Reporting Jeremy D. Larson
The one thing you probably know about A$AP Ferg is that his album Trap Lord is in stores right now. This was the big takeaway from his A$AP Mob cohort Rocky when he stood alongside Jason Collins at this year’s MTV Video Music Awards.
After Jason Collins talked candidly about gay rights, Rocky, without missing a beat, went right in to saying “A$AP Ferg Trap Lord album in stores right now.” Tone deaf? Probably. But it was the most amplified shout-out that Ferg has ever received.
“At the end of the day, it’s not really Rocky’s place to talk on that subject,” Ferg told Radio.com.“So, he just put my album on blast, and I ain’t mad at it.”
He laughs, “‘Trap Lord album in stores now.’ I respected that.”
Take Trap Lord home from the store, and it’s one of 2013′s most layered rap albums that seems both dense and unadorned. Like A$AP Rocky’s Live.Love.A$AP, it builds out from hip-hop’s past to become something new.
But long before Ferg’s debut album was being broadcast to millions, he was set on just getting into the music business, or at least out of Harlem, away from his childhood home of 143rd and Amsterdam — purportedly across from where Kelis grew up — and getting a head start into the music industry. Something his father had a hand in.
“My father was a designer and graphic designer,” Ferg explained. “He did clothes and logos for record labels. He did Heavy D’s logo, he did Andre Harrell’s logo, and Puffy’s logo. He worked with everybody from Loon to Ruff Ryders…everybody in the hip-hop game. Teddy Riley, everybody.”
As a little kid, Ferg’s father took him to galas and events surrounded by the rap moguls at the time.
“I met Puffy a few times, I met Heavy D once at this Thanksgiving drive thing where he was giving away turkeys,” he said. “I didn’t even know who Puffy was at the time, he just had a big mink coat on with glasses. To me, he was just like a furry monster. And I was just a kid, and my pops was like ‘You don’t know who this is?!’”
As he got older, Ferg wanted to prove to his block that he could get out of those kind of situations that he talks about in the surrealist “Cocaine Castle.” There were a lot of people he saw that didn’t get out, or worse, but Ferg wanted to prove to himself and the people around him that he could make more of his life.
“I used to sneak into industry parties when I was 15 just to see something different,” he said. “I wanted to bag a model chick, and I wanted to bring them back to the neighborhood to say ‘Look what I got.’…For them to see one of their own, somebody come from the dirt, from the bottom make it. That they can make it as well. That’s what I want to show them.”
Years later, after sharpening his artistic sense as a fashion designer and a painter, he finally met A$AP Rocky.
“We was at an event, and he was like ‘Yo we gotta work together’ but the funny thing is I always knew he rapped but I never heard him rap before,” Ferg said. “I always thought he was one of those characters who thought he was so cool he didn’t have to rap, like you know some people, ‘Ahh I ain’t got it right now. I’m chillin’ right now. Y’all ain’t ready for this.’ I always thought he was on that.” But then he actually got in the studio with him.
Rocky appears on Trap Lord’s big single “Shabba,” a song that references the ’90s dancehall hit-maker Shabba Ranks. Pulling things back from the ’90s is just one of Ferg’s boons, as the album also includes guest spots from some of the young rapper’s biggest influences: Bone Thugs N Harmony, B-Real of Cypress Hill, and Onyx.
“What [Bone Thugs] were doing back then no one was doing. I mean you had Three 6 Mafia and Twista doing double time [rapping], but at the same time [Bone Thugs] were adding harmony to their music , and I thought that was dope,” Ferg said. “There’s a time for everything, it was real known back then. A$AP, we’re inspired by everything we grew up hearing. We brought that back. It was only right we brought it back.”
Having just wrapped up his next record–the as-yet-untitled A$AP Mob album, supposedly due out this fall–A$AP Ferg says he’s waiting for the next thing to come around to influence him, but in the meantime he’ll enjoy the accolades Trap Lord has been earning.
“It’s a breath of fresh air that I wanted to put out,” Ferg said. “I feel like hip-hop has been very stagnant. It’s been boxed up. I wanted to bring innovation and creativity to it. I’m glad to know that people are receiving it well and are loving it.”