The Harlem rapper woke up one morning in mid-August to see "#ASAPFergIsOverParty" trending on Twitter. Apparently, Nicki Minaj fans had been purchasing digital copies of Ferg's "Move Ya Hips" single, which features a guest verse from Minaj, in hopes of boosting it to No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. When it debuted at No. 19 instead of topping the chart, many of the Barbz were upset, convinced that Ferg hadn't properly submitted sales from his website to Billboard.
A couple weeks later, Ferg's name was in headlines again when ASAP Illz claimed that Ferg was "no longer part" of the ASAP Mob crew. This was later refuted by ASAP Nast, who clarified "the Trap Lord was not and will not be kicked out of ASAP" and explained that "disputes happen in families all over the world every day, B!" Despite Nast's messages, though, questions about the state of the ASAP Mob persisted.
Ferg stayed grounded. Opting not to speak publicly about either incident, he focused on the impending release of Floor Seats II. A follow-up to his 2019 EP of the same name, the 10-song project is loosely centered around the concept of sitting courtside at an NBA game, flanked by celebrities from all walks of life. This time, Ferg is joined by everyone from Marilyn Manson to Dennis Rodman to Diddy. "This is music to take people's minds elsewhere, and off what's happening in the state of the world right now," he explains.
Getting on a phone call with Complex to speak about the project, Ferg is evasive when answering questions about the current status of the ASAP Mob. The moment I finish asking him for an update on the Mob, he drops off the call. When I dial him back and ask again, Ferg gives a short but telling answer: "I don't have any updates about the Mob right now, as far as any music and stuff. I'm just on Floor Seats time right now." His publicist tells me that he doesn't want to discuss details about the situation, and word has it that we'll get answers on a forthcoming song called "Big ASAP."
Ferg is similarly disinterested in provoking Nicki Minaj fans. He does refute rumors that his team forgot to submit website sales of "Move Ya Hips," but he applauds the enthusiasm of Nicki's fan base. "Why wouldn't I want this song to go number one?" he points out. "There's no such thing as giving in your sales to Billboard. They collect that themselves. I don't know who gave them that information. I'm a huge fan and pleased to work with someone like Nicki, so that's an opportunity that I wouldn't even want to mess up for myself. And you know, that's the best way to describe them: super passionate. I don't fault them for that. They're just super passionate, and I love it."
Speaking with Ferg, you get the sense that he's entered a new, more focused chapter of his career. On songs like "Hectic" with Diddy, he's more political than we've heard him in the past. And he has the confidence and skill to play around with sounds he's never encountered before, even dabbling in drill production on songs like "No Ceilings" and "Aussie Freaks." He's also learning how to produce music and write songs about topics he hasn't touched before.
Throughout our conversation, Ferg says things like "I've grown a lot" and "this is the next step in the evolution," repeatedly pausing to reflect on the ways he's developed as an artist. By now, he also has a clear understanding of the game he's playing, showing enough restraint to avoid engaging in all the distractions around him. With Dennis Rodman and Marilyn Manson at his side, Ferg's feet are planted on the courtside floor.
Celebrating the release of Floor Seats II, ASAP Ferg spoke with Complex about Marilyn Manson's goat, Pop Smoke, Nicki Minaj, and much more. The interview, lightly edited for clarity, is below.
What makes Floor Seats II different from every other project you've released?
On some of the tracks, I'm executive producing. I've never done that before. I've taken my time to learn Ableton Push, and you'll hear some of my production on "Hectic" with my boy TGUT. I've grown a lot, too, in my lyrics. Especially now with the whole pandemic happening, I'm not just speaking to the club-goers or whatever, because everybody ain't at the club, except if you're in Atlanta or something like that. It's more about the art and where you can take people sonically. People are in their cars, people are cleaning their houses, and there are doctors on the frontlines who are on their breaks listening to this music. This is music to take people's minds elsewhere, and off what's happening in the state of the world right now.
On "Hectic," you rap about how you wrote the song during quarantine. Were most of these tracks written since things have been shut down?
No, actually. Some of these songs were written beforehand. The Nicki one, we held for a while. DJ Clue played a snippet of it during his IG Live, and that's what caused uproars. The fans got wind of it and they wanted us to drop it. I started the Diddy one, "Hectic," when I was on tour in Australia and I finished it during the quarantine. Before the quarantine hit, I had a lot of songs already.
Why did you want to continue the Floor Seats II series instead of starting something new?
The concept is dope, so I wanted to keep it going. Whenever I have a star cast of A-List features, that's the time to get off the Floor Seats vision. I'm not sure if you've experienced floor seats at a game, but this is what that is. You're amongst the greats and legendary people. You might see Jordan sitting across from you, and then turn around and see Mulatto. Or you turn around and see Marilyn Manson and Tyga and Nicki Minaj. You don't know who you're going to see, but I'm giving you the front row seats into my life.
You named some of these songs after celebrities. Let's start with "Marilyn Manson." What's the story behind that?
That song came about a year and a half ago. I made the song with C.N.O.T.E. in Atlanta and we reached out to Marilyn Manson. We got the record to him, but we fell short of contact with him. Then I saw he was following me on Instagram and I wasn't following him back. I'm like, oh shit! Let me follow this dude back and hit him up to see if he ever got the record. He was like, "Yeah, I was walking out to my shows to it. I was playing it as my intro in front of 40,000 people." And I'm like, oh shit, that's insane. So when I got to L.A., we linked up and got the song done. He just added that extra spice that I needed on it. The song is called "Marilyn Manson," and to actually get the legend on it is just iconic.
“Marilyn Manson talked about how, before we called it trolling, he used to troll the world and TMZ and all the paparazzi.”
What do you remember about the experience of meeting him?
It was crazy. The dude had glitter all over him. He was wearing all black. He had eyeliner on and black painted nails. I remember the first time I called him, on FaceTime, he was in the dark. I couldn't even see what he looked like. Then he showed me crazy shit in his crib. He had a goat hung up on his wall. It was goat bones and shit. Typical Marilyn Manson shit. He wanted me to come to his house initially, and I'm like, his crib got to be a museum or some shit, so we're not going to get any work done. So I was like, all right, let's go to the studio.
When we met up at the studio, he had all of these rockstar stories. We talked a bunch, then eventually loaded all the music up. He had the songs already and he knew a bit of history about me. He was telling me about myself and this other song that he knew. So that was dope to know that he was into my music just as much as I was into him. We finally got into the booth and he did his thing on it.
What did you guys talk about? Did he give you any game?
Not really game, but he talked a lot about his experiences and what it was like during his come-up. He talked about what TV was like back then and what the shows and interviews and were like. He talked about how, before we called it trolling, he used to troll the world and TMZ and all the paparazzi back then. We laughed about things like that.
You've also got a song on here called "Dennis Rodman." He's been an influence of yours for years, right?
For sure. Dennis Rodman being a free spirit influenced me. And just his style. Tyga actually had a song for me to jump on, and it was the "Dennis Rodman" record. I'm like, this shit fits so perfect for my Floor Seats project. It worked out perfect. Both of us are super inspired by Dennis, and of course the millennials and the people after us are inspired by Dennis, too. We ain't seen no Black people with colorful hair before Dennis. I mean, besides George Clinton or something like that. The short Caesar with the colorful hair and the tattoos—that bad boy aesthetic with the piercings and all of that—that's Dennis. With the model chicks and the porno chicks and all of that? That's Dennis.
What was his reaction to hearing the song?
Man, he loved it. But he's such an icon, so he was like, "Yeah, a lot of people have made songs about me and said my name in songs." [Laughs]. That's his attitude about it. He's like, "Yeah, I'm the shit. A lot of people like to say my name." That type of thing. I mean, it was cool. He definitely embraced me and Tyga for it, and showed us super love. He actually got a T-shirt made with all of us on it.
Let's talk about the single, "Move Ya Hips" with Nicki Minaj. What's the story behind that?
That was supposed to have been out a while ago. There were so many transitions we went through with that song, just because we wanted it to be the best thing possible. Me and Nicki are both perfectionists. After "Plain Jane," we saw the success, and we just got back in the studio and continued to work. Then we chose that one because that's what the people wanted. Like I said, DJ Clue gave a sneak peek on his IG Live. We didn't even plan it that way, to blow up on the internet and go viral. So it was just like, it's only right to put it out.
Yeah, Nicki's fans are really passionate.
Her fans are super passionate.
I saw they were buying up digital copies of the song, because they wanted it to go No. 1 on Billboard. Then they were upset when it didn't actually chart that high. They even got "#ASAPFergIsOverParty" trending on Twitter. What is it like to be involved in something like that?
Man, I love all the passion, because that just shows me how far her supporters are willing to go for her. I would want my supporters to do the same thing. But it got to the point where it was just like, okay, all right. We have to be real with ourselves. Why wouldn't I want this song to go number one? And there's no such thing as giving in your sales to Billboard. They collect that themselves.
Yeah, they were convinced you didn't submit your website sales.
I don't know who gave them that information. I'm a huge fan and pleased to work with someone like Nicki, so that's an opportunity that I wouldn't even want to mess up for myself. You know, that's the best way to describe them: super passionate. And I don't fault them for that. They're just super passionate, and I love it.
“There's no such thing as giving in your sales to Billboard. They collect that themselves. I don’t know who gave [Nicki Minaj fans] that information.”
What was it like working with Nicki again?
We recorded the song together, and we wrote all of our verses together. I actually wrote one verse and recorded at Frankie P's house, then I brought the skeleton to her in the studio. She heard my verse and then we figured out what we had to do on the second verse. It's super dope.
She knows what she wants. She writes all her music herself, I must say that. She critiques herself. She's hard on herself. She revisited it once and she changed some minor things. She's really a perfectionist about how she wants her stuff to come out.
I thought it was cool that you incorporated drill sounds on songs like "No Ceilings" and "Aussie Freaks." What did you think of the whole Brooklyn drill movement in New York these past couple years?
I think it's dope. I think it's a great addition to music. It's fun. It comes from a very tough place, but there's also a lot of dancing in it. I see a lot of kids dancing to it. And it's an energy booster. Whenever that AXL beat drops in a club or wherever you are—it could be in your car and a bunch of people are hanging around your car because we can't go to clubs right now—it just turns you up. You start doing that one leg dance and throwing your fist in the sky like Pop Smoke. You know what I'm saying? I think it's dope.
And I think it's dope for culture that they heard artists like myself and Wayne on it. Just bridging the gap between Wayne and Jay Gwuapo, who is one of the newer artists coming up. We're typically not even drill artists. You never heard me on a drill beat before, so I thought it would be dope for people to hear me on contemporary production that's happening today. I usually have my own in-house producers I work with, and you never really hear me work with names that are just relevant of today. But I thought it would be dope and a change for people to hear me on an AXL Beats beat.
“Pop Smoke and his crew and the air around it was super urgent. It was super dangerous and super real.”
Did their energy inspire you creatively? Just being in your city and hearing this exciting new sound emerge?
Yeah, of course. I never got a chance to meet Pop Smoke, but I watched a bunch of the interviews and the videos. I was following him on Instagram and following Fivio and just the whole movement. You get to a place where you'll be like, I don't want to be left out. This is something that's happening, so I want to get on these beats and get to work with some of these artists. I guess that's how LeBron would feel playing ball against Kobe at the time or whatever. You wouldn't want to miss that game. Or whoever—Westbrook or Kyrie—these are guys that he wants to play with because swords sharpen swords. Metal sharpens metal. As an artist, you want to sharpen your sword with these other artists who have an energy that is dope to connect and combine with.
Pop Smoke and the whole drill takeover in Brooklyn kind of reminded me of when you and the ASAP crew first came out in New York.
It's crazy, because for me, Pop Smoke remind me of 50. Pop Smoke and his crew and the air around it was super urgent. It was super dangerous and super real. And that's what 50 and G-Unit reminded me of. He definitely was inspired by the Mob as well, when it came to fashion and messing with Virgil and all that. But really, the sound and the energy, it felt like 50 Cent and G-Unit.
People talk about the King of New York a lot, and everyone's saying the throne is up for grabs right now. Is that something you think about? Do you want to be considered in the conversation for the crown?
I don't really care for that, because it's just like, what's New York to the world? I'd rather be the King of myself. I just want to influence and motivate people in a dope way. But the whole King of New York thing, that's small thinking to me. I would laugh and say, "I'm the King of New York" and this, that, and the third. But I could care less about that, honestly.
On "Hectic," you and Puff rapped about racism and oppression. What were your motivations behind that song?
I actually wrote that song before the whole Black Lives Matter thing started going crazy. It just happened that shit started hitting the fan and it's been more relevant now than ever. I'm just talking about things that have been happening over time. It's not nothing new, us being oppressed and them locking us up and this, that, and the third.
In the past, most people didn't think of you as a very politically, outspoken rapper. Why do you think now is an important time to use your platform and speak out about things like that?
I just feel like that was the next level for me. It's the next step in the evolution. With all of this [George] Floyd stuff happening, it just happened to be that I started writing. You know, Eric Garner also got choked out. So, it's really talking about those situations and just touching on what's happening in the current events. And it's substance. I wanted to give people something real current and something that I noticed and something that I've seen. It's something that we've all dealt with, growing up in the hood. We've all dealt with being harassed by the cops and police brutality. So I'm not far from it. I'm actually in it.
What did Puff bring to that record? Did you guys have conversations about this?
We'd had conversations. We actually did a Revolt panel one time, and it was about police brutality and the mistreatment of Black people. But I wouldn't say that drove the song. He just connected on the topic and I thought it'd be really dope to use his voice to talk about something he had to get off his chest. And actually just to hear him on that beat... That beat is sick and next-level and futuristic. I thought his tone of voice and what he had to say is all really dope.
“I don't have any updates about the Mob right now, as far as any music and stuff. I'm just on Floor Seats time right now.”
Floor Seats has a basketball theme, and NBA players have been very outspoken against racism, even walking out of games. Do you think something like that could ever happen in rap? Would artists ever come together and take a stand like that?
Yeah. I think anything is possible. Everybody's always going to have their own opinions and go about doing things the way they want to do it. That's just freedom of speech. But if it affects us enough, yes, I could see that happening and also being effective, for sure.
Can you give an update on where things stand with the ASAP Mob right now?
I don't have any updates about the Mob right now, as far as any music and stuff. I'm just on Floor Seats time right now.
When this album drops, what's your biggest goal for it? What do you hope it does for you in your career?
The goal is always to update people on my thoughts, my point of view, and my art. I want to let people know where I'm at mentally. The goal is to make music for the people. So I want to let them know I'm standing with them and standing by them. I'm going to help them get through their day, whether it's making a song that's literally telling a story that they can relate to, or telling a story that they could aspire to or have a destination to reach. I just want to be that aspiration and inspiration to the people.