Harlem rapper A$AP Ferg is on a new level. Four years ago, the 27-year-old gave fans a reason to put in work on his aptly titled hit single, which earned a remix a year later and appeared on his debut LP, Trap Lord. Now he returns with his sophomore album, Always Strive and Prosper, which features an eclectic cast of guest features and producers.

Led by the Future-assisted single, "New Level," the A$AP Mob member's latest album features 18 original tracks with production from the likes of DJ Mustard, Skrillex and DJ Khalil, among others, and notable names in the hip-hop realm including Chuck D, Missy Elliott, Rick Ross and Lil Uzi Vert. His Missy collabo "Strive" and Kirk Knight-produced "FLEM" are just a few of the bangers on the effort. Following the release of this album, Ferg will be hitting the road alongside Tory Lanez this summer. He's officially making moves.

During a recent listening session at the Adidas originals store in New York, the "Hood Pope" took time from his hectic day to speak with XXL about his forthcoming project. With release day here, Ferg gives details on the direction and sound of his sophomore album and the major consigns he's received during the roll out of his latest effort.

XXL: Your latest album, Always Strive and Prosper, has arrived. What's the difference between this project, your Ferg Forever mixtape and your debut project?

Ferg Forever was the bridge between Always Strive and Prosper and Trap Lord. I had to give the people some type of understanding of how I got here and the way of my thinking and that’s what Ferg Forever did. It hinted at something bigger. It let people know that I was thinking bigger, so basically Always Strive and Prosper is an album that is an open book to my life. I wanted my fans to know more about me. Know about who Ferg was. Know where I came from. Know about my roots and how I wound up here in front of y’all today.

You mentioned on Twitter that this album is just the beginning for you. What did you mean by that?

I feel like it’s the beginning because like I’m just now being comfortable with being an artist. You know you have to understand with my background naturally, I never knew I was going to be a big rap star or anything like that and be in front of millions of people, so I was very personal and as a designer naturally, we want the models or the music to get all of the shine. We like to come out after the show wearing all black for two seconds then bow and be like “Thank you for coming out” and that’s it. We’re not used to the shine, so I wasn’t used to the shine and all the attention I was getting for a little time.

I had to kind of get comfortable with this mold of a new artist or a new wave of art because I’ve always been rapping, but I’ve never been in front of millions of people so I think now I’m stepping into myself and I feel like I gave you the aesthetic on Trap Lord. Now that I’ve made my path I can show you who Ferg is and where I came from. Now it’s time to do the history and give you the history lessons.

On this album, you're rapping over Skrillex production and house-inspired beats. Was it a challenge for you to rap over traditional hip-hop beats?

It wasn’t a challenge for me. It was so natural. You have to understand as an artist I just look at it like art. I’m not looking at it technically or I’m not trying to create a hit. I’m not trying to force anything. It just all happens naturally. When I created “Strive” with Missy, I was in that mode of music. I was like, “Yo, why I can’t I make house music? I want to make house music. I want to rap over house beats,” and I did a bunch of songs before the Missy song, you know developing the style.

The Missy song was the product that came out of it. That whole time I was trying to create that sound. Missy gravitated to the record because she just loved the song but I didn’t even plan for her to be on it. I was playing her the record because you know I like the song. I had two verses on there and I took out my second verse to put her on there. Originally it was just going to be me on the song, so that was the type of music and the space I was in creatively.

I know Missy Elliott is a major influence in your life. How does it feel to get the support and love from a legend in the game like Missy?

Yo, that’s truly my big sister. I’m so happy to call her my big sister because I never had sisters and brothers growing up. I have a little brother on my father’s side but he wasn’t in my household. I never really had like mentors and like people that succeeded hugely, you know what saying? I had people with minor success and things like that and they helped me through my life. But I never really had somebody of her magnitude really kind of take me in and school me and give me game.

So now I have access to that and now that I do have access to that I cherish that so much and I thank everybody along the way like you know my managers, people that help me day to day, [A$AP] Rocky and everybody that’s been involved in my journey. But for Missy to take me in, you know even Pharrell, to school me and tell me that I’m going in the right direction means so much to me. You have to remember my father passed away three days before my 17th birthday. I had to figure a lot of things myself.

Your sophomore album has everyone talking. Even Kanye West took to Twitter to let people know how great your album is.

Man, it was a cosign that I never really had, you know what I’m saying? You know besides another huge artist, which is A$AP Rocky, which is my brother, but of course you’ll want to get like a pillar of a person like Kanye West to solidify your spot and say, “Yo, this is it. Go get it. It’s ok. It’s safe.” Because I looked up to Kanye and I was telling people Kanye is safe. He’s for us. He’s for the different people. He’s for the people that y’all consider as weirdos. He’s for the people that’s in the hood that want to wear the pink Polo and not get ridiculed. I was telling people Pharrell and Kanye is safe. Fuck with them and now they doing that for me now, so it feels good!

You got a lot of features on the project, but one track that struck my curiosity was your Chuck D collaboration with Mama Ferg on "Beautiful People." Talk to me about the track and how it came about?

Yo, I created the song right. I told Khalil the vibe I was going for and what I wanted to create so it was Khalil and Clams Casino who produced the track. I put the two in the room together and we were just doing jam sessions. The second verse of the original song goes into like a Public Enemy sounding kind of beat but that’s not on the album, that’s just what we created, so naturally I was like I gotta get Public Enemy on this song because the subject matter that I’m talking about -- Black people, black lives matter, all lives matter -- I gotta get Chuck D to say some shit on here.

So I guess I put it into the universe in a way and I bumped into Chuck D at a restaurant and I introduced myself to him and I told him that I had a song that I wanted him to be on and he showed love and in a matter of a week he sent his vocals and everything and then I said, “Yo, it’s incomplete. I need something else.” So there was an open space on the track and I decided to put my grandmother. I had her write something about beautiful people so she wrote a poem about beautiful people, came in the studio and knocked it out.

You also have a song for your grandmother on the album.

Yeah, I have a song about my other grandmother that passed away and it’s basically me saying how I wish she was here to see all the success that I've brought on myself and I know that she would be proud of me. I just wish she was here to see everything that I’ve accomplished.

What do you want people to take away from your latest release?

I want people to listen to the words and that’s all I want people to do is listen to the words and the statement that I’m trying to make here is know me know who I am know who Ferg is and that’s what this album does.

What happened to the "Thought It Was a Drought" video you directed for Future? Will that ever come out?

I don’t know. I don’t know if y’all ever see it. They didn’t give me the button to put it out yet. You know maybe one day we’ll have a special viewing of the video. But it’s done though and I’ll tell you, it’s a beautiful video.

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