The powers that be may have decided that
they didn’t want Nelly getting hot in herre
but Concrete and Grass Festival
still has a hip hop
star on the bill – and this one’s very much on the rise.
A$AP Ferg has had a huge year on the back
of his Always Strive and Prosper
which marries club-ready trap-influenced
beats with some raw and personal rhymes.
Ahead of his appearance here in Shanghai, we caught up with him to talk touching nerves, tai chi and coming to China for the first time.
through your head when somebody says there's an option to do a show in China?
I've never been
to China, so I don’t know what to expect, but any time I get a chance to travel I’m always excited because I’m always interested in different cultures and
seeing how people live, seeing how people receive my music around the world. I
just want to see how China turn up, because I’ve turnt up in a bunch of
different places around the world but never got a chance to turn up in China so
I’m looking forward to it.
somewhere you ever thought you'd come to?
never thought as big as, you know, even travelling to China. It’s just really like
a dream come true. It’s a dream that I never had but it’s a dream. I never even
imagined that I would be travelling to China let alone performing there. It’s
definitely a blessing.
was out here a couple of months ago, have you spoken to him about it at all?
spoken to him about it, but I’ve seen some pictures and it looked pretty dope.
You did a video for Astrid Andersen’s SS16 collection
that featured you doing tai chi (watch below) and made other references to Chinese culture. Is that something which has interested you for a while?
really like watching kung fu movies. I love Bruce Lee and studying him. For the
tai chi we had to take a class, we had a teacher to learn those moves. It was
really interesting; they teach you how to breathe, how to make yourself really
calm when you are stressed, and a lot of breathing exercises, and the powerful
close range hits – all of that magical stuff.
Chinese culture is really, really
magical. There’s a lot of remedies over there and it seems like people live for
a long time out there and everybody’s into eating well. I mean, I haven’t been
yet, but I don’t see too many fat Chinese people walking around in New York; it
seems like they do pretty good with health and got a lot of remedies and things
like that, so I’m already into the culture.
kept up with the tai chi since then?
haven’t stuck with it but it was pretty dope learning it.
does the fashion side of things occupy your time these days?
Lately, I would
have to say about 20 percent of the time. Other 80 is just music and videos and
business because I’ve been trying to do less fashion and more music, because I
feel like designers want to be rap artists now. I feel like it’s the biggest
medium to use right now. Pop singers want to be rap artists and everything
comes back to rap.
I want to stick to my craft and really develop it. That’s my
goal for right now. Who knows if next year I’ll do a collaboration with a
fashion designer or whatever the case may be. Right now I just what to focus on
the music. I’ve been working with a denim company, agolde, for a new collection
with them. That should be coming out pretty soon, so I’ve been in the factories
working with them, but besides that I’m just been doing music.
your background in design, does it make it easier to work with brands?
It does but
it kind of don’t - let me explain that to you. It does make it easier because I understand
how materials work and the different companies and different finishes and
trims. I had experienced with silk screen and things so I know all the
procedures and processes. So it makes it easier in that way with the knowledge
I have, but it doesn’t make it easier because I am not a rapper that’s just going
to join a clothing line and let everybody do the work for me. I’m very involved;
so I’ll be looking at a T-shirt for three weeks, trying to figure out the right
design to put on there.
make it hard finding the right partners as well? Because it seems like a lot of
brands often just want to put somebody’s name to something.
make it hard because I don’t really mess with anybody I don’t believe in. Anybody
that just want to put my name on it and license my name or just want me to
collab with them just because they gonna get a look. No. I’d rather work with
somebody I love and respect. Like 7 For All Mankind. That comes from Citizens
of Humanity. I grew up wearing Citizen jeans and grew up loving their jeans and
the designers. I have a long history
with them, I used to buy their stuff, and I was buying the brand. So for me to
work with them is a blessing.
How has that shift been
from being a designer and kind of being a little bit more behind the scenes to
now being in the spotlight?
when I’m in the spotlight, I’m only in the spotlight for that time. I’m not
trying to live like a rap star’s, superstar’s life like getting drunk every day
and partying every day. I’m very low key. If I just hit the stage for an hour,
that’s the only time that you’re going to see me, and I go, and I leave, and I
go home and that’s it. I might watch a movie or read a book or something. I’m
not trying to burn myself out.
artists talk about having a persona when they’re out on stage. Is that the case
all me. It’s always been all me. I feel like I get to release a lot of energy
and aggression that I don’t get to release on the daily. Throughout the day I’m
very calm and chill, but when I get on stage, it’s like I get to release the
other side of me that I don’t get the chance to release. It’s like therapy.
With Always Strive and Prosper, there’s some
real personal moments on that record. Did you have any hesitations about
putting some of that stuff out there?
always hesitations because I’m talking about real stuff, real family, business
and I even sometimes get called out by my mom and she will be like ‘Damn that
touch a nerve, why would you write about that, why would you say something
about that?’ I get family members like, sometimes it’s not even the mentioned family
members that’s affected by it, it’s the loved ones that they deal with, that
the thing. Because they know that I’m talking about this situation and it touch
home base for everybody.
It’s a very touchy thing, but I told my mother and
explain it to her that as long as I keep it real and make it an open
conversation, and I am not singling out anybody then we should be alright. But
I always get flagged or people just trying to comment at me with releasing
music with stories about them. It’s very alive and very real coming from me.
When stuff like that blows up, does it
give you pause for thought when it comes to writing new material?
that’s what’s gonna make me the best. I feel like artists are really good when
they’re able to express themselves, when you can talk about things that’s
embarrassing about yourself and others. Those stories that people can connect
to, that’s the thing that heal, and those words heal people so I’m going to
keep it going. That’s what music is made for; it’s made to heal people.
the other things about this album is that you worked with a bunch of different
producers and had a load of features on it. Was that the plan from the off,
that you wanted to reach out and bring in a load of different people for it?
I mean there
really was no plan; I was just trying to find the vibe. I worked with a lot of
producers even before I worked with the ones that I finally got out on the
album. I work with some of the best, most legendary producers and some of the
songs didn’t even make the album. I feel like the songs that made it were the
songs that I really connected to and the songs that I really love.
Who was the highlight from the people you worked with?
definitely. He's my favourite person in the world. He’s my mentor and he taught me a
lot. He was the first person that I was able to jam out with with a variety of
different musicians, two people and a keyboard, three people and a guitar. Me
trying to play instruments and he’s like ‘take a shot at it’. Just really getting that vibe. Doing jam
sessions and sample it out ourselves and then taking whatever we created,
whatever art, anything – he just take it and loop whatever piece he thought was
dope and we make a beat out of it and sample it out ourselves. That was a new
way of doing things for me.
And now you’re
now taking it out on the road.
inspiring, I get the chance to experience all these different places. I didn’t
used to like Europe when I first started traveling. I didn’t like the food and
I didn’t understand it that much. I hardly left my hotel room. I guess it just
took time for me to really like getting used to it. This time I went around
when I did Europe and went to all these different spots. I got some days off. I
got a chance to actually enjoy the land. I went to Paris. Went to London. I got
out and enjoyed the culture.
makes a big difference to just seeing the inside of a hotel room.
A very big
difference. Like I love Belgium. It looks like New York in the ’80s. All I’ve
ever seen of New York in the ’80s was in pictures and videos. So for me to go
to Belgium to see all the graffiti on the walls... It was classy and at the
same time edgy. I loved it.
you’re coming to China. When you do a festival, do you approach it differently
to if you’re doing a club show?
different, because I will perform songs at the festival that I won’t do for a
club show. A club show is pretty fast; I’m only given probably about four
songs. Even a venue show is different because the festival has bigger crowds of
people. Usually at a festival it’s EDM, it’s country, it’s pop, so you can play
all types of music. And I’m a fan of all types of music, so I get the chance to
experiment a little bit more.