When the news of the death of A$AP Yams hit two Sundays ago, the music industry reacted as if a young Puff Daddy had passed. Yams was the Yoda behind A$AP Mob, the world-conquering rap crew that honed its game in Harlem to become the city’s chief squad, no questions asked. In just a few years, they ascended to the top on the backs of two true fiercely talented rappers: A$AP Rocky, the dandyish wordsmith usually bedecked in designer duds off the runway at Pitti Uomo, and A$AP Ferg, his grimier, zanier street brother with an elastic, rubbery voice that’s capable of dizzying feats of flow.
Yams was not a front man figure—he was always working behind the curtain, pulling strings, whispering in ears—but The New York Times, Rolling Stone and Billboard all ran obits, each testifying to his taste and expertise, and insisting he was someone the city should mourn.
So, this past Thursday night, it was a safe bet that A$AP Ferg’s scheduled performance at Manhattan club Up & Down was more public mass than party. Ferg’s Manhattan show was to re-launch DUH, one of the few unhinged, pansexual, gigantic weekly parties that cross the East River from Brooklyn anymore.
It’s been an up-and-down couple of weeks for A$AP Rocky. On Saturday, the 26-year-old rapper attended the world premiere of his new film, “Dope,” a hip-hop-driven comedy in which he plays a drug dealer named Dom. (Also featured are Keith Stanfield, Zoë Kravitz and Rocky’s ex-girlfriend, the model Chanel Iman.) The movie — Rocky’s first — has been a Sundance hit, drawing rave reviews and becoming an early favorite to win the festival’s audience award. But Rocky, né Rakim Mayers, was in little mood to celebrate. Just six days earlier, on Jan. 18, his close friend and collaborator Steven “A$AP Yams” Rodriguez died suddenly of still-undisclosed causes. On Sunday morning, Rocky would have to fly to New York City for the funeral.
When T spoke with Rocky at the “Dope” after-party, the loss was weighing heavily on his mind. “I miss him,” he said of the A$AP Mob co-founder. “Yams was my Yoda. He’s my brother. He left too soon, but I cherished every moment that I knew him.” When the conversation shifted to the film, however, his mood brightened considerably. Citing the 1992 drama “Juice,” starring the late rapper Tupac Shakur, as an early influence, Rocky expressed a desire to keep acting after Sundance. And as he spilled about everything from fashion to film to the current state of hip-hop, it became increasingly clear that his ambitions extend far beyond Park City.
Although A$AP Ferg is synonymous with the turn up – due in part to the success of singles like “Work” and “Shabba” – he feels his responsibility as an artist is bigger than just getting parties popping and as he gets older he wants his music to reflect that. “I’ve gotten a little wiser. I’ve grown. I kind of know what I want out of life,” says A$AP Ferg. “So what I’m putting out there is a little different from when I first started making music.” That growth and maturity is exhibited here and there throughout Ferg Forever, his latest mixtape. There are, of course, still joints to turn up to on the project, but there are also a set of more reflective, honest, revealing, emotionally-fueled and politically charged records like “Uncle”, “Bonnoroo”, “Commitment Issues”, “Thug Cry” and “Talk It.” “I now understand the power of words, so I now try to use them carefully,” he admits.
He was especially careful in choosing a title for the mixtape. He decided on Ferg Forever as a way of paying homage to his father, his father’s legacy and his family’s name, which is Ferguson. “Now that I’m on I feel like I can take that name to the next level,” says the rapper born Darold Ferguson, Jr. His father, who was a well-known graphic designer in Harlem, designed the Bad Boy Records logo for Diddy and the Uptown Records logo for Andre Harrell, and as Ferg puts it, “did a bunch of shit for people in the industry.” Life + Times recently met with A$AP Ferg at the Polo Grounds’ offices and we discussed his latest mixtape, his walk-off with Cara Delevingne and his upcoming tour with YG.
A$AP Illz has high hopes. “I want to be somebody that people are gonna know,” he told FADER, “not just for one thing or two things, but for an expanse of things—for being a talented person.” We invited the Bronx-born 24-year-old, who caught a big wave of public attention this year with a DKNY casting, up to the office to talk about fashion, but what we got was more like a glimpse into his life. We spoke about his mom’s passing and the jewelry line he’s building in tribute, about how his sister’s mac and cheese is his favorite food in the world, and about the way he wakes up each morning: wanting to be remembered. Below, he shows us what that life looks like.
On this week’s episode of The Juice Podcast, A$AP Ferg joins Billboard’s Erika Ramirez and co-hosts ItsTheReal to break down “Ferg Forever” cuts (“Reloaded” — which samples Disney’s “Frozen” theme song, “Let It Go” — and “Ja Rule”) and collaborations (SZA, Big Sean, M.I.A.), shares a time Madonna made him non-Lipton tea, and expands on rhymes about Ferguson and Michael Brown.
Ferg updates listeners on his “Trap Lord” follow-up album, A$AP Mob’s album and their group chat tendencies, but according to Ferg the best rapper he texts with is Bone Thugs-N-Harmony’s Bizzy Bone.
It’s been a minute since we’ve heard from A$AP Ferg, but that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been working. The Harlem MC hasn’t put out much new music outside of some guest spots since his August 2013 debut album Trap Lord, hit stores. But last Friday Ferg returned triumphantly with his brand new 19-track mixtape Ferg Forever, a teaser for both his new BestCoast Connection Tour with YG and his upcoming sophomore album, which he told XXL in October was “almost done.”
Just before his tape hit the streets, XXL spoke to Ferg about the changes he’s made to his sound, why it’s important for him to speak on the situation in Ferguson and why it’s okay to not be lyrical all the damn time.
A$AP Ferg may be recognized as one of the hottest new voices out of Harlem, but it’s also a little known fact that he enjoys creating art and actually attended art school in NYC. While painting his own shirt, the “Shabba Ranks” rapper shares that his Ferg family name also has rich ties to his community, as his grandmother has received many awards for her activism, his father has designed logos for various record labels and his uncle has had serious street ties for years. Ferg is proud that he can share his fortune with that uncle, taking him around the world to see a different lifestyle after spending so many years on the streets and behind bars.
Fashion has also always been a part of Ferg’s life, saying it was his major in school. He recalls that the kids his age never understood his fashion sense but that older guys always told him he was on another level.
Scott is a man of many talents. A true multitasker, his résumé is impressive: He is the brains (along with a handful of others) behind the hilarious website IMNOTATOY [http://imnotatoy.com/], which has a loyal cult following; was an integral part of the wildly popular Ballers Eve radio show [http://www.ballerseveplaya.com/] that helped break many underground artists; serves as the in-house deejay for the A$AP Mob; and manages and does A&R for vocalist, artist, and model Kilo Kish [http://kilokish.com/]. Originally from the College Park neighborhood of Atlanta, Scott now resides in New York City when he is not traveling the world working on different projects. He keeps an open mind and focuses on innovation—bringing an original perspective to all of his endeavors. His positive attitude and high energy are infectious and encourage creativity. Not overly concerned with credit or money, Scott focuses on pushing things forward and being a team player. Pay attention—he is definitely one to watch.
The Guggenheim is gearing up for its annual International Gala benefit Thursday night, but before the main event, the museum wanted to celebrate with a little music, a sprinkling of celebrities and plenty of fashion. On Wednesday evening, in collaboration with the folks at Christian Dior, the museum held a pre-party for the gala, taking over three levels of the museum to host an event where the Veuve Cliquot was free-flowing and the music was plentiful.
The affair was attended by a smattering of It girls, including Karlie Kloss, Zoe Kravitz, Camila Belle and Harley Viera-Newton. Also on hand was Dior Creative Director Raf Simons, who was tucked away in the VIP area chatting with brand muse Marion Cotillard and Dior CEO Sidney Toledano. Guests were treated to a performance by English indie pop band The XX, whose gurgling guitars and chill sound filled the museum with swaying spectators.
Before heading out after the performance, we ran into A$AP Rocky, dressed in a crisp white shirt, black jacket, leather skinnies and oxfords. Rocky is a proud disciple of fashion, and calls Raf Simons one of his favorite designers. “If you step out of your shoe and a guy can tell you what kind of shoe it is, that’s a keeper!” We assume he was referring to himself.
We chatted with the newly-single fashion plate (he split with model Chanel Iman last month) to get his thoughts on hip-hop, fashion and the #1 thing on his Christmas wishlist.