There’s no shortage of critical opinion Harlem, New York's A$AP Mob. At various times, the collective has been labeled appropriators of Southern Hip Hop, EDM and Golden Era Rap as well as Hip Hop's current Haute couture movement. With A$AP Rocky's 2013 #1 debut Long.Live.A$AP, followed by A$AP Ferg's Top 10 debut, Trap Lord, the general public has been exposed to enough of the group’s aesthetic to see the many elements included can peacefully coexist.
"First it started off with the whole Pitchfork/Fader Fort crowd, and then it moved to the hood," A$AP Ferg revealed, after finishing entertaining such a crowd during 2013's Fader Fort at the South by Southwest Music Festival. "I went back to Harlem and saw that they were fucking with it, so we kind of bridged the gap between the hippies and the hood niggas."
Additional releases by A$AP Nast and an upcoming group effort, L.O.R.D., may further bridge said gaps. Given A$AP Mob's current level of commercial success, the biggest challenge may balancing the demand for more new music with maintaining or exceeding the level of quality control they’ve exhibited. For those eagerly awaiting L.O.R.D., which was originally scheduled for a March 4 release, the issues of preserving the brand while satiating fans may sort themselves out at the same time.
A$AP Ferg Explains Uniting The Hood & The Hippies
HipHopDX: Since you dropped "Work," have you noticed a difference in the energy of your live shows?
A$AP Ferg: Nah, from the beginning they were going crazy. First it started off with the whole Pitchfork/Fader Fort crowd, and then it moved to the hood. I went back to Harlem and saw that they were fucking with it, so we kind of bridged the gap between the hippies and the hood niggas.
DX: Since you've brought up the hood and the hippies or hipsters, which is more important to you—having the Internet on lock or the streets?
A$AP Ferg: It's the people period. Whoever connects to it, that's who I connect to. I'm a hippy, and I'm a hood nigga. I went to art school—an art and design high school—so I can relate to the artists and the artsy muthafuckas. I grew up in Amsterdam and 143rd in Harlem, where it was gangbangers and it was drug dealers. So I can relate to both worlds.
DX: How do you feel going to art school has helped you in your career?
A$AP Ferg: Well, I'm a visual artist, period. I make songs to make videos, and you won't completely get to know my music until you see the visuals. We all are visual artists. We started off getting fly, doing fashion and all that. Before it was a rapping group, it was just a crew of young, fly niggas, but we used to have to fight a lot ‘cause everybody got it twisted. They thought 'cause we were doing [Maison Martin] Margielas and tight jeans that niggas couldn't get down, so we had to prove ourselves a lot. And I guess that's why people took to us, 'cause they could relate to us. They could relate to the movement, and they understood where we came from. It was a lot of hood niggas that wanted to be different, but they didn't know how to be different, or they were scared to be ridiculed by everyone else.
A$AP Illz: They were scared to express themselves.
A$AP Ferg: Exactly.
DX: Since you're traveling around the world right now, what have been the most surprising conditions you've performed in?
A$AP Ferg: Every hood is the same. I'm comfortable everywhere I go, and I feel like I have family everywhere I go. I'm not scared of nothing 'cause I've seen too much shit. We came here to change our life. We came here to take this opportunity to build an empire that our grandchildren can benefit from. I've seen my uncle go to prison. I've seen a bunch of people that I've loved and cared for die in the hood, and there's nothing cool about that shit. When we talk about that type of stuff in our music, we're just telling the kids to be aware of it. The suburban kids probably don't know nothing about that lifestyle, but that's why they fuck with us, 'cause we keep it real. We're like the forecast for the hood or whatever is going on in the universe. But the same way we can tell you about the hood, we can tell you about some Jeremy Scott shit. We can tell you about some [Jean-Michel] Basquiat shit, or some Andy Warhol shit. [We can talk about] some muthafuckin' Stephen Sprouse Louis Vuitton…very rare shit. We just talk about all aspects of ourselves, and that's what we're here for. A$AP: always strive, and always prosper.
How Art & A ‘90s Aesthetic Influences The A$AP Mob Sound
DX: By any chance, do you paint or do you any type of physical visual art?
Ferg: I'm an artist, but I use different mediums to express myself. Right now, it's not about me painting or nothing. It's about me spreading the word to these kids and letting these kids know that you can do it too. I came from the bottom, and I made a way for myself. We all kicked down this door so we could benefit from this shit. So when I do my thing, I'm not doing my thing for myself. I'm doing it for A$AP Nast; I'm doing my thing for Marty Balla, A$AP Bari, A$AP Lou, A$AP Illz, Illy and Ty Beats, so these niggas could keep eating and keep doing their thing. That just makes me go harder.
DX: How did Shabba Ranks feel about you putting out that song with his name on it?
A$AP Ferg: Shabba Ranks was in the video, so of course he loved the movement. When he heard the record, he was pleased. His kids are A$AP fans, so it's all love.
DX: We've been asking everyone about the record Illmatic. How was that influential…
A$AP Ferg: Yup. "Trillmatic."
A$AP Nast: Definitely "Trillmatic." Basically what I wanted to do with that was put people in that time machine and bring them back to 1997, 1996—with Wu-Tang Clan, A Tribe Called Quest, AZ, Gang Starr—all these guys were coming up, and it was all about rapping. It wasn't about your fancy clothes. Well it was, but to an extent. "Trillmatic" was basically to showcase that we're in 2014, but we could still shine with the whole Golden Era. So I just wanted to put people in that zone, and that was it. I think we got the point across. Shout out to everybody who likes it, loves it, or however you feel about it.
Ferg: Shout outs to Shock G for putting Tupac on. Shout outs to Shock G, and the whole Digital Underground for putting Tupac on.
A$AP Ferg Says A$AP Mob Wasn’t Together For "Lord$ Never Worry"
DX: He's a real dude. I saw him in the subway once—real cat.
A$AP Illz: Did he have a big hat on?
A$AP Ferg: Did he have the fake nose on [laughs]?
DX: Nah, he had a big ass keyboard. And I see him around Hollywood carrying instruments all the time.
A$AP Ferg: He's out here, man. That's real shit.
DX: What can you tell us about the L.O.R.D. album?
A$AP Nast: It's coming soon. We just basically wanted to give people an official album and give people real work. So what we did was take our time with this album really give people bangers, and really give the fans what they deserve from us. That's the reason why the dates have been pushed back and everyone's wondering what's up with the album. The album is coming soon. I'm not gonna give you a date, but you gotta wait for greatness, and that's just the way life is.
A$AP Ferg: I just wanna say one thing. When we came out with Lord$ Never Worry, we weren't all together. It wasn't a cohesive thing. "Choppas On Deck," "Persian Wine" and "Work" were supposed to go on my album, but I put that on the mixtape. He put his shit on the mixtape was supposed to be for his project. So I can say this A$AP Mob album is a cohesive thing—we were all in the studio together, and you're gonna feel the vibes from that shit. We all grew up. We're all leaders, and we all got our own followings now. So you can feel the reflection of that through the music, and that's where I'm gonna leave it at. L.O.R.D. is the shit, it will be out ASAP…A$AP.