Photo via A$AP Ferg's Instagram
Recounting a recent concert in Quebec City, the Harlem rapper says, “It was nothing but French people and they were moshing to my record. They could hardly speak English but they were showing love and turning up to my music.” Calling from the Winnipeg stop of the Full Flex Express tour—the cross-country train tour organized by EDM kingpin Skrillex and inspired by the Grateful Dead’s 1970 Festival Express tour—A$AP Ferg can’t contain his enthusiasm for the opportunity to play shows with two of the 21st century’s biggest hitmakers (the other being Skrillex’s Jack Ü partner-in-crime Diplo).
“I’m constantly pinching myself to make sure it’s real because I understand how important these guys are to music,” says Ferg (he previously opened for the duo during their New Year’s Eve show at Madison Square Garden in New York). “I’ve been to Skrillex’s house and seen his Grammys, Diplo brought me into his studio with Madonna, and to see how many strings these guys can pull, it’s like ‘Whoa.’”
Comparing the tour’s diverse lineup—which also includes rising Calgary pop star Kiesza, Florida experimental pop group Hundred Waters, and Toronto dubstep duo Zeds Dead—to MTV (“They brought you everything, the new hip-hop videos, the new alternative videos, it gave you a melting pot of all worlds”), the rapper says traveling by train has allowed the artists to collaborate in new ways. “There’s a whole recording setup, so Skrillex is always making beats, all the other artists are coming up with melodies,” he says. “When we’re not creating songs, we’re talking about poetry and different mediums, it feels like an artist camp. Everybody’s inspiring each other in some type of way.”
So can A$AP Ferg fans expect any of the fruits of their labour to end up on his upcoming, yet-to-be-titled sophomore album? “I’ve got like two songs I want to work on, it’s pretty much done,” he says side-stepping the question. “The year’s not going to go out without having a Ferg album.”
There’s no telling if the new material will more closely resemble his 2014 mixtape Ferg Forever, the pop-friendly songs he’s done with artists like Ariana Grande and HAIM, or something else entirely (see his appearance on the remix of Korean rapper Keith Ape’s “It G Ma”). The ASAP Mob member says the record will feature live instrumentation and chronicle his growth as an emcee, adding that he still considers himself a new artist despite his successes.
“I think it’s still early for me. What did I put out before Trap Lord, I didn’t put out an EP or a mixtape or anything,” says Ferg. “I still need to be seen a lot more for people to understand my art and who I am as a person.”
While he’s reluctant to discuss album details, he’s much more forthcoming about his upcoming capsule collection with Los Angeles brand AGOLDE (due out Spring 2016). “I went to the factory in L.A. every day for two weeks straight and studied denim and t-shirt making,” he says. “They took me to the wash factories, where they do all the washing, and put all the indigos and dyes into the jeans. It’d probably be boring to the average person but it was a really fun process for me.” It’s hardly the former fashion student’s first foray into designing—he’s previously worked with PacSun, Young & Reckless, and his own Trap Lord imprint—but he says the experience provided a humbling respite from the runway shows and relentless touring.
“I would spend eight hours a day in that place, I would be tired, it stripped me away from all of the famous stuff and brought me back to earth,” he says, adding that it’s caused him to rethink how he creates music and the merits of working from scratch. “The biggest lesson I learned is to have patience, the process is everything.”
Max Mertens is a writer living in Toronto. He is on Twitter.