BY: JENNA CALDWELL
"What am I trying [to] convey to the people?" the Harlem-bred rapper asks himself. Just four feet away, one leg crossed over the other, his diamond watch dances in the dim light of a hidden Bender Arena locker room. His earrings do the same. "Even though you finally prospered, you still got to strive. What wakes Puff Daddy up in the morning? To still work."
A$AP Ferg's third studio album "Still Striving," is not only a reminder to himself, but also to his fans that there is no cap on success. Run, walk crawl your way down its path and you discover that there's still more to be expected of you. "When you a billionaire, what do you do next? Do you strive to become a better son?" Ferg asks. If there's anything we've learned from the self-proclaimed Hood Pope by this point, it's to "Always Strive and Prosper."
Without inspiration, success becomes an empty entity â€” a passionless goal. It shapes not only your sound, your appearance, or your way of thinking, but your persona as a whole. For Ferg, "painting and fashion" are two of the biggest influences on his music. He reveals that he draws his inspiration from flipping through old vogue magazines, watching vintage films and studying photography. "Watching Anna Wintour's documentary on how she curates the MoMa to set up the Met Gala every year and digging into the archives of Prada or Miu Miu or like, Dior and bringing out these gowns and crazy sh*t that you can't even buy â€˜cause it's just like art pieces â€” that's what inspires me."
Even with some of fashion's biggest names to inspire him, Ferg admits that while doing this project, he has learned that he is his worst critic. "I be over thinking sh*t, I always be second guessing sh*tâ€¦ It slows me down, it kind of makes me stagnant a little bit, and it makes me depressed to a certain point." Constantly throwing away tracks, Ferg finds myself returning to them years later. "I be growing, but not in front of my fans...It just goes to show you how much of a human I am to constantly be so hard on myself to create the best art."
While creating "Still Striving," Ferg had to pull from his different personalities. "I'm like Ferg, but I have Trap Lord, that's the lost one that his this raw energy that just turns the f*ck up. Everybody has a little Trap Lord in them. Then I have Hood Pope, he's more conscious, he's more seasoned with knowledge. Then you have Furious Ferg that has 70s, early 80s vibes. It's all of these different realms, but when I get with the A$AP Mob they pull something different out of me." Ferg turns to his A$AP Mob family to bring the best out of him.
Shifting the conversation to today's political climate, the Trap Lord discusses that while his song "Nandos" may talk about police brutality, music can only go so far. In the song he spits:
F*ck what you thinkin' my ni**a? This USA sh*t get it critical
I'm not talkin' lyrical
I'm talkin' po-po-po that be shootin' ni**as in the blues
Sh*t is so cynical
Ferg admits,"you've got to start with the conversation, but it's really about going out there and doing something about it. Anybody can make themself cool or seem like they down when they post â€˜Black Lives Matter' or â€˜All Lives Matter' or whatever the occasion may be, but it only matters if you're going out there and you're actually putting in the work for it."
Taking his own advice, Ferg reminds us that he's the creative director for a brand called Uniform Wares, a philanthropic project that donates half of its proceeds to making sure students in Africa have proper clothing for school. "It wasn't even about me," he reflects. "The only thing that was about me was touching the people there and spreading love and doing what I can to help their community." Check out his TIDAL documentary, "A$AP Ferg in Liberia: Where Stars Are Born."
"Still Striving" is stacked with features from the likes of Migos, Meek Mill, Playboi Carti and Busta Rhymes, but Ferg says that he wouldn't just like to work with fellow New York-bred rapper Jay Z someday, but would much rather be able to "sit down with people and have a conversation... just talk and talk. It's about the collaboration of conversation, just so I can learn from them the trials and tribulations."
As for the future, A$AP Ferg sees himself going in any direction. "I did this track with Missy [Elliot] called â€˜Strive,' which is a house record. I got the trap records, I got the introspective records, like â€˜Tango,' and I have hip-hop records like â€˜Psycho.'" Possibly one of the music industry's most versatile artists of our generation, Ferg keeps his fans on their toes with each and every one of his singles. Whether it's A$AP or Furious Ferg, the Hood Pope or the Trap Lord, disappointment is a stranger in his platinum home.
If you missed A$AP Ferg in concert, make sure to check out "Still Striving," available on Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon and Google Play.