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Bad Boy Forever: Aasim finds a home that's just dandy

Aasim finds a home that's just dandy

FASTIDIOUS rapper, his fiancée and two children live in a bright new three-bedroom apartment in Kew Gardens Hills, Queens, where everything is in order. From his own paintings on the walls in deep reds, browns and blacks, perfectly hung and spaced, to the arrangement of each small rock in a decorative tray on the coffee table, it is simply the way things are.

The family

“I like everything neat, elegant,” said the rapper, Aasim, 27, as he sat on a couch with his fiancée, Illyce Carlew, 28. His hair was impeccably cropped on his head, and his diamond stud earring glinted in the afternoon light from the window. “I like to make up the bed,” he said, “and then put a book on the bed.”

Ms. Carlew, comfortable in jeans, sighed. “It’s hard living here,” she said — but she was smiling.

Aasim, who uses just one name, is finishing an album for Bad Boy Worldwide Entertainment Group, the record label of Sean Combs, a k a Diddy. He and Ms. Carlew, together with their daughter and her son, moved into the roomy apartment last June and are gradually making it their own. The couple plan to marry next year.

Before they moved to their apartment in the Opal, an apartment complex that opened in late 2004, life was much more crowded. Ms. Carlew and Aasim, whose full name is Aasim Williams, lived with the two children and several other family members in a narrow house in South Jamaica, the neighborhood that is often mentioned in songs on his first album, “The Money Pit,” released last year. There were 10 people — and a dog, Aasim said, not nostalgically.

The living room. The living room.

The house the family shared, with aluminum siding that would rub peach-colored dust on whoever brushed against it, was bought by Aasim’s great aunt in the 1920’s. It had undergone a mazelike restructuring inside so that everyone had to walk through the space of everyone else to get around. Aasim had gone back and forth from the house for most of his life, and from his lyrics, it is easy to see that things weren’t easy.

“Seen my favorite uncle smoke crack in the back of a car,” he rapped on “Stress,” a track from “The Money Pit.” “No regard for my innocence/Ten years old, exposed to a dose of ignorance.”

Ms. Carlew and Aasim both attended Hillcrest High School in Jamaica, but they didn’t know each other there — it took a job interview for Aasim five years ago at a graphic arts company in Flushing, where Ms. Carlew worked, for the two to meet. Aasim got the job, which lasted just two months (“I’m not really a 9-to-5 guy,” he explained). But that was time enough for several dates.

A few years later, Ms. Carlew and Aasim were engaged and living together in the South Jamaica house, where life was becoming less viable by the day. Ms. Carlew and her son, Andrew, now 7, whom Aasim has helped raise full-time for the last five years, had moved in, and soon the couple’s daughter, Aniya, now 2, was born. The pressure of raising a family in such a confined space — with an opinionated audience to boot — became too much.

“Everybody’s got an opinion about the way you’re doing something,” Ms. Carlew said. “They’re still looking at us as kids.”

After the unwelcome introduction of a family of squirrels that invaded the old house’s dropped ceiling, the couple quickly began their search. They considered Arverne by the Sea, a large development of new homes with ocean views on the Rockaway peninsula, and Avalon Court in Melville, on Long Island, a collection of spacious apartments, some with garages and working fireplaces.

But nothing seemed perfect. After several searches, they finally discovered a complex very close to their own neighborhood that they had nevertheless not heard of: the Opal, a pairing of large apartment towers on 153rd Street, with 388 apartments in all and a confident slogan: “Gem of Queens.” After seeing the buildings’ vast front yard and a large gate enclosing the property, they did a double take.

They walked through the large lobby, peered into the peaceful library, inspected the two playgrounds and tested out the game room’s pool table and enormous flat-panel television — and, they said, they were awestruck. They visited a corner unit with a spacious master suite and two other bedrooms, for Andrew and Aniya. They sat in the car afterward and looked at each other. “We have to have this,” they both agreed.

The monthly rent, $3,000, was slightly daunting. But after seeing the apartment, and imagining what they could do with that much room, they thought that their path was clear.

“We’re supposed to be in this building,” Aasim recalled telling himself and Ms. Carlew, who admitted to great nervousness during the apartment-hunting process. But Aasim would keep saying calmly, “We’re going to be in this building.” It worked.

They have been in the Opal for nine months, and the apartment’s long hallway is adorned with framed posters of such musical heroes as Jimi Hendrix, Bob Marley and Notorious B.I.G. (One poster, of Ray Charles, is on its way.) The couple have given the living room an African theme, and their bedroom has an Asian look, with a large painting above the bed of the Chinese characters that represent the four seasons.

The Opal The Opal

The doors to the children’s rooms are adorned with signs that say “Prince” and “Princess,” and Aasim has painted uncannily accurate scenes of SpongeBob SquarePants and friends on the walls. If he gets a creative notion, he said, he simply goes with it.

“I’m very eclectic and I’m very spontaneous,” he said. “If I wake up in the morning and decide the room’s gonna be red, the room’s gonna be red. Once I paint it, if I say, ‘O.K., this wasn’t a good idea,’ we start over.”

At night, Aasim takes a car service to Manhattan for production sessions with Mr. Combs, which can be marathons. Mr. Combs sometimes likes to work until 6:30 or 7:30 in the morning, Aasim said — “sometimes he just gets that bug.” Aasim’s new album, entitled “Get Fixed,” is nearly finished, he said, and is scheduled for release in late summer.

During the day, both Ms. Carlew and Aasim tend to the children, though Ms. Carlew said she plans soon to return to college, perhaps to study medical administration. “Come hell or high water,” she said, “I’m going back to school.”

Although keeping Aniya from running roughshod over the household all day — and from drawing on the walls — is tough work, Aasim manages to spend much of the day on his own art. He has held two shows of his paintings in the complex’s common rooms and will soon have a third.

The family does not return to the old house in South Jamaica very often — it has been at least three months, Aasim said. There is a sense of relief in the new apartment, a sense that the family inside has finally started things off right.

“This is our home,” Ms. Carlew said. “We don’t have to worry about people hovering over us anymore.”

By: Jeff Vandam.