It's been a minute since we've heard from A$AP Ferg, but that doesn't mean he hasn't been working. The Harlem MC hasn't put out much new music outside of some guest spots since his August 2013 debut album Trap Lord, hit stores. But last Friday Ferg returned triumphantly with his brand new 19-track mixtape Ferg Forever, a teaser for both his new BestCoast Connection Tour with YG and his upcoming sophomore album, which he told XXL in October was "almost done."

Just before his tape hit the streets, XXL spoke to Ferg about the changes he's made to his sound, why it's important for him to speak on the situation in Ferguson and why it's okay to not be lyrical all the damn time. —Dan Rys

XXL: Sounds like you're experimenting more with production on this mixtape. Was that a conscious decision to expand your sound?
A$AP Ferg: Yeah, I mean I've always been experimental. It's just that I'm always so particular about what I wanna put out. That's why... I realized recently that I only put two singles out. That's because after "Work" and "Shabba Ranks" I was supposed to release "Hood Pope" and "Dump Dump," but it was just like, I didn't wanna really box myself in as far as just turn up music. I felt like I was putting out too much turn up stuff and I didn't want them to box me into that, 'cause I'm not just about singles, I'm really about the art. So if you listen to my album Trap Lord, I only really got about three or four turn up songs on there. The rest of the songs, like "Hood Pope" [is] real slow and melodic, conscious. "Cocaine Castle" is another conscious song, playing around with instruments, instrumentation. I got a bunch of different songs like that but people only hear the singles.

So I wanted to do more of the less turnt up club shit and do more of the talk to the people shit. Like dope, artsy shit. Like when I do a song with like, SBTRKT, that's shit that I really love doing. The instrumental shit, the crazy drums, you know, fuckin' with the instruments. Just creating new, innovative shit. Me jumping on a song with Ariana Grande is just showing versatility, you know what I'm saying? "I could do this, but I could also do that, so don't try to box me into this one place." I don't have a specific style. My style is unorthodox; that is my style. So you can't really place me here, place me there, because my style is just to be anywhere, you know what I'm saying? It's art. I create art. It's kinda abstract. I'm not like Andy Warhol where I'll just fuckin' print three Elvis's and call it art, different colors, you know what I'm saying? I'm more like Basquiat or Picasso where I'll just fuckin'—or [Roy] Lichtenstein—where I just fuckin' do some crazy shit.

Fuck with people's perceptions.
Exactly. I'm about perception. Perception is everything. I feel like that shit lasts—I don't wanna say it lasts longer, but it's more innovative, 'cause it comes straight from here, it comes straight from your soul, inside of you. So why not display that to the world in the rawest way possible?

You included a track on Ferg Forever ["Talk It"] where you spoke on the Ferguson situation. Why do you think it's important to speak on things like that?
Because I am one of the young ones, and I'm considered cool, and we need more cool people to speak on things that are considered uncool. You know what I'm saying? To bring things to light.

A lot of the people speaking on it are part of the older generation, and it's important for the younger generation to also speak on it. We're the ones being affected by this right now.
Exactly. And it's all the young kids that's wildin' out, and they all wildin' out for a cause; justice wasn't served. So that's how I'm expressing myself: I'm doing music, this is my art, this is what's happening in our times. Years later when we are living in a more fucked up society or a better society, we will have this documentation of a song to listen to to go back to this day and age.

How did you link with YG for the BestCoast Connection Tour?
YG, we've been friends for a long, long, long time, basically. We did a song together called "Click Clack" a long time ago—I shot a video, too—and we've just been cool ever since then. So we were just like, why not just make a tour? We cool, me and Mustard cool, it'll be like family going out on tour. Why not get money together, basically.

A little while ago, XXL spoke to A$AP Yams and he said that 2014 was the worst year for rap music ever. Do you have an opinion on that?
I love it. I love it because I feel like it's a fresh start, basically. Like, yeah you still got the same turn up shit, but then you got Kendrick dropping "i" and it's like a new direction, it's a fresh beginning. And then you got fun songs like "Doe-Active," which is not so serious. It's just like, man, have fun with it at the end of the day. You gotta think about like Biz Markie and Slick Rick who are looked at as fuckin' great artists now, and people mimic these guys. But back then, they were probably saying the same shit, like, oh this is clowning music, these clowns. But it was the songs that people danced to and had fun to. I feel like this is a time where people need to know the society we're living in, they need to recognize it so we can make it better, and also it's so stressful at times that you need those fun songs to go back and listen to, to enjoy yourself or have a good day.

Take a load off a little bit.
Yeah. Like, music is not always about being lyrical all the damn time. You could do that; that's the easiest thing I could do. How about healing, or making somebody happy? You know what I'm saying? I'm happy, so I just want to project that happiness through my music to make other people happy. And sometimes, less words is better. And just having fun.