Self Reflections Of A Harlem Knight
It is evident that A$AP Ferg isn’t the same person we were first introduced to back in 2010. The rough exterior layers of the Trap Lord have been shaved off with time, and we have found ourselves face to face with a regular human being. A 27-year-old man with flaws, emotions and transparency, Ferg has revealed who Darold Ferguson, Jr. is on Always Strive and Prosper. And with him comes his family, his artistry and A$AP Mob — all factors here to stay. You wanted to get to know A$AP Ferg? Pay attention.
“I want to put her in a better [situation], because if her son were here, he would be trying to do the same thing. And I feel like I owe her that because she brought him into this world, and without him I probably wouldn’t even be rapping. Yams was the one who had the vision for all of this to happen.” Ferg’s relationship with A$AP Yams’ mother is new, but the bond is strong. Their love for the same person brought them together, but it has become about more than just Yams.
“I met her at his funeral. She had his phone, so when he passed, she went through all his texts and seen what we were talking about. She was like, ‘He really loved you,’ and ever since then, we’ve been building, and she considers me her son. I love that lady like a mom, for real.”
As he talks about Yams and his mother, you can feel the admiration Ferg has for both of them. And as the words flow out, you understand more and more how much he feels he owes to Yams: his career. The “Yammy Gang” track on Ferg’s newest album brings Yams and his mom together once again as the Mob raps about the legacy he has left behind and his mom promises to keep it alive. “This is for all my beautiful people around the world. My son was a genius. I wanna continue his legacy,” states Tatiana Paulino at the end of the track.
The genius who brought the A$AP clan to the world passed away a little over a year ago, but he very much still holds weight in the crew. All members of the Mob expressed their grievances after their loss, but Ferg promised to keep his vision alive as much as possible. “I keep him alive by just doing me, being me. He loved who I am. He loved who Ferg is as a person and as an artist. I’m just going to continue to do me, and that’s how I represent him. I’m not going to disrespect myself or misrepresent myself, so whenever I represent myself, I’m representing him. I’m representing A$AP as a whole.”
Yams was the wizard behind the curtain, making the moves for the crew, and they trusted him. So when A$AP Rocky was the first to be pushed into the spotlight, the Mob followed suit with the plan. But it would be a lie to say that Ferg didn’t wonder about his own path and how he could fit in — or, in other words, stand out. with the plan.
“I was like, ‘Man, we putting all the energy into him, what’s left?’ He got GQ, Vogue, and I’m like, ‘What lane am I going to be in?’ But there was definitely a lane. There were things open. There were things that I love, that Rocky hate. And there are things that he loves, that I don’t like. I just went with being me. That was my lane. I’m the designer. I’m the artist but I’m a nasty rapper, battler, an MC, and I’m charismatic. I was in the clubs when A$AP wasn’t in the clubs. I’m the reason for A$AP being in the clubs. That’s who I am. I’m going to provide those anthems, those big songs that hit the festivals. That’s what Ferg is bringing to the table.”
Ferg’s confidence in the place he holds amongst the more than 10-member gang could easily be taken as cockiness or competition. But only an idiot could question if there is jealousy amongst all of them. A band of brothers that shares so much more than just their love for music, they have become each other’s biggest supporters. You’ll catch Rocky coming to Ferg’s shows, or Ferg rapping on tracks with A$AP Nast and A$AP Twelvyy. The family dynamic is there and it’s strong — and it’s clear that is important to Ferg. When you hear Ferg shouting out “A$AP Mob for life,” that’s a promise he intends to keep.
Like his adopted family, Ferg’s bloodline holds a large part in his heart and everyday living. The rapper keeps his family members as close as possible while they play major parts in his career. “It’s tough. I see my family sometimes. My uncle is with me all the time. My cousin is with me all the time. I like my family to travel with me; that’s why a lot of my family works with me, because I don’t get to see them that much. And I just couldn’t fathom being on the road by myself and not having people who actually really care about me with me. These are the people who are around me, who are really looking out for me.”
And look out for Ferg, they truly do. Ferg’s mother, though hesitant at first, supported Ferg’s musical career and has been doing so throughout the course of it. “Most moms would be like, ‘What? You’re trying to make art?’ But she stuck by it. She supported it. She gave me money for it. So I thank her for allowing me to be free and do my thing.” You’ll catch his mother at Ferg’s listening sessions or hear stories about her on his tracks, a clear indication that she has been a big influence in the continuance of his career. As are Ferg’s uncles, T-Ferg and Psycho.
The two men, both well known in Hungry Ham--that’s Harlem for you non-New Yorkers-- took slightly different paths than Ferg. But their struggles became his motivation to detour onto another road. And he made sure to bring them along with him. After a 15-year bid, T-Ferg has been on the road with Ferg, supporting him as he continues to work on music. As for Uncle Psycho, Ferg reps him on his track, “Psycho.” His name describes him perfectly as he barely gave a fuck and found himself living a path that often stressed out his family. Ferg wanted to be just like him growing up but instead expressed his admiration for Psycho and T-Ferg through his lyrics.
Ferg’s grandmothers have often gotten some special shout-outs when he put pen to a paper. Both have stood by him and have left great impacts on him. Ferg raps about the hurt he feels since his maternal grandma has passed on the track “Grandma.” Wishing she was by his side so he can share his earnings, Ferg recalls the pain and struggles his grandmother endured. Though missing his grandma, he has used what she taught him to continue to build his empire. Ferg’s paternal grandmother, Mama Ferg, has also pushed him to be greater. “My grandma is an artistic grandma. She’s very young, youthful, a big spirit. Does a lot for the community. She’s all about the kids. She teaches dancing classes. She’s very poetic. She’s a dope grandma. She always understood me. She always rooted for me. She inspired me to keep Harlem alive by always visiting and doing things in my neighborhood.”
But there is no one who has had as large an influence on Ferg as his father, Darold Ferguson, Sr. The well-known designer worked his way up and owned his own boutique in Harlem. The boutique had work coming in and out for artists like Heavy D, Bell Biv DeVoe, Teddy Riley and so many more. But Ferguson, Sr.’s logo design for Bad Boy Records heightened his level of authenticity. And long after his passing, his reputation has held up. With his father’s name mentioned often in the streets of Harlem, Ferg had some large footsteps to follow. But he used that as motivation to tap into his own artistry. “My father is one of my biggest inspirations because he’s reached sky limits. Growing up, I thought it was so hard to walk in his shoes because he accomplished so much, but I always use that as a source of motivation.”
After getting fired from his job at Ben & Jerry’s in the early 00’s, Ferg found himself free to do what he really wanted to do: create. Knowing that he wanted to work for himself, Ferg was printing shirts and getting into designing. He began his line, Devoni Clothing, and found himself distributing belts to artists like Chris Brown. He also channeled his creative energy into making art by painting and attending an art-design school. With such a love for the arts, it was expected that Ferg would continue on that path, but music called his name. And he wanted to use that outlet to inspire whoever wanted to listen.
Fast-forward to 2016: Ferg is on a high from his second album, Always Strive and Prosper. The project — totally different from his first album — is the motivational album that hip-hop fans have been waiting for. Ferg raps about his family, starting fresh and pushing others to step out of the box.
“I created an album for the people. And I say that because one kid I met said my music helped him fight through cancer and chemo. That was big for me, because I didn’t know my music had that type of impact. That’s some Michael Jackson-type stuff. It’s like healing music. I can’t make music for myself and my homies anymore; this is bigger than that.”
Depressed and feeling like hip-hop was draining him, Ferg wasn’t sure if he wanted to actually finish Always Strive and Prosper. “Hip-hop has a stigma on it that it’s hard to talk about positive things that you really may want to talk about, because they want to hear about so much bullshit. I got to the point that I was just fed up with the bullshit. I got depressed for a while, and I didn’t even know if I wanted to continue doing hip-hop during this album.” But meeting that one fan was all the confirmation Ferg needed that he was doing something right after the change in his musical tone. He continued making music, and as he added to the album, he realized that he was no longer making it for himself. He was peeling away at who his fans knew him to be and exposing life experiences that he had never before shared. Even at the listening session in New York City, Ferg expressed how raw this album is.
“I feel like people are starting to know who I really am now, and that’s all I wanted, because I feel like people were getting the wrong perception of me. With Trap Lord, they only seen one side of me. It was more of an aggressive, grim, dark side, and that’s not me all the time. I can get like that cause I come from that. I come from the streets. I’ve seen a lot of things. But at the same time, you would want to rise above that. You would want to get on the brighter side of things. You would want to influence people to be better. Innovate things. Be creative. I just felt like it was real one sided, and now I’m very transparent as far as my lifestyle and who I am and who I strive to be.”
With all that being said, there is so much more to discover when it comes to A$AP Ferg. There is a William Shakespeare quote that characterizes him very well: “Have more than you show, speak less than you know.” Ferg has taken listeners through various stages of his life but has consistently shared just enough to keep them hanging on. From experiences as a resident and lover of Harlem to his musical career to the part his family plays, Ferg has provided the outside pieces to an unfinished puzzle. But as he continues on this path, little by little that puzzle will come together. There’s just no need to give it all away at once.
“You’ll never know what to expect from Ferg. History is showing that now. I’m just going to keep entertaining the people — being real, being truthful. And just being me.”
A$AP Ferg’s second studio album, Always Strive and Prosper, is out now, and you can catch him performing the tracks live during the Level Up Tour!
RESPECT. Founder: Jonathan Rheingold
Senior Editor: Jasmina Cuevas
Production Manager: Andrew Goor
Lighting Design: Aaron Stathum