ASAP Ferg Talks His Debut Album, His Unique Style and His Love For Selena.
A$AP Ferg is a rarity in the modern hip-hop world. He's an experimental artist and a vicious street rapper at once, a unique talent unafraid of toeing such a delicate creative line.
More than anything, Ferg credits his upbringing in Harlem, which he has in the past compared to a World War II-like environment, for this unique perspective he brings to hip-hop. He's written about his childhood trials in songs such as “Hood Pope” and “Cocaine Castle,” but Harlem also provided Ferg a platform: It's where he met his future A$AP Mob cohort, Rocky; and it was where his voice was effectively shaped. And that Harlem setting, for all of its problems, also helped Ferg to thrive creatively. Ferg attended art school there, and he worked under his now-deceased father there, in their family's T-shirt boutique, where Ferg became inspired to pursue fashion, successfully dabbling in designing belts and jewelry, before eventually giving up that craft to pursue music.
Though he's just 25 years old, it's fair to say that Ferg has already experienced a lifetime of hustling — hence his proud proclamation that he is “The Trap Lord,” a term that Ferg says refers to being successful at whatever you're doing, no matter the field. The term is also the title of his debut album, which earned its release this past August. It's a stellar effort: On Trap Lord, Ferg fiercely steps out from under the shadows of his friend and, in some ways, mentor, A$AP Rocky, whose style is strongly influenced by Houston and the South. Ferg, on the other hand, is more difficult to pinpoint than that; his album covers a vast array of musical styles, touching on everything from bangers to conscious raps. His delivery is just about as unique as it gets, too, varying vastly from track to track.
Yet, for all of his nebulous, across-the-board, tough-to-describe talents, this much is clear: Ferg isn't one to forgo any opportunity to express his creativity and unique abilities — not in his songs, not in his music videos, not in his fashion choices and not in his interviews.
With that in mind, we recently caught up with Ferg by phone in advance of his “Turnt X Burnt” tour stopping through Dallas for a gig at Trees on Saturday night, speaking with the Trap Lord rapper about the reaction to his new album, the politics that shape the music industry and the ways in which he's continuously trying to develop his creative side.
Your album Trap Lord has been out for two months now. What do you think of the reaction it's received?
Oh, I loved the reaction. It's really nothing I could've fathomed because I didn't think people were gonna take to it like they did. I got Rookie of the Year — y'know, the BET Award — and the people are loving the songs. People are so receptive to it. Even the older crowds, like the older people are coming up to me. That's what surprises me the most — the kids and the older people. I know we kinda got the hipster crowd and the street guys, but we got the generation that's really below us and we have the older guys that's loving the music. I love it.
Were you surprised when you won Rookie of the Year? I only ask because you were up against Earl Sweatshirt and Action Bronson.
I mean, I know that I'm good, but it wasn't on my radar. I wasn't expecting to win anything, and I wasn't looking forward to it. I didn't even pay it no mind, really. It kinda got my attention when I did win.
Is there anything you'd go back and do differently on Trap Lord?
No. I gave that album like 110 percent. Even when it was supposed to be a mixtape, I treated that album like it was the last piece of art that I was gonna leave here on this earth.
Before the release of the album, during your press circuit, you mentioned in some interviews about worrying you'll become a one-hit wonder. Is that something you still worry about?
No, because I've got three songs on the radio right now and I don't see myself stopping anytime soon. One of my biggest fears before I became a signed artist was people being able to work on my time because I know that, if you force art, it really won't be good. It'll become microwaved, like a manufactured sound, and that's what I was afraid of. I didn't want to fall into that realm of music, but thank god I'm with a team and a label that understands the way I work. And I don't have those fears anymore because I work on my own time and it comes out the way I want it to come out.
It's true that you probably do have one of the best teams with A$AP Mob and RCA behind you — and you were riding shotgun during A$AP Rocky's rise to mainstream and probably learned a lot. But is there anything you've had to figure out on your own still?
With Rocky, he's a person who takes more action. I did have to learn a lot by myself. I learned something riding passenger side, but, like the logistics and details, I had to read in-between the lines myself because that's not something that was just handed to me. I've seen it with him, but I've had to read in-between the lines myself.
What's one of the things you had to read between the lines with?
Just all the politics and things like that, and games. You have to do this in order for your music to be here. Contracts and even just learning how to do taxes and shit like that. It's just all the stuff that comes with being an artist. Then, you have all the things that come with being an artist. But then you have all the things that come with being a major artist.
“Hood Pope” is by far my favorite track on the album. Is there gonna be a video for that coming soon?
Thank you! That's one of my favorite songs as well. We're gonna be working towards some stuff for a bunch of album cuts. That's definitely one of the songs that I have something in mind for. I wrote up a treatment, but we're just gonna see how things play out because we're just getting booked for so many shows and I'm just trying to find that time to shoot these videos the way I want them to be.
I can definitely see you in the priest outfit on some Donnie McClurkin, y'know?
[Laughs.] Definitely, definitely.
You have quite the creative background. You went to an arts high school, you dabbled in fashion with belts, you've made some jewelry, and now you're doing really well with music. Is there anything next in terms of creating art? Anything you're looking forward to?
I just love all types of art and using different mediums for it, especially when I can make it a collaborative effort and combine my music with the fashion. I think that's dope. It's showing the world everything at one time. That's the way I want it to be displayed. When I design clothes, it's because I wanna wear those clothes on the stage; when I make music it's because I wanna be doing these things in the video. When I can show everything at one time, that's the dopest thing to me. I think my next thing is designing my stage and taking visuals to the next level.
One of the things I've noticed on the album is that you don't have one style. On every song, you're switching it up: On “Hood Pope” you're singing; on “Dump Dump” and “Murder Something” you're aggressive; on “Fuck Out My Face” you play with your syllables and roll your tongue. How do you decide how to record a song?
It goes with how I'm feeling at the time, but mostly I'll just listen to the project as one and think, 'All right, I have all of these elements but what elements am I missing?' So, '4:02' came because there really wasn't a song for the girls. I had to do a song for the girl. And then 'Hood Pope' was the conscious song. 'Cocaine Castles' was a conscious song. 'Dump Dump' and 'Fuck Out My Face' is a blatant straight in-your-face song. 'Shabba' and 'Work' were the fun club songs.
And you don't listen to hip-hop, right? You've said that in the past.
I listen to hip-hop now. I'm starting to listen to more of my peers. Like, I heard Schoolboy Q's album — it's crazy and I can't wait for it to come out. That whole camp [TDE] is crazy. I fuck with the whole camp. I listen to a bunch of A$AP Worldwide shit. Mostly up and coming artists like Chance the Rapper — I fuck with his shit. I fuck with the whole 300 movement with Fredo, Lil Reese and all those guys. Really, the movements that's going on like Flatbush Zombies and those fellas. For the most part, I just listen to myself to see how I can make myself better. I wanna perfect my style. Even though my style is unorthodox. I still have a method to my madness.
Is it true that you're a big Selena fan?
Definitely. I fuck with Selena. RIP to Selena. And I was definitely honored to meet her nephew Svani [Quintanilla]. He's a good young cat. He's a producer as well. I'm definitely looking forward to working with him in the future.
You're gonna have to do a little 'Dreaming of You' tribute during your Dallas show.
Oh, definitely, definitely. Always!
Is there anything you wanna add or say to the people of Dallas before your show?
I wanna thank everybody for going out there and supporting my album. If you ain't got it, go get it.
Cover photo by Lee Cherry, courtesy of RCA Records. A$AP Ferg performs Saturday, November 23, at Trees.