At the top of 2016, A$AP Ferg divulged the uncertainty surrounding his next move following the release of his sophomore LP, Always Strive and Prosper. The eclectic, self-reflective soundscape landmarked a risk taking conceptual shift in his catalogue, revealing a place where honesty, humor, and exuberant charm coexisted in harmony. For Ferg, it was the album he always dreamt of making, but as effortlessly as the album was delivered to the masses last spring, it was also a tough learning lesson for the MC willing to sacrifice everything for his art.
Now, a year later, Ferg is back at the drawing board and analyzing the ins and outs of Always Strive and Prosper’s successor: a mixtape aptly titled Still Striving. Having solidified himself as an artist unafraid to push boundaries and bare his truth, Ferg is unlike many artists for the simple fact that he’s far from jaded, and looking no further than three letters to sum up the approach of his new work: f-u-n.
Below, A$AP Ferg muses over his latest creation, and how the initial enjoyment and passion for music that has carried his career this far is still alive and well.
It’s been a little over a year since you released your sophomore studio album Always Strive and Prosper, and now you’re back with Still Striving. I’ve seen people call it an album and a mixtape. What do you classify it as?
Well, people call it an album. I honestly don’t know the difference between albums and mixtapes anymore. But I think it’s proper for me to say it’s a mixtape because mixtapes have all original music as well and people sell them now. You know how, Future puts out those projects and they’re considered mixtapes but they’re really albums.
To date, your projects have been tactfully yet organically conceptualized. What was the inspiration behind Still Striving?
The concept was to just have fun. There were so many introspective songs on Always Strive and Prosper. Yes, it was the album of my dreams to create, but I also understand that my dreams may not always fit into the realm of society. It was a headache getting music cleared and making people believe in the vision enough to stand behind it completely and even put it out. I was completely drained from that and just wanted to party and turn up so that’s what inspired this project.
You do get a lot of different vibes and moods on Still Striving though. This time around I wanted a real contemporary feel, so much so that I think it’s experimental in a way. That’s what I really wanted though. I changed my flows and verses and things like that, but there’s 808s and drums that hit. I wanted a reason to go out to the club again; a reason to turn up in the car. I don’t have anymore of the trials and tribulations that I put on my last album so it’s more so stories of what’s happening in my life today.
Going back to Always Strive and Prosper, you mentioned it being a tough process from inception to conception. Were you happy with its reception?
I was. I mean what solidified it for me was all of the tastemakers and iconic individuals in the industry who stood behind it and respected it. That album is an artist's album, like in the sense that your favorite artist would listen to it for references or inspiration. To be honest, I knew what I was doing. I was pushing the boundaries, and it was obvious with “Strive” that features Missy [Elliott] and some other songs. I think the reception was good, but I think there should have been more visuals to push the project. You know, songs like “Strive” and even “Grandma” needed a video just like “Let It Bang” got one. But what I had to learn was that just as much attention as I put in the turn up songs, I have to put in the more introspective songs, because people want to see that side of me as well.
Like I would have loved to have shot a video for “Cocaine Castle,” but between timing and budgets and things just not working out, it didn’t happen. Most of the time labels want to go with what they know the fans will obviously want and that leaves us artists pretty much independent. It’s like, 'Alright, we’re going to spend this money on our own video.' So now, I know how the game works a little bit better. It’s like, even though you may get a budget from your label to shoot the obvious hits, you still need to deliver visuals to the ones that are more intimate and reflective of you. At the end of the day, as an artist you are the art you put out, so it’s best to be authentic. But all in all, I’m learning as I go.
What was your work environment like this time around? It sounds like you’re in a totally different place than when you were creating Always Strive and Prosper.
I got back with a lot of producers that I worked with in the beginning [of my career] like Frankie P. He’s on like five songs from the Trap Lord album. I’m really getting back to the basics on Still Striving. I spent a lot of time in New York creating. There were a lot of friends pulling up so it created this communal tribe feeling. I wasn’t just by myself in the studio anymore. Basically, everyone that came in town would be like, 'Yo, we’re going to stop by Ferg’s session.'
One day Cam’ron would be in there; one day MadeinTYO would come through. I might be in the studio and Dave East would have his own session going on and I’d go over and make two songs with him. Then I’d hear Rich the Kid is in town and he’d bring Famous Dex. Or someone would tell me GoldLink is around the corner working on things. Even André 3000 walked into the studio one day. My uncle introduced us and brought him into the session to hear some stuff. That’s not to say that these guys are on the projects but that’s just the environment I was creating in. It was a real creative time for me where the music was just flowing. I could just go in there and bust out three or four songs on a good day.
What was your interaction with André 3000 like? Did he drop any gems?
I got to play him some music and out of all the songs he really loved "East Coast.” It wasn’t what I expected at all because his choice of beats and style of music are different from mine. I think “East Coast” is unique, too, in a way that it’s got this really dope throwback New York sound. So I didn’t think he’d gravitate towards it. It was him and Just Blaze who said they loved that song.
What did you learn most, whether it’s about yourself or even artistry, while recording this project?
To let it flow. Sometimes I overthink things, which I think is a gift and a curse. But what it ultimately does is slows you down. I learned to just release it and put it out into the world because people want to hear it. It’s crazy how there’s like little things that I’m so tedious about and people don’t even pick up on that shit. I’m so much of a perfectionist and I know it works and pays off because I keep elevating. But I’m also really big on connecting with people. Artists and friends will come by to listen to music - even people that aren’t even artists - and just vibe and talk and make music. I think that open door policy allowed my creativeness to flow a lot better.
Speaking of an open door policy, there’s a lot of exciting collaborations on Still Striving. Let’s talk about the first track, “Trap and a Dream” with Meek Mill. You were recently featured on his Meekend Music mixtape, but how did this song come about?
I felt like this track was so important to not only do but put on the album because I could only hear Meek and his raw flow on it. It’s so weird. This was in a time when I feel like he was really in a dark place with his career. He was finding out who was real and who was fake so I knew he’d have a lot to talk about. So, we actually did this song before Meek dropped his album. I figure everybody is reaching out now and seeing that he’s back working and is turned up but Meek and I kept in contact through that entire time of his ups and downs and that really shows in the song. What he’s talking about, man. It’s dope. And the song is called “Trap and a Dream,” so it’s combining Trap Lord and Dreamchasers, it’s crazy. The hook is fire, too.
What’s your favorite song on the album?
That’s tough. Anyway I could pick three [laughs]? I love my verse on “Olympian” featuring Dave East. We go bar for bar and I really like that song because I wrote it and did the entire song by myself - the hook and everything. Then one day I was in the studio and Dave had his own session going on, and I just kept thinking this was a song he would be good on; I wanted to see what he could come up with. He bodied it so much that I wrote my verse over it. That kind of elevated me and put me in a space of writing again because I was like, 'Oh, people still writing like this? People still going in?' So it made me go and revisit the song and annihilate that shit. And that’s what I did. I love that feeling, too. It made me get back on my writing shit. From doing that, I made “Tango,” which is one of the more introspective songs on the album. It’s really deep. And of course, “Trap and a Dream.” Those three songs are so intense in their own ways and I know people will connect.
You were on the 'Nobody Safe' Tour with Future this summer. Was there anything you took away from that experience?
I just learned to never stop. That man seriously doesn’t stop. He’ll come off stage, take a private jet to somewhere for a meeting and whatnot, fly back, and hop right back on stage. Even Migos and the way they work was impressive. Just to see Quavo basically engineer his own music is crazy. Like the first day on tour, we were in the Migos hotel room after the show just creating music. You would think that dudes at the top of their success would be tripping over all of the chicks and all of the fluff, but the guys you see flourishing are really working. It’s no bullshit with it. That really stood out to me. Migos and I have a joint on the album too, called “Nasty.” That’s going to be a strip club joint.
So, everybody is buzzing about A$AP Mob’s AWGEST takeover. Can you speak more to what it is and how it came about?
Well AWGEST just goes back to the name AWGE, which is Rocky’s creative brand that he’s pushing right now that includes music, fashion, and a bunch of other creative stuff. They were just like 'we should do something for the whole month of August' so we all just came together. We already had all this music individually and thought it would be dope to take over the month with music, music videos, and fashion. It just worked for everybody. Twelvyy’s debut just dropped; my project is on the way; the Mob's Cozy Tapes Vol 2. gonna drop. It’s a lot of quality coming.
You guys are also going on tour which has people really excited. What’s your craziest or favorite memory of being on the road with Mob in the early stages of fame?
The LONGLIVEA$AP tour with ScHoolboy Q and Danny Brown was really fun. That was actually Rocky’s first headlining tour. What I remember about those times was getting real fresh. Like that was the thing, we got to be fresh and show the world how fly we are and show them our style of performance with all the jumping in the crowd and moshing. We can’t really do that now because we’ve got money and people know we’ve got money so they be trying to throw the lawsuits at us. But doing those smaller venues and being more intimate with the crowd, that’s what I miss. Arenas and all of that are cool but you kind of lose that connection with the people. That’s why when I do arenas I still go into the crowd and perform.
At this point in your life you’ve been able to express yourself in many so ways from music to fashion and beyond. But what’s your favorite medium create with today?
Music is at the top because it is effortless for me and comes easy. With other avenues of my creativeness there’s much more preparation needed, but music, you don’t really need much. It literally comes from your mind, and you just need to digest your thoughts. That goes for creating beats and producing, too. Doing “Plain Jane,” I gave Kirk Knight the whole skeleton of the song, like, “Yo, I want the beat to sound like this,” and he did just that and added his own bells and whistles. At the end of the day, it came out as a great collaboration of thoughts from a simple meeting of the minds, and that’s all we needed really.
We also spoke to A$AP Twelvyy this week, check that interview out right here.