“A lot of people think I’m not lyrical, but that’s because they aren’t listening to my lyrics.”
“They’re just listening to the flow, but if I stopped flowing and spit without all of the shenanigans and decoration then they’d really understand what I’m saying and where I’m coming from with the lyrics.”
The A$AP Mob representative’s intricate flows and melodies make him stand out from the crowd. Listening to his hypnotic lyrical patterns, it’s easy to get caught up in the style, to the extent that the content almost becomes secondary. However, this is no mistake.
“It’s not a bad thing,” Ferg states. “It’s my style. I don’t want to be easy to get. So many people be so easy to get these days, straight off the bat, and then it’s on to the next one. I feel like my music will last longer the way I do it.”
Despite critics initially drawing vocal comparisons to Bone Thugs-n-Harmony (who have since developed a relationship with A$AP Mob and appear on ‘Trap Lord’) and the late great Tupac Shakur, Ferg disregards the similarity, explaining: “When I dropped ‘Death B4 A Million’, that was supposed to sound like Bone Thugs and 2Pac. I wanted to speak as if I was speaking through them on some reincarnated type shit. But everything after that, that shit don’t sound like nobody.”
Rather than necessarily taking influence from those before him, Ferg attributes his complex and melodic patter to a combination of natural ability and experimentation.
“Some parts of my flow came naturally, and a lot of it I had to develop. Because it’s hard to develop your own sound when there’s a billion different rappers, I didn’t look up to anyone – I just studied myself. I always played around with my voice. Rapping in cyphers and stuff I would always add that little difference and versatility to it. That was just me.”
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A$AP Ferg, ‘Shabba’, from ‘Trap Lord’
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Appropriation of language also plays a strong part in Ferg’s unique sound, often juxtaposing ‘hood or drug slang against religious imagery, such as in the album’s title ‘Trap Lord’ or single ‘Hood Pope’.
“That just comes from being a religious n***a from the ‘hood,” offers Ferg. “We all look at ourselves as Young Lords and like Godly figures, but we’re from the ‘hood. So I’m mixing those elements together.”
The result is something that sounds grimy and credible, rooted in the streets yet transcendent and ethereal. Despite often contrasting these religious elements with drug slang like ‘Trap’ and ‘Work’, Ferg’s intention is not to promote this culture, but rather to motivate listeners to aspire to other things.
“Trap is big in this generation, so I just want to teach kids that there is different ways that you can trap,” he explains. “Trapping is not just selling drugs as it was. Even trap music is evolving because you have people like Baauer taking trap and making it into EDM. It’s not just in the ATL ‘hoods anymore. So who says trapping can’t be selling T-shirts or artwork, or even your 9 to 5? It’s just your perspective.”
His out-of-the-box thinking and experimentalism can be attributed to his love of the arts in general. Having initially studied at art school, Ferg began “trapping” when he founded a clothing line called Devoni (named after the Devonian period of evolution, his brand representing “the evolution of style”), which focused largely around accessories and could be seen worn by the likes of Chris Brown, Swizz Beatz and Diggy Simmons.
The brand’s Facebook page states that with Devoni, Ferg wanted to “inspire individuals to follow their own passions through his art”, something that continues to stay with him as he pursues his new hustle.
“I want to inspire people to be innovative with their art and themselves. I believe that everyone has some kind of uniqueness that they can spread through the world and make a difference,” he informs us when asked about the old mission statement. “Being around the arts, and different mediums, inspires me to be creative.”
With an outlook focussed on the arts as a whole, drawing inspiration from everything from abstract painting and design, to fashion and film, Ferg sees each element of his creativity being influenced by another. And while his attention was focused on design, his passion for music was never far away.
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A$AP Ferg, ‘Work’ (Remix), from ‘Trap Lord’
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As Devoni’s success grew, he found himself wasting more and more money on studio time, recording songs he would never use, but developing his craft. “At that time I was doing fashion because that’s what was making the money at the time,” he reveals. “But I always wanted to make music and be great at it.”
Another figure known for fusing the arts with hip-hop, the legendary Fab 5 Freddy, has even become somewhat of a mentor to the young artist. Clash asks about this relationship.
“I met Fab 5 Freddy in a 99-cent store, actually. I’m a big fan of him and everything he did in hip-hop. So I was sitting in a cab in Harlem and I ran down on him. Got out of the cab and caught up with him going into the 99-cent store like, ‘Yo, you’re Fab 5 Freddy! What’s up? I’m A$AP Ferg.’ He was familiar with who I was and he invited me to his crib to look at his artwork. We just keep in contact. That’s the homie. That’s the O.G.”
When we suggest that a comparison could be drawn between his outlook and Freddy’s, Ferg is quick to expel it on the basis that he’d be speaking before his time.
“The difference between me and Fab 5 Freddy,” he clarifies, “is that he brought everything to the table. And although I may still do that, that’s because that is how I function. Fashion may inspire the visual. A painting may inspire the music. Each element of my art inspires other art.”
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‘Trap Lord’ is out now. Find A$AP Ferg online here.
Words: Grant Brydon
This article was originally published in issue 88 of Clash magazine, featuring exclusive photos – find details on said issue here.
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Stream tracks by A$AP Ferg via Deezer, below…