By Jimmy Ness
Always Strive And Prosper. Before Ferg joined the A$AP Mob, he already lived by their motto thanks to his father Darold Ferguson. While residing in Harlem’s notorious Hamilton Heights neighborhood, Ferg senior established a reputation as a renowned hustler. He printed shirts and designed logos for luminaries including Bad Boy Records, Teddy Riley, Heavy D and Bell Biv DeVoe.
Inspired to carry his father’s legacy after his death, A$AP Ferg pursued fashion and attended art school. He was later convinced to focus on music by friends and was featured on A$AP Rocky’s first mixtape Deep Purple. With his creative background as the foundation, Ferg’s vocal experimentation and unique visual direction ensured he was the second major label signee from the A$AP mob.
Ferg’s debut Trap Lord was released last year, and included bangers such as “Work” (remix,) “Shabba” and “Hood Pope.” Before his June show at the NXNE Festival in Toronto, he told me about working with Bone Thugs on “Lord,” Diddy calling him after his record deal, speaking regularly to Fab Five Freddy and wanting to collaborate with Phil Collins.
Do you have a favorite Harlem record?
Yeah, I do. I actually do, one of my favorite Harlem records is “Been Around the World (Remix)” by Puff Daddy, Ma$e and Carl Thomas.
When you were young did you ever see rappers like Ma$e, Cam’ron, etc. in Harlem? Juelz Santana is actually from your neighborhood Hamilton Heights too.
Yeah, I think he is. 151st or somewhere over there. But yeah I used to see Juelz all the time. I used to see Jim Jones all the time, Cam knows my family. I’m real cool with Cam. Every rapper from Harlem I’m cool with. I’m cool with Puffy, Ma$e. But I met Ma$e once I got on, everybody else I knew them before.
Was that through your father D. Ferg?
Nah not through my father, just through like knowing them and seeing them around and saying what’s up, being a kid from the block. But then when they found out who my pops was, they would be like “oh shit.”
The A$AP Mob started a few years before you and Rocky joined, as a collective of people who shared similar taste in music, art and fashion. We all know about A$AP Yams being one of the leaders, but can you tell us a bit about A$AP Bari who was also a core founder?
Bari is just one of those live spirits. He’s one of those guys that everyone loves. He connects the dots and he’s always on a voyage. He kind of reminds me of Basquiat, just the way his spirit is so free. The way Basquiat used to live with his girlfriend and give all of his money away. Bari doesn’t care about money at all, he’s totally about the people and he keeps the A$AP spirit alive. He always gives you the home feeling, he’s always on the latest trends, the latest fashion and he kind of brings that to the group. He’s definitely very interesting.
Is he similar to Slim, Birdman’s brother, from Ca$h Money? A silent partner behind the scenes?
He’s not like Slim at all. See Slim is more like a boss with his hands in the business. Bari is really not about the business. He’s about fun, fun and more fun. Bari acts like an artist. He gets more girls than me.
I heard you know Fab Five Freddy, and speak to him quite regularly?
Yeah, you know I ran into Fab in Harlem. I bumped into him in the street. I saw him going into like the 99-cent store, a convenience store. I just ran into him and he’s a legend so I wanted to talk to him and introduce myself. I grew up watching Beat Street and all of these things that he was a part of. I knew he was good friends with Jean Michel Basquiat, who is one of my favourite artists. Fab Five Freddy opened doors for a lot of artists, painters and actors as well as musicians so I just wanted to meet this great person who did all of these things.
You’re quite similar in terms of your interests as you’re both creatively driven, especially with your backgrounds in art.
Exactly. He’s a jack-of-all-trades. He told me that once he had a song that blew up, a hit song, I forget the name of it, but it kind of blew up in London first then it came back to the U.S and around that time he was doing music, and now he paints, and before that he was doing film. He did New Jack City and a bunch of other famous movies that a lot of people didn’t know he was involved in. So he’s definitely one of those Renaissance men who had his hands in everything.
Before you blew up and were taking music seriously, you went through a period where you weren’t really into hip-hop because you felt you couldn’t relate to the music?
Right, it wasn’t that I couldn’t relate to the music, it was that I wasn’t getting anything out of hip-hop. There wasn’t anything penetrating the mental, you know what I mean? I wasn’t learning anything from it. I was listening to a lot of old hip-hop, a lot of 2pac, a lot of Biggie, just learning life lessons from rappers. But then hip-hop had this phase where it was all about fist pumping and turn up music, you know that’s fun, but it was like let’s get back to the matters at hand. What about the problems that are going on in our society? We didn’t really have a bunch of artists talking about these things. But now you have a Chance The Rapper, you even have songs like the “Hood Pope” and the “Cocaine Castle” off my album. You have more conscious songs. Before it was not cool to be conscious or even step in those grounds, but now artists don’t give a fuck any more.
I’ve heard you call yourself an “old soul” because of the music you grew up on. I was pretty surprised to hear Phil Collins was one of the artists you’d like to collaborate with?
Yeah, Phil Collins just has a nice voice. I kind of grew up hearing his music like “In the air tonight” and all of that iconic music. I was just thinking about about the biggest artists to work with. Of course now I know of more artists, but those were the artists that were singing the ballads when I was growing up, but yeah Phil Collins, Seal and all of these people.
Trap Lord has been out since August last year, are you happy with how the record turned out overall?
Yes I am. I’m very pleased. People have been very receptive to it. A lot of people loved the album. There was a lot of people that carried me as an artist just because my style is so different from a lot of the A$AP members. A lot of people were saying it was different in a good way – it was fun and different. I guess they were ready for it.
You worked with Bone Thugs on the track “Lord.” I know you were in the studio in person with Bizzy and Flesh, but what about the others?
I worked in person with Flesh and Bizzy, but I was on tour with the group. All of those guys are my uncles. Bizzy calls me the most though, and Flesh gives me the most knowledge.
I feel like Bone Thugs in general are underrated. They should be like way bigger than they are, but that’s just me. They are icons in my eyes. They are like the Michael Jacksons of hip-hop. It’s like a group of Michael Jacksons, or like The Jackson 5 to me.
Bizzy seems like an interesting dude.
Yeah, he’s funny too. One night he calls me at three in the morning asking for Wale’s number. That’s how random he is.
You wanted to have DMX on Trap Lord too?
Oh yeah, I wanted DMX to say a prayer on the album. But it’s hard to catch up to that man. He’s busy.
I always appreciated the artistic direction of your videos, is this something you work hard on?
I write my treatments and direct. I don’t really try hard. It comes natural to me because it’s fun. A lot of my friends that I went to school with, because I went to art school, they are into film and videography and things like that so it’s not hard for me to reach out to them and get things done. It’s all fun for me to allow the imagination to work and for me to write the treatments down and get the production prepared. That’s all fun for me because it’s seeing my creation come to life.
Is creating art still a big part of your life or do you not have a lot of time?
My life is art. I still find time for art because I have to provide for my family. That’s why this is living the dream because I’m living through my art.
Where do you want to take your sound on the next record?
I want it to be more innovative. A bigger sound. When I say bigger, I mean it’s going to be more worldly. It’s going to appeal to everybody versus just myself and those like me. I’m going to stay grounded to those who support me and my base, but I’m definitely trying to expand my sound entirely.
You’ve said previously that when the A$AB Mob started, you were doing things like riding BMX bikes and wearing your own styles of clothing, but people didn’t understand you guys. Did you feel like outcasts?
We definitely were outcasts, but that’s where I’m comfortable now because I can’t stand to be like anyone else. I can’t stand to have the same fashion as someone else. If everybody is wearing black, I’ll wear white. If everybody is wearing white, I’ll wear black. I guess that’s a Harlem thing, because I think that’s when Cam got tired of everyone’s clothing, that’s when he started wearing pink. So I think it’s just Harlem, they breed a lot of people that do their own thing like innovators and creators. That’s kind of how I am to a certain extent. I want to express myself and be different from everybody else.
This is a bit of a random question, but how did you start using the word “Jiggy”? Is that a Harlem thing? I have not heard that word in years.
Jiggy is a definitely a Harlem thing, but we’re making it a worldwide thing. I’m bringing the jiggy back. Jiggy is a feeling. Jiggy is a style. You have high fashion, which also can be jiggy, but it’s more of a feeling than anything. You can wear anything and feel jiggy, if it’s dope. It’s really how you wake up in the morning and feel. It can be the music you listen to. I’m going to give you the perfect definition of jiggy.
Go for it.
A lot of old Puffy and Ma$e videos used to be jiggy shit. A lot of Missy Elliot videos. They used to wear outfits instead of t-shirts and jeans. That was jiggy. Platinum was jiggy. Waves in the hair was jiggy. Keeping your sneakers clean is jiggy.
I love those Missy Elliot videos, those are classic.
Yeah, I love Missy Elliot. I can’t even begin to explain.
I’ve read that Puffy was aware of your sound and the A$AP mob, but wasn’t sure how to market you and didn’t quite understand the movement because it was so different. Did he ring and congratulate you once you blew up and was he surprised by it?
Yeah, he told me. When I first got signed he called and congratulated me, and we spoke on the phone for an hour. He was just telling me how proud my pops would have been of me and he was telling me what he thought when he had first seen the movement. He loved it, but he just didn’t know how to approach it or where to take it. I guess that was a good thing because we kinda cracked the pavement. We came with the unorthodox. People needed that. People were getting tired of the same generic shit, that you see on World Star or on TV. People were just seeing the same rappers with the stupid ass jewellery, looking dumb in interviews. So we just came to bring that jiggy shit.
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