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Growing up in New York, Leroy Watson was heavily influenced by the emerging sound of hip-hop he heard around him, listening to fellow Queens natives LL Cool J and Nas. At age 12 he first picked up the mic, and just five years later, after freestyling for Loud Records' Schott Free, was signed to the label. Even though the deal eventually fell through before Aasim (as he had decided to go by) was able to release anything, the young rapper learned about song construction and content from labelmates Big Pun and Dead Prez, skills he took along with him as he hooked up with Grind Music (led by Terror Squad DJ LV and ex-Loud A&R guy Sean C.). With them he worked on developing his writing and producing talents even further, making mixtape, freestyle, and local radio appearances whenever possible. It was through a 2004 on-air appearance, in fact, that hip-hop icon and label-owner Diddy heard Aasim and impressed, signed him to his own Bad Boy Records, even declaring him the future of New York hip-hop. A solo full-length was announced for late 2005, Money Pit was released in July; a full-length was planned for 2007, but vanished. In the time that passed, however, Aasim wasn't just sitting around waiting for his album to be released; instead he worked as a writer for Bad Boy, in particular for Diddy himself, for whose 2006 Press Play he wrote verses on five songs. ~ Marisa Brown