping F1; he was more into what he calls ghetto car culture, and didn’t start following the sport until recently. “I know Lewis Hamilton personally,” he says, “but I know him from just being A$AP Rocky.” On the other hand, the skirt-wearing, pearl-dripping Harlem native is the reigning boundary-breaking style maverick of our time. He’s got a Midas touch that can make anything cool. “Formula 1,” Rocky says, “is really keeping up with the times, and it’s very versatile. I fuck with that.”

When it comes to the clothes, A$AP Rocky’s design process is simple: make stuff that he wants to wear. The debut A$AP Rocky x Puma collection is a heady combination of motorsport’s greasily glamorous motifs, AWGE (his creative agency) iconography, and Rocky’s own vibe of attitudinal luxury. There’s a sweatsuit printed like petrol-stained racing overalls, and tees emblazoned with six-point seatbelts. What looks like a logo-covered red crash helmet from afar is really a padded, oversized balaclava. A racy sneaker silhouette that Rocky personally selected from the Puma archive is a remixed version of the Inhale, originally launched in 2000. The collection represents, as Rocky explains, “what a Formula 1 driver’s swag should look like.”

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The new A$AP Rocky x Puma campaign

Courtesy of Puma / Brandon Faith

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Starring A$AP Rocky (yes, that’s him in heavy prosthetic makeup)

Courtesy of Puma / Brandon Faith

That’s the easy part. “It’s not like we’re over here making couture or anything,” Rocky says. It’s everything else that keeps him up at night. Rocky has been hinting at serious ambitions in the film world for years, and directs many of his own music videos. For Puma, he is doing it all: writing, directing, and scoring the commercial, casting the look book, overseeing the styling and beauty, coaching the photographers and models, and making the millions of other decisions that go into a sprawling four-day production. “The way I approach directing a commercial, it’s no different from a music video, or a photo shoot, for that matter,” he tells me as staccato flashbulbs bounce off his large black leather bomber and denim shorts, both emblazoned with Puma’s leaping cat logo—garments from an unspecified future release.

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A$AP Rocky behind the scenes of his Puma campaign

Courtesy of Puma / Brandon Faith

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