A$AP Ferg's Trap Lord drops next Tuesday. It's available to stream right now, though, and one of it's standout tracks "Lord," featuring Bone Thugs N Harmony, already has people talking. Crystal Caines, a female producer from Harlem who grew up around the corner from Ferg, is the production mastermind behind its spooky, smoky sonics.
Female producers in the game are a rarity. Last month, Toronto's WondaGurl got her first major placement on Jay Z's Magna Carta Holy Grail with the beat she made for the song "Crown," opening the door for a raft of other young, female up-and-coming producers—Crystal Caines included. Before Trap Lord officially drops on tuesday, we spoke with Crystal about working with Ferg, finding inspiration in Missy Elliott, and what we can expect from her in the future.
Interview by Lauren Nostro (@LAURENcynthia)
How did you link up with A$AP Ferg?
I live right around the corner from Ferg. So that’s pretty much how we linked up and started recording together. I’ve known him for a long time, but when he started doing music we linked up and he wanted me to incorporate with his sound a little bit. We built up from scratch and that’s when we came up with “100 Million Roses,” which was his first video.
Was that the first record you produced?
That was actually the first beat I ever made. When he used it, I was like, "No, it’s not finished!” But he liked it, he wanted something dark so he could just tell a story on it—a true story at that—express himself that way. I was secure in my production at that time, like I said, it was my first beat so he saw the potential for it. And then next thing I know there was a video.
I only started producing because Ferg was like, “You should start making beats.” I do music, I do everything.
The record came out dope. But I only started producing because Ferg was like, “You should start making beats.” I do music, I do everything so Ferg was like, “You might as well just add to it and do production as well."
What else do you do, musically?
I write, I engineer, I produce. I actually mixed Ferg's song “Work.”
Have you worked with anyone else on A$AP yet?
No, not as of yet. I didn’t even meet A$AP Rocky until the “Goldie” video shoot and it was brief.
As far as production, I only produced the record with Bone Thugs called "Lord." It's my first placement and it’s such a huge record right now. Everybody’s a fan of Bone Thugs!
After "100 Million Roses," what did you start working on for Trap Lord?
Me and Ferg just worked together to get a solid sound. He was recording in my home studio actually, because we lived around the corner from each other. Everything was done in my home studio like “Shabba."
I engineered “Shabba,” “Fergivicious.” But they sent it out to another engineer, Ian, and he actually made sure everything was good to go from there. As far as production, I only produced the record with Bone Thugs called "Lord." It's my first placement and it’s such a huge record right now. Everybody’s a fan of Bone Thugs!
Did you meet them at all or did you put it all together through e-mail?
I met Bizzy Bone at the studio but I think all of their verses were all recorded in LA. It was exciting but nervewracking. It was my first placement as far as production-wise so when I met him it was like, "This is an idol right here, this is somebody I used to watch on TV when I was younger."
And it's not even that you just met him but you’re making music for him.
Right, and for Bizzy to say, “Oh my god, female producer?! We need more of you guys, I need more production from you." It was a dope experience.
Bizzy Bone said to me, 'Oh my god, female producer?! We need more of you guys, I need more production from you.' It was a dope experience.
When you’re producing, do you work with Ferg or do you just present it to him? What's the process?
My process is that I make the beats in my home studio for the most part and when Ferg is ready to use the record he has his input. So, he actually really co-produces on some records that he feels we can add on or take away from. He's really a genius and it’s a blessing to work with him because we're both creative and he respects his creativity and he’s willing to take chances with it.
What do you have going on now that Trap Lord is out?
I signed a production deal with Ferg on Trillagain Island, which is his own label company. I’m just working on other placements, and projects that are coming out this year. I’ll be working with the A$AP Mob and other independent artists. As long as I can get my production noticed, I’ll be all for it, but it's been a blessed experience. I’ve been doing music for 10 years so I never thought that my way in would be production.
I think a lot of female producers don’t get a chance. Wondagurl just opened the door for a whole bunch of other producers which is a blessing because she’s so young.
Female producers are a rarity. Why do you think there aren't more female producers around?
I think they don’t get a chance. There are a lot of female producers out there. And I’ve heard some female producers and a lot of them are good and some aren’t which is like anything you do in life—there’s going to be great people and there’s going to be people that suck. But I think a lot of female producers don’t get a chance. Wondagurl just opened the door for a whole bunch of other producers which is a blessing because she’s so young. For that to happen... it's like, “Thank you Wondagurl.” Everybody’s looking for the next female producer.
Who are some of the people that have inspired you musically?
Missy inspires me a lot, I get a creative edge from her—to be able to create freely and not care what anybody says. Because eventually, if they like your creativeness, they’re going to catch on to it. Ferg actually calls me Missy and Timbaland in one. [Laughs] Eve is an inspiration as well. Female artists in general are. But I still listen to the male artists, too. I really listen to R&B more than I listen to rap so it works out. I listen to everything, though—rap, pop, country.
Who else are you hoping to work with?
Ferg of course, but I want to work with Drake. And Kendrick, he’s super dope. And French Montana, too.
I'm assuming you've heard the "Control" verse then!
Yes, that creative competition needs to be spun around the world.
Check out Crystal's website at www.Crystalcaines.com
Also check out A$AP Ferg on Complex TV's The Neighborhood below.