Darold Ferguson, Jr. (you may know him as A$AP Ferg) is one of those guys who seems at home wherever he is. He’s only been in Australia for half a day but by the time we meet he’s been on a mini-tour of the city and released a new freestyle: ode to Trinidad ‘Petit Valley’. (On his busy release schedule: “I release music while I’m shitting.”) On the way back to his hotel room, he snatches a bottle of hand lotion from the room service cart parked outside and moisturises before our interview. As we chat, he reclines in his seat, sometimes smiling broadly (and baring a resplendent grill). He is upbeat and present and it all stands in contrast with the moody, chiaroscuro cover art for his debut full-length Trap Lord.
Photography by Michelle Grace Hunder.
FRANK151 founder Stephen Malbon was just in town for CARBON festival. You guys did a book with FRANK151, where you did a tribute to your dad, right?
Basically, I was saying he was a great man and I’m just continuing a legacy.
He was a stylish man. How would you describe his style?
My father was a very stylish guy. A lot of people looked up to my father as well. He designed the Bad Boy logo for Puffy, he did the Uptown cats’ logo for Andre Harrell, and he did his own clothing line called Ferg Apparel. He was the first guy to do prints and stuff on long sleeves – he brought that ‘90s flavour to hip hop. He was printing everybody’s merch.
Does that mean you had some gurus around, people to look up to, growing up?
Yeah, I’m like one of them golden kids. I used to always be like, damn, I wonder how Dame Dash’s son feels, or like how Puffy’s sons feel to have a restaurant named after them. I had a clothing line named after me, Ferg.
You did an interview with Montreality where you were saying that, in a past life you would have been an activist. What makes you say that?
Because I just stand up for what I believe in. And I believe it’s bigger than just music – it’s a whole culture that I stand up for, that I speak for. So, in some kind of way, I am an activist for the people that have the same beliefs as.
What do you believe in?
I just believe that everyone should be themselves. Everybody should be innovative, creative and everybody should walk in their own shoes. Don’t try to step in nobody else’s shoes and live their life. I feel like everyone has a special thing that God installed in them, something unique.
What can you tell me about the Trap Lord iPhone app?
The app is dope because I wanted to figure out a way I could make myself closer in interacting with my fan base. I designed this app where you could buy my latest clothing line, Trap Lord. You can watch my latest music, my latest videos and you get an alert as soon as it comes out so you’ll be the first one to get it if you have the app.
Do you have other plans for apps, or any other kinds of software, in the future?
Yeah, I wanna get real into the technology, ‘cause, like everybody says, that’s the future. Well we’re in the future already, so it’s time to like really get on the ball. I feel like soon humans is not gonna have jobs in this sector – you know what I’m saying. There’s gonna be, like, one person pressing a button and then spinning the universe from there.
We’ve all gotta find ways to be smarter than a machine.
Yeah, we gotta stick in here. We love technology, but at the same time we gotta figure out a way to provide our services to society
I think rappers are safe though. We haven’t made a machine that raps yet.
We got holograms.
Yeah, you’ve gotta watch out.
You can bring back dead people.
How do you compete with Tupac?
You know Ferg versus Tupac, you know what I’m saying.
At least you’re real.
Yeah, Tupac can’t jump in the crowd like I can.
When they invent that – that’s when you’re in trouble.
With A$AP Mob there are different skills within the collective. Do you see comparisons with Kanye’s DONDA creative agency?
Nah. I don’t know too much about DONDA.
I don’t think anybody does. They seem pretty secretive.
We’ve worked with Virgil [Abloh] though, Kanye’s creative director. We’ve done stuff with Virgil, but for the most part we have our own ideas. When we work with somebody and collaborate with somebody it’s for them to take our ideas to the next level.
Like the ‘Hood Pope video’, it looks beautiful. Did you choose the director for that?
I chose Shomi Patwary because I’m real close with his brother. His brother actually made that song – the beat.
Yeah, Veryrvre. So his brother actually introduced me to Shomi, like ‘Yo my brother is moving from VA to New York, he’s a director, you should fuck with him.’. So I built with him and like he was one of the people who understood my vision, ‘cause I write my own treatments, I command my own props, you know I look for prop houses and things like that. and production, I fuck with different people in production. So he was just there to be the house to just put it up – he was the first person. Like he put ‘Work’ out, my first single. So that’s why I like to stick him, because he actually gave me that chance without me having any money or nothing like that.
Change of direction – have you come across any foods sometimes that make you wanna break your pescetarian lifestyle?
I’ve been thinking about steak lately. I told my girlfriend that I’m gonna make her a streak just cause I wanna watch her enjoy it. I’ll just make me some fish or something then watch her enjoy that steak
Believe it or not people ask me what I eat all the time. Shit, I just bought a can of tuna from across the street. There’s like some chilli-flavoured tuna fish that comes in a can that’s mad – it comes with a pack and crackers – it’s good as fuck.
Where do you get the best food in Harlem?
I go to this place called Café 22. They have soul food there. It’s the only place in Harlem where you can get home-cooked food. Its really good. It actually makes me lazy in the kitchen.
What do you get when you go there?
I get the candied yams, the macaroni and cheese. They have these stir-fried string beans with garlic sauce on it. And I get the boiled salmon. They also have this teriyaki salmon there and this collard greens dish that’s really good.
Speaking of yams, I feel like you don’t hear a lot about A$AP Yams, and even Asap Bari, in the media. Is that their goal, to avoid being in front of the camera?
Yams doesn’t like the camera. Everybody wants Yams to be an artist and such, but he’s just into making transactions happen. He wants to be the next Puff Daddy.
Like Andy Warhol said, “Making money is art.”
Making money is art. I like making money. Because I like to try things and see if they work and make money. That’s art, its like culinary stuff – you make food, somebody tells you it’s good and it worked. Or you make a product and people buy it – that means it’s good, so it works. It’s art.
Are there any other beliefs or practices that the A$AP mob share?
I practice Kabbalah.
Nah, I’m fucking with you. A$AP is our religion we follow it. I’m the pope, my preacher and my followers.
How can I convert to the ASAP Mob way of life?
You gotta get initiated.
What’s the initiation like?
I gotta talk to Rocky and see if we can do that. It’s a secret society, all we ask is trust.
Are you working on much stuff in terms of visual art, fine art, fashion design?
Yeah, lately I haven’t been working on any clothing designs except for my stage clothing. I design my tour wardrobe and my set design – my stage. Whenever you see the lights, whenever you see whatever’s on the screen, it’s me and my production team.
I design all the Trap Lord clothing. Nothing goes past my eyes. I design all the A$AP Ferg merch. I will stop everything and be like no I’m gonna do this, do this right. Put these letters in black, put shimmer paint, make sure its reflector. I do all of that shit.
I used a silk screen before I was a rapper. So I know what goes on behind the screens – how to shoot the screens. Theres a tutorial that VFILES did on me. They have me teaching this girl how to silkscreen online. You should check it out.
And you’ve designed belts right?
Yeah, I’ve designed belts.
Have you ever sold a belt to Chief Keef? I’ve heard that he really likes belts.
Well I was selling belts, before I even knew who Chief Keef was. Like Swizz Beats bought out my belts. Swizz Beats has like 12 belts. Chris Brown got like 10 belts that I did custom made. Diggie Sevens – he was on an AT&T commercial with my t-shirt on.
You talked earlier about wanting to work with Pharrell, maybe on the next LP. Is that still on the cards?
I actually did a song with Pharrell – it never came out though. It was me, A$AP Nast and Rocky. It was called ‘A$AP Girl’.
What was it about?
It was about girls that are in love with A$AP. We call them Mob Wives. If you come to New Zealand we might have a mob wife for you. New Zealand, Australia we got them all over the place. Yeah, so we did a track, but it never came out. It probably might come out in the near future.
On one of your records?
I’m not sure – whoever needs it at the time. I would love to have it, but I want more of his advice then anything. I wanna work with him, you know I respect the person behind the music.
Nobody doesn’t like Pharrell.
He’s the biggest, oldest artist, and I’m the biggest, youngest artist. [Laughs.]