The Trap Lord from Harlem shakes down States with his Pop Quiz – and tells us about Basquiat, Jamaica and why he started out in hip hop to keep a promise to his mate Rocky
As part of our States of Independence summer takeover, 50 American indie icons have volunteered to take the Dazed Pop Quiz; a quick-fire Q&A about what they love and loathe about life in the USA. Check back here every day for more from the series.
You probably know Harlem’s hottest hip-hop export from his 2013 singles “Work” and “Shabba” – featuring his buddy A$AP Rocky – but a lesser known fact about the Ferg is that he actually started out in fashion. Born in Hamilton Heights as Darold Feruson Jr., A$AP Ferg was initially content to leave the “rapping thing” to fellow ASAP MOB member and childhood friend Rocky whilst he produced a clothing line. Making music with his buddies nevertheless from 2009 onwards, Ferg’s debut album Trap Lord was released in 2014. Flash-forward to 2014 and anticipation for more of the impeccable hustler’s noise is growing – check out the Godfather-inspired track he revealed on his Soundcloud last month. In the meantime, we pinned Ferg down to talk all things USA: that means first breaks, Obama’s “swaggy” flare and all the (grilled, not smoked!) salmon you can eat.
Which living American do you most admire and why?
A$AP Ferg: My mom.
Whose face would you put on the 100 dollar bill?
A$AP Ferg: My father’s face.
What 3 words describe the states today?
A$AP Ferg: Inspirational, hope and black.
Who gave you your first break and do you still talk?
A$AP Ferg: Rocky, and I still speak to him. Well me and Rocky were always friends. Rocky was rapping and I was making clothes, and he really wanted me to rap. He wanted me to be a duo with him, but I just couldn’t see it the way he saw it. But he saw it for me. I said if you make it I’ll come along with you and do it and he started to get calls from different labels and stuff, and I guess it was time for me to keep my word.
When and where were you happiest?
A$AP Ferg: It was this club called Cherry Lounge. It was this place where all the kids used to go. You couldn’t even get drinks because everyone was a teenager, but it was just fun, all the kids from Harlem used to go there and party. I felt like a superstar already.
What high school clique were you in?
A$AP Ferg: There was a crew called Harlem NV and we used to go around battling different people rapping. We used to go to the studios – my friend Preview, he was signed to Universal records along with his brother: they were a duo, Preview and Perry. That was our little glory right there, somebody from our crew was signed and we would go around just battling people… I guess that was my real start taking rapping seriously.
What food reminds you of home?
A$AP Ferg: Pizza.
What’s the best road trip you’ve ever been on?
A$AP Ferg: I would have to say Jamaica – seeing the different waterfalls, and how people live, the rich people and the poor people. I like being on the road because I hate packing and luggage and everything. Europe is cool, but the food is not good everywhere. People are too pretty, they don’t eat…I think they’d rather smoke cigarettes, look cool and dress nice.
What would make you leave America forever?
A$AP Ferg: I don’t think anything could make me leave.
What is your favourite American building?
A$AP Ferg: The Adam Clayton Powell building. It’s been there for a really long time and I went in there for the first time like 3 months ago. And it’s all of these older black people and politicians, and they’ve all got the slicked black hair with their nice suits.
What’s your ultimate American film?
A$AP Ferg: New Jack City. Or Juice.
What’s your ultimate American album?
A$AP Ferg: Ready to Die by Biggie.
What’s the most overrated US tourist attraction?
A$AP Ferg: 42nd Street, Times Square. All the stores you walk in are pretty cheap, everything is the same, there’s nothing really crazy or beautiful about it. Just a lot of lights. Actually shout out to 42nd street because I have a really big billboard over there for my album. I did this concert for an AIDS prevention programme called Life Beats and they put a billboard up for it.
What’s your favourite slang phrase?
A$AP Ferg: Or nah. Like, “do you like this phone?” “Or nah”. Wiz Khalifa and Ty Dolla $ign have a song called “Or Nah”.
What’s your ultimate American guilty pleasure?
A$AP Ferg: That’s kinda hard because I love being in the studio so I don’t get a chance to really…I don’t do drugs or nothing. It’s not my thing.
If there was an apocalypse where in America would you ride it out?
A$AP Ferg: Harlem, cos they don’t want anything to do with us. I don’t think any terrorists would drop a bomb on Harlem.
When was your last run in with the cops?
A$AP Ferg: Shit, I don’t have any run-ins with the cops
When you’re travelling what do you most miss?
A$AP Ferg: The food. I’m a pescatarian, you guys don’t make grilled salmon or salmon teriyaki, it’ll just be like ‘Oh you want some salmon?’ And they’ll bring out sushi rolls, or smoked salmon.
Who do you relate to?
A$AP Ferg: I can relate to Jean-Michel Basquiat. He used to paint with Andy Warhol, and was one of the first black mainstream artists. He kind of came from the bottom, from the downtown scene in NY all the way up to mainstream LA. He hung out with Fab Five Freddie, a really good friend of mine. He used to go out with Madonna, fuck with all these major singers, and paint in Giorgio Armani suits. He’d have paint all over his suits but he didn’t give a fuck. His art was dope but I think it was his personality that made him. He kind of looks like Kid Cudi with all that wild hair.
If you could vote for Obama again would you?
A$AP Ferg: Yeah I would, he’s a really good guy, he kind of has a Kennedy flare but he’s really swaggy. I’m not that political but from the speeches I’ve seen he has a real good aura. And I’m big on auras.
If you lost it all tomorrow what would you do the day after?
A$AP Ferg: I’d continue to live my life. I’m still a black man in America, I’d have to strive, nothing is given to me.
What will American look like in 2050?
A$AP Ferg: Probably see some flying cars.
Probably. And the American dream – does it still exist?
A$AP Ferg: Hell yeah, shit look at me.