Welcome to VICE Sports Q&A, where we'll talk to authors, directors, and other interesting people about interesting sports things. Think of it as a podcast, only with words on a screen instead of noises in your earbuds. This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.
A$AP Ferg, born Darlod Ferguson, Jr., is a hip-hop recording artist out of Harlem, New York. His 2013 debut album, Traplord, earned critical acclaim and commercial success. Now the 27-year-old is partnering with Adidas Skateboarding and has released a new shoe—available at select stores, at Adidas.com, and at Adidas retailers tomorrow, December 5—as part of the Traplord x Adi-Ease footwear and apparel collection.
VICE Sports: Thanks for taking the time. Do you have a relationship with skateboarding as a sport or as a culture?
Ferg: The culture. We listen to the same music. I grew up around a bunch of skateboarders. I'm a BMX rider myself. I have a lot of friends who skateboarded. We grew up going to the same parties, wearing the same clothes, and getting into the same trouble.
Is that the idea behind this collaboration with Adidas Skateboarding?
It was more organic. The culture is hip hop. Hip hop is skateboarding as much as skateboarding is hip hop. I wanted to do this shoe to remember [A$AP] Yams and give everybody the chance to wear a dope shoe by Traplord.
Hip hop was long considered just a genre, but some might say it's a culture that's permeated the mainstream. Sports like skateboarding and action sports haven't yet permeated that mainstream. Can hip hop be that bridge for action sports?
Yeah. Definitely. That's what I'm here for, to bridge that gap. That's what people like me, Pharrell, and everybody else who reps the culture wants to do, to put that culture forward. We want to bring those large corporations to skateboarding and a bunch of other extreme sports.
Aside from skateboarding and BMX, are you into other action sports?
I mean, not really, to be blunt. [BMX]'s what I gravitated to and growing up in Harlem that was all that was around. I grew up watching Dave Mirra. I'm good friends with [professional BMX rider] Nigel Sylvester. We also rolled bikes and hung out with the skateboarders at the same parks. That was all that was around me. The motocross is a whole other thing.
I read that your father printed shirts for Bad Boy Records back in the 90s. What was it like to grow up during that time of New York rap and hip hop?
I was around all of it. My father died of kidney failure. When he first lost both of his kidneys, I had to do most of the work for him. I was printing most of the Bad Boy shirts—Black Rob, Loon, all of the D-Block [The Lox] shirts.
I grew up learning the craft of silk screening and doing four-color, five-color jobs, printing about 400 to 500 shirts manually, front and back. I learned from my father. I used to see the Bad Boy screens and the Uptown Cats logos all over the place at his shop.
That's gotta be an advantage for creating clothing.
Definitely. There were a bunch of samples we'd get in and I'd be like, "No, I don't want it like this. I want it like this. I want to be able to fill the pane. I want plastisols, not fabric paint." I was able to make those kinds of demands, because I knew what kind of product I wanted to make.
Being a kid from Harlem, how much did the Bad Boy music coming out of there influence A$AP Mob?
Heavenly. Early 90s, late 90s, early 2000s, that was all my era. That's my aesthetic. You know I have certain music videos I just look at because I can say they represent my life or my whole career. I always give it up to Missy and Pharrell and Timbaland, because they made it exceptional to be different. They made it cool.
Now everybody acts different. Skateboarders are the new jocks. If you're different and unique, you're the new jock. I'm heavily influenced by 90s and early 2000s.
You mentioned this is a tribute to Yams. My condolences, man, on his passing. That was definitely a sad day. What has his passing taught you about life?
His passing told me to maintain my health and pace myself, work hard, and love my family a little bit more. Beyond Yams' passing, you gotta remember he had a mom and a family. I want to be a better son to my mom. I want to be a better brother to my little brother and be a role model.
Again, sorry for your loss. Let's talk about music. What are you working on, what's coming out?
I'm not sure if you heard, but I got a huge single I'm about to drop that's on my album called New Level with Future. This song is crazy. It's produced by C-Note. It's a smash.
I got a lot of things, a lot of surprise features, on the album. This album is showcasing my life, the trials and tribulations. With Traplord I showed my talent, but I didn't really show people where I come from, what type of jobs I had, and the trials I had to go through to get where I am right now. It's basically a documentary of my life. I'm opening up. I'm usually a very personal person.
I don't post much on Instagram. Recently, I got a SnapChat so I can open up to my fans and they can get to know me more. Maybe it can help them understand who they are. Maybe they'll see some similarities in the things we like.
You saying it's going to be a documentary about your life leads me to believe it'll be New York-based. There's a need out there for a good New York hip hop album.
It's definitely a New York album. It's a people album. It's a world album. Anybody could learn from it. Your grandmother could listen to it. Your nephew could listen to it. It's for everybody.
I started following you on Twitter yesterday. I saw you just got called for jury duty.
I actually went downtown and asked my lawyer if they had any special things for rappers or entertainers could do to get out of jury duty. I've called it off for about three years. I think they're going to come after me if I don't go into that court and sit down. But I ain't snitching, B.
Of course not. In a lot of TV shows people make ridiculous claims to get out of jury duty. What would be your most ridiculous claim to get out of this?
Man...my first tour was the Get Trippy Tour with Juicy J. We got extra trippy on that one [laughs]. I'd tell some of those stories and they'd say, "No. Oh no. He's no good."
I'd think because you're a celebrity they wouldn't call you. How could there be a fair trial?
Hell no. You still gotta do jury duty. You know, most rappers have long rap sheets. My rap sheet ain't long at all so they figure I'm good enough to sit down for jury duty.
I've gotten away with a lot.
Well, that's good, man. Some people say if you don't get caught you never did anything wrong.
Right. Exactly. I never did anything wrong [laughs]. Anything.