Nearly two years to the day since releasing his last project, the mixtape Still Striving, rapper A$AP Ferg is back with a new EP titled Floor Seats that he’s hoping shows fans how he’s grown as an artist.
“I already proved that I could make hits and everything like that,” the “Plain Jane” rapper says, “but how do I make those B-side records bigger and stronger? How can I make more people pay attention to like the social context of a song that I released? Like how can I do that? You do that by l changing the sounds and giving them landscaping and something to like sit back and dwell on.”
The Harlem-based A$AP Mob member talked to EW about wanting to work with more female rappers, paying homage to older artists, and lessons learned from collaborator A$AP Rocky’s arrest in Sweden.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So what’s the story behind the name Floor Seats? Is this EP just named after the lead single?
A$AP FERG: Well Floor Seats was inspired by me starting to go to basketball games and getting VIP treatment, and what people don’t understand, whoever’s never really experienced floor seats, it’s just a different view. It’s a different view to life. Behind the scenes you’re getting VIP treatment, you’re going to see some celebrities, you’re going to eat lobster dinners, they got a bunch of the cheerleader girls coming back there. It’s just like a whole other side of the game you’ve never seen. So I guess I use it as a metaphor. This is a part of the game you haven’t seen: me.
Is this EP more of a one-off experiment, or a taste of what’s to come on a future album?
I’ve switched up the sound a little bit more, so I could say a little bit experimental because I’m moving more into different sonics, and you’ll hear that in songs like “Butt Naked” featuring Rico Nasty. You’ll hear that like a little bit in “Wam.” You’ll hear that in “Floor Seats,” where we sample The Prodigy. Even on the hook of “Floor Seats” you hear me with the telephone effects on my voice just screaming on some rock sh–. So I’m experimenting with my style a little bit, but it’s something I’ve been doing and practicing for a while, and I’m just like releasing it now. Some songs like “Ride” featuring Ty Dolla $ign I held onto for about four years. I had that song for about four years. And I got another song with Brent Faiyaz that Salaam Remi produced, it’s called “Dreams” and I had that for four years as well. Brent just put a hook on it because he loved the verses so much and we just redid the beat and just made sh– a little more updated.
But I held onto those songs for so long because I personally felt like my brand wasn’t ready for a song like that. And when I say that it’s like what people were used to seeing. Maybe I was afraid personally, to be more challenging towards fans, and say “F— that, this is what I’m giving y’all right now,” but I felt like I had to make necessary steps. People needed to see me with a girlfriend, people needed to see a bit of what my love life is like so they can understand more of what I’m talking about in my song because they need a visual to that— whether it’s a video or whether it’s trials and tribulations, sh– that happened in real life. I just felt we needed a bridge to get to that point, so they’ve heard me get a little bit more musical on Always Strive And Prosper, and then Still Striving I got more musical, giving people more insight on my life, and now I feel I’m to the point where I can fully immerse myself into that space.
You mentioned Rico, Brent, Ty. Do you think you use collaborations as opportunities to experiment with different sounds and/or bring something new to what you offer as an artist?
It’s a little bit of both. With the female demographic what I realized was when I put the song out with Nicki Minaj, the remix to “Plain Jane,” how females respond responded to that, and before then I was like Man, how do I reach out to females and let them know I appreciate them? How can I turn up with them without like slowing everything down and making a love song? It could be a love song, but just be turnt up. I did that with “Plain Jane.” It was a female, the energy wasn’t lost, we were still left sweaty, it was still fun, so I wanted to do more of that.
Also there’s a movement happening with more females in hip hop and I wanted to be a part of that as well. I wanted to support more females, so I reached out to Nicki for other songs, we worked in the studio together. I reached out to Rico Nasty, which is one of my favorites, she’s a character and I always love characters. I come from the school of Missy and Busta and all that, so she reminds me of that tribe of people. Asian Doll is amazing, she’s also on the project. City Girls are on one of the versions of “Wigs.” I also got my own artist named ANTHA that’s on it, she’s a female artist, that’s another character, amazing, from Harlem. So really the female movement inspired me making the kind of songs I was making because I wanted to make the females dance. Me experimenting and just me wanting to dive more into sounds, and give my audience a challenge. There’s other things other than a Three 6 Mafia BPM. We done did like Juicy J to the max. We love Juicy J, but it’s like, it’s time to introduce new things.
Speaking of female rappers, did you see that first Top 50 Rappers list that went viral? The one that didn’t have any women on it? Why do you think people consistently leave women out of conversations about the greatest?
50 people? Hell yeah females should be on top of the list. I mean Lil’ Kim not on that list, that’s crazy to me. Lil’ Kim inspires me, my fashion, just the level of artistry you can take it to. Even “Hold On,” when Biggie passed away, she took her sh– through the roof into the stratosphere. I feel like a lot of females that’s running around learned from Lil’ Kim, even got their style and just the swag from Lil’ Kim. Man, she spoke for generations. Nicki, Rico Nasty, Lauryn Hill, what the f—, how’d Lauryn Hill not make it on there? How’d Missy Elliott not make it on there? That’s not good. I don’t know who made that list.
The EP samples The Prodigy as you mentioned before, and DMX on “Pups,” were those conscious choices, paying homage, and do you have a DMX story?
Man I hit DMX up to get on the song plenty of times. The universe works in a crazy way. The energy that’s bigger than me is pulling everything together in a way I never expected it to because DMX was locked up when I started doing “Pups” with Rocky, and then I didn’t even know he was getting released a week after, and I was like “Perfect, he can jump on the song.” I hit up Swizz [Beatz] like “Yo he has to get on the song,” like adamant about it. We never got around to doing it, but I still feel like his energy, just us repping him and paying homage to him. He jumped on the [“Get At Me Dog’] beat first, like nobody could kill it the way he killed it. We just did it in our way, and shot the video in our way, and we pay homage to the video, so I feel like that came together in a very unique divine way.
The “Smack My Bitch Up” sample, that was just me experimenting and listening to different music. I was listening to like a lot of drum and bass. Old drum and bass by f—ing Goldie, and looking at old MTV videos. Looking at and listening to Nine Inch Nails and different sh– like that, trying to tap into another frequency, and just different instruments, and that landed me where I was at with “Floor Seats,” doing that on a “Smack My Bitch Up” sample.
Was it at all to pay homage to The Prodigy frontman Keith Flint who died this year?
No, I did that song a week before he passed away and that’s why I say, and I wish there was a way that I could have had in the treatment to wear a t-shirt or something like that just to commemorate him.
Like I said, it all lined up together the way it’s supposed to. We just loved the song and were just like how can we flip this sh– and make it crazy. Roofeeo did a perfect job on that beat. We sat there together and literally I wasn’t motivated to make music, I was just searching. We ran across that and voilà that sh– just happened. I didn’t even write nothing, I just went and I freestyled the whole thing. Most of my songs that hit like that are freestyled. Some songs I just go in there and I just, like the “Wam” song, I freestyled that song. It’s just the energy is so strong and I get so excited for it. My brain is working faster than my hand to write, so I have to go in the booth, and I say sh–, I edit it, I mumble sh–, like I just gotta get the feeling off. It’s like an itch, and that’s what happened with “Floor Seats.”
This EP really does take you on a well-conceived journey where it starts off way hype with “Floor Seats,” becomes more melodic with “Hummer Limo,” and then ends smooth when you get to “Dreams, Fairytales, Fantasies.”
You want to go on a journey, you don’t want every song to be a single, even though I feel like with this project, every song can possibly be a single. I mean f—, man! We have good problems right now like what do we shoot videos for? We’ve got so many plans for rollout and what we’re doing, it’s like damn, what do we focus on? It’s a good problem to have.
Right, and you still believe in EPs and albums as a body of work, versus a constant stream of singles?
Hell yeah, I would never lose that. I feel like it should always be a body of work because it should be purposeful. To each his own, people may have their own purpose in creating their albums, and their purpose may be to drop singles every joint, but I feel like through a body of work you can really tell a story, and I feel like that’s the medicine that kids need to get.
Listening to Ready to Die, listening to Biggie‘s ups and downs, trials and tribulations through song, that whole album helped me with getting through tough times as a kid. Because I knew that Biggie got through that sh–, I could get through that shit. So if you’re just like turnt up, doing the same sh–, saying the same sh– every song, on the same type of beat, then it’s not really taking us on that voyage, and it’s not really giving us the medicine we need to get better as people. We communicate as artists to either say something good or say something bad. I think it’s all good though because like, when somebody says something bad, somebody gets a chance to say something good. Or it’s different views— it may be bad to me, but there might be a group of people that believe in that for that person. So it’s just a balance basically, and I think a good album, that’s exactly what it gives, balance.
What are you taking from this into a new album, and can we expect it soon?
Moving forward into the next album I’m just taking my time and giving my all into what’s in front of me, being in a moment with this, because it’s such good work. Like I said, there’s songs on here from four years ago that took me time to drop, so this is not an EP that’s just fly-by-day, and you move on to the next one. I really want people to listen to this and enjoy it. There may be songs that you may grow to like, and love. Give that some time, and a chance, and when the next time album comes, it comes.
When A$AP Mob came out, it was a regional movement with a national sound. A$AP Rocky was getting a lot of comparisons to Houston rappers. Do you feel like regional movements happen anymore, or do rappers now start online first as individuals, and then eventually rep their city?
I feel like a lot of New York artists are sounding like down south artists because they feel that’s what they need to do to get heard. I mean it’s kind of hand-in-hand. We have the internet now, so it’s nothing for Metro Boomin to send me a beat, and he’s in Atlanta with an Atlanta-like vibe, or get a beat from C.N.O.T.E. like “New Level,” and just do “New Level,” but I always try to just put a spin on sh–. I love everything everybody is doing, like even Pop Smoke, with what he’s doing he has the British kid [808Melo] making his beats and he sounds like he could be down with [UK rapper] Skepta on one of them honestly— but he just has a New York accent, so that’s the beauty in it. I think he’s really good.
First, how is Rocky doing coming home from Sweden, and what are you thinking rap’s role in politics is? Those two worlds are intersecting even more now.
Rocky is doing great. His mental is right. He’s working out, working on music. But as far as rappers having roles and sh– like that, or entertainers, or whatever the case may be, I think it’s just to each his own. I struggle with that as far as getting into politics because— not that I struggle, but it’s just I always learn politics second-handedly because I’m so busy with my career that it’s like I’m focusing on what’s in front of me. Sometimes it’s hard for rappers and entertainers to connect, or you may feel like they’re a little disconnected from things because we’re busy entertaining y’all. So unless we hear about a problem going on in Houston or mass murders or this, that, and the third, there’s something always going on.
Sometimes sh– hits home and that’s what really makes you react and post about things like that. But I do encourage more if you’re connected to it because I hate when people just want to jump on the bandwagon and be posting shit and don’t know what’s going on. Like dive into it if you really mean it. It’s all about intention and purpose. Post that sh– and go for something. If we could stand for something as people and artists, hell yeah, let’s do it. But I don’t want people doing it for the wrong reasons like clout chasing and just trying to jump on the bandwagon because everybody is Black Lives Matter now.
Right, stay up on it and lean into it if you have that informed opinion.
Yeah because if you post about it and then people ask you about it in an interview and you don’t know what you are talking about, you’re gonna look crazy. When somebody brings it up, I make it a point if I don’t know something, I’ll be feeling like “Damn I feel bad I don’t know. I didn’t know what was going on. I didn’t know that sh– is like.” Now that’s why you have to go around and get some people in your circle to fill you in more on what socially is going on around you because if you could make a difference, why not take my three million followers and go and promote something positive that can change one person’s life or a few people, a few thousand people’s life.
Is that a consistent conversation you all are having, like how to evolve on these issues, because Rocky has gotten flack for certain statements on social justice before, but now just went through a situation along the lines of what he spoke about.
That’s what I’m saying, it hit home. Sometimes it’s gotta hit home for you to realize what’s going on and wake up. And then just getting older and getting into a different space where serious sh– really is affecting you, and if it’s not affecting you, it’s affecting your family and friends.
Yeah, you guys started when you were pretty young. People change when they grow up.
Exactly, but when you’re artists, people don’t even look at age for you, they’re just looking at you like “Yo he has the power to do, to stop the world, or continue the world, he has the button,” and to a certain extent I think people give rappers and entertainers way too much power and credit.
True, but strange not to feel that way when the president is tweeting about you.
That’s the day we live in where our president is tweeting, it’s crazy.
This interview has been edited and condensed.