On paper, the Harlem-bred rapper is cocky and brash, seemingly taking pages out of a long-standing rap playbook: He gives himself nicknames like Trap Lord and Hood Pope, and on 2013’s “Shabba,” his biggest single to date, he raps about how “dirty van bitches wanna suck my dick.” He regularly wears mink jackets and a gold grill in his mouth. He makes music videos that fashion him into one of Jesus’s disciples.
But, as he’ll tell you, the real Ferg is far more complex.
Born Darold Ferguson Jr., the 27-year-old is an experimenter, an oddball, and an adaptable artist who figured he’d be a fashion designer—he designed T-shirts alongside his late boutique-owning father and even started his own line of belts. But he wound up a rapper. “I was designing, making money off that,” he says of the teenage years he spent painting silk-screened shirts by hand with a paintbrush and acrylic paints, following in his dad’s footsteps. “But I had another talent,” Ferg says. “Rapping.”
Always Strive and Prosper. It’s more than a feel-good album title for A$AP Ferg; it’s a way of life. “That’s the voyage that I’m going through right now. I’m always striving. You hit new levels [and] even when you hit that new level, there’s a new level from there.”
It’s early evening in a tiny dressing room at the Adidas Originals store on 136 Wooster Street. The 27-year-old rapper waxes poetic while kicking his feet — outfitted with his custom-designed Adidas sneakers — in a swivel chair. He’s been fighting off a cold and beads of sweat gather at his forehead. Outside, the din grows as fans pack into the store to hear the rapper’s forthcoming sophomore album, set to be released April 22.
Born Darold Ferguson Jr., in Harlem, A$AP Ferg grew to prominence alongside high school friend A$AP Rocky in 2009, but his creative trajectory didn’t begin with rap. Ferg’s late father, Darold Ferguson, was a prolific designer who created logos for Bad Boy Records, and had his own fashion line called Ferg Apparel. As a teen growing up in Hamilton Heights, Ferg attended the High School of Art and Design and peddled his own clothing and accessories. “It’s in the bloodline,” he tells the Voice. Following A$AP Rocky’s breakthrough, “Peso,” Ferg realized rap was a viable career option. “I started getting the calls from Warner Bros., Sony. Any rap label you could think about called my phone [to] try and get meetings with A$AP [Mob].”
While Rocky, the self-professed “Pretty Motherfucker,” is the collective’s rock star, Ferg is its darker, grimier figure. In 2013, he released his debut, Trap Lord, buoyed by the underground bangers “Work” and “Shabba.”
Backstage at the University of Illinois’ go-to concert venue, The Canopy Club, A$AP Twelvyy is rocking his usual Cozy Boys attire: black durag, black hoodie, sweats and “Bred” Jordan Is.
Though his outfit may suit his calm, cool and collected demeanor, Twelvyy’s live show is anything but tranquil. The 26-year-old Bronx/Harlem native performs with a certain, unquantifiable tenacity that earns him rap game John Starks status in the eyes of many.
We sat down with Twelvyy post-show to discuss the Knicks, college hoops and upcoming A$AP releases. Among the man also know as 212 Mel’s early influences were Em, Cam’ron and Snoop—now, he’s looking to pave his own legacy alongside his partners: Rocky, Ferg, Nast, Ant and the rest of the Mob.
For those who don’t know, what do you do? DJ for A$AP Rocky and Cozy Boys, manager and creative partner with Kilo Kish, Imnotatoy line and other things in the works…
What influenced you growing up? Discount malls in the hood, Comic/Cartoons, Music.
What made you want to start DJing? DJ Screw honestly. I liked that element of DJing more than scratching or the more technical stuff. To me it just sounded so sick, and I don’t drink or smoke or anything – haa. I’m originally from Atlanta and in high school I started to get into production via the program Reason, but never fully got into the mix, I was bouncing around in the streets too much. When I moved to NY for good, all my friends up here would just want me to play music at the get togethers or what not because I would always play (to them) obscure music from all over. Before Rocky started to pop off Yams and Rocky asked me to DJ for him. I had never really DJed REAL spots. It was a quick transition for all of us.
In a uniquely candid conversation with VICE Autobiographies, A$AP Ferg talks about his father and how their relationship catalyzed his growth as an artist. VICE follows Ferg to Harlem to watch him express himself on canvas and in the studio.
You would never have guessed it, what with lines like, “Short nigga but my dick tall/What I told your bitch, dog/Only thug nigga down at the Pitchfork/Dirty van bitches wanna suck my dick off,” but A$AP Ferg was, until recently, in a serious relationship. How serious? He and his ex met in junior high school when Ferg was just known as Darold Ferguson Jr. They began dating a year later and stayed together for seven years. Yes, the Trap Lord has ruled with a queen by his side for the better part of his career. Who better, then, to give advice to young’ns looking to enter the rap game and keep wifey happy?
If there’s a lot of anything these days, it’s new rappers. XXL‘s The Break podcast is for those aspiring MCs who need a little help getting on. This is the place to hear valuable info on how to make it in hip-hop from some of the biggest and most experienced names in the game. Hosted by XXL‘s Vanessa Satten and Miranda J., The Break podcast is an essential tool for artists willing to listen and learn. XXL‘s The Break: Where New Artists Come First.
In the latest installment, A$AP Ferg, Rich Homie Quan and Duck Down Music CEO, Dru Ha, explain how essential networking is when it comes to the music business. If you’re wondering how important it is to establish a relationship with your city’s top DJ, how to nab a feature and why keeping strong alliances is key; listen here. This is the eight episode of XXL’s The Break podcast. Where new artists come first.