FIVE YEARS AGO WHILE LIVING IN NEW YORK, I met a kid with gold grills and french braids who told me I had to watch his new music video. The video wasn’t out yet, he just showed me a cut of it on an iPad. The video was Peso and the kid with the gold teeth was A$AP Rocky. Since meeting Rocky that night I have spent a lot of time with the him traveling and documenting his career. We recently sat down during the Rocky and Tyler (the Creator) tour to talk with him about what’s been going on and what he has coming up in the near future. Interview and photos by Brock Fetch
With an intimate chinwag with X Ambassadors already in the bag, our brand-new interview series .Wav Files swings hard from alt-rock to rap in episode two. In front of the camera’s glare this week is Harlem’s Trap Lord himself, A$AP Ferg, who’s quizzed on the things that matter by Toronto musician Maylee Todd.
Among the many things the A$AP Mob rapper talks about are his artist father and his own definition of himself as an all-round creative. “I’m an innovator,” is what the Harlem hip-hop star prefers. Ferg talks, too, about his relationship with Skrillex and how important it is to avoid following the herd in order to, says Ferg, take “your sonics to the next level.”
It’s a fascinating insight into the minds of one of the world’s most hyped rappers ahead of the release of his second album, Always Strive And Prosper, later in 2016.
Stay tuned over the coming weeks for more exclusive .Wav Files interviews from BADBADNOTGOOD, MS MR, The Neighbourhood and more.
Inside a corner storefront on the Bowery, a couple of dudes are trying to hang a neon version of the GUESS triangle logo. The windows are made of one-way glass and look blacked out from the outside, so every couple of minutes, some passerby stops to peer curiously into the space. Little do they know that in here, we’ve rewound a couple of decades. The whole place is styled like a ’90s rec room — complete with NBA-themed video games (one frozen on a menu displaying a pixelated Charles Barkley), Alf and Green Hornet comic books, a VHS library that ranges from Tae Bo tapes to Pretty Woman, even a slightly lumpy corduroy couch. Depending on your perspective, it’s a fun #tbt, or, for those of us who recently entered our 30s, a harsh reminder that time’s wingèd chariot is hurtling ever nearer.
It’s all in service of A$AP Rocky’s line for GUESS Originals, which is, to say the least, heavily inspired by the decade — the rapper ventured into the archives to find pieces from the era to re-create. (Pieces from the line will be available for preorder on January 30, at retailers including Opening Ceremony; the full collection will launch February 15 at GUESS stores and online.) At a launch party later that night, promises a press release, guests can look forward to “munching on iconic nineties after school snacks and spiked punch.”
Rocky, who was sitting in the back of the venue at a picnic table covered with packages of Pop Rocks (presumably, the “iconic snacks” in question), spoke to the Cut about his ’90s memories, why you’ll see him walking around with a Super 8 camera, and the reason he wants to have a daughter.
“I have many closets,” says A$AP Rocky. How many? “A few…” He cracks a smile that would look shy if it weren’t exposing two diamond-encrusted gold teeth.
It’s hardly a secret that Rocky is into fashion. He’s namechecked every major designer in his lyrics, from Balenciaga to Ann Demeulemeester. He’s starred in campaigns for his friend Alexander Wang. He regularly sits front row at New York Fashion Week. And, in 2013, he collaborated on a line with Raf Simons. He also collects vintage Issey Miyake, he tells me.
His latest venture though, has a more personal feel. Recently, Rocky reached out to GUESS to express his appreciation for the brand’s role in hip-hop history and how much it meant to him growing up. Not long after, he was flying out to LA, where the brand let him loose in its archive. The result is Archive: GUESS Originals x A$AP Rocky, a throwback collection of men’s and women’s pieces that look like 1996 but fit like 2016. There are striped tees stitched with “GUE$$ JEANS USA,” cute acid-washed crop tops, and skinny overalls printed with Rocky’s customized version of the brand’s iconic triangle.
“I’m kind of like an antimillennial,” says Darold Ferguson Jr., otherwise known as A$AP Ferg. “Nothing was given to me.” The Harlem-bred rapper, part of the A$AP Mob alongside A$AP Rocky, is so against the stereotype of his generation—or hell, his profession—that when he started, he didn’t even long to be in the spotlight. “I just wanted to be a writer,” he says. “I didn’t want to deal with the fame. But people were just like, No, we need you in front of us.” And do we ever. This year, the complex lyricist drops his second LP, Always Strive and Prosper (longhand for the acronym A$AP), which features collaborations with Madonna, Pharrell Williams and Missy Elliott, and he will continue to unveil projects from his designer line, Devoni Clothing. Not to suggest its all about A-listers and being flossy: Last summer, he launched the annual Ferg Health Fair, where hundreds of Harlem kids were treated to checkups and a gig by the artist himself.
At our Under 30 summit in Philadelphia this fall, Rakim “A$AP Rocky” Mayers was among the last to arrive at our group cover shoot.
“Sorry,” he said with a grin, decked out in a full-length Dior coat. “I’m fashionably late.”
Indeed, nobody in the hip-hop world has been more fashionable of late. The Harlem-born mixtape maven grew up shuttling between homeless shelters, swaggering into mainstream consciousness with debut album Long.Live.A$AP, which reached No. 1 on the Billboard charts in 2013, helping him earn an estimated $5 million that year.
But it’s his fashion sense–modeling for DKNY and creating a capsule collection for Guess–that makes him ascendant. Rocky is focused on his creative collective, AWGE, which does everything from designing album artwork to managing stylists.
“To be able to curate and manage my own business,” he says, “I always wanted to do it.”
He’s sitting in a green room, waiting for his turn to film scenes for Pusha-T’s “MPA” video. Fellow Mob member A$AP Nast and longtime mentor Chase Infinite sit on a couch while Rocky relaxes in a vintage barber chair.
Before we begin our interview, he looks up at a rack of clothes and has an idea. He wants to throw on a “cozy” green Stussy robe. When he sits back down, he looks even more relaxed, laughing as jokes and smoke fill the room.
But Rocky’s happiness doesn’t just come from this; the state of hip-hop’s also got him smiling.
Of the whole A$AP Mob, the Harlem-based hip-hop and fashion collective, A$AP Ferg is known as the most personable one. Funny and gracious in interviews, Ferg is someone you want to root for. Since the death of his good friend A$AP Yams last year, the 27-year-old rapper has spent much of the past few months working on projects that illustrate his wide-ranging interests outside of hip-hop. — from painting, to designing shoes, to creating rugs. Yes, rugs. This past Monday, Ferg unveiled his new Traplord rug at an event thrown by Fancy. He also released a new song, “Tatted Angel,” earlier this week, which discusses his feelings about the death of his good friend Yams.
Before his performance on Monday night, Ferg sat down with Maxim to discuss his new album (coming out in 2016), maturing as an artist, and painting with Swizz Beatz.