“F1 Needs More Black Racers”: A$AP Ferg on Cars, Video Games and His Newfound Love of Racing
We sat down with the rapper and at-large creative to discuss his new partnership with McLaren and Logitech
A$AP Ferg is a man of many interests. He is one of the most prominent members of the A$AP Mob, the influential cultural collective out of New York. And when I say influential I don’t just mean in hip hop: Ferg’s interests and talents reach far and wide, from collaborations with BMX to serving as the face of a Tiffany’s campaign to a short film with Revlon.
He is, to put it simply, cool as hell. He moves between the worlds of rap, high fashion, streetwear, fine arts and entrepreneurship more easily and gracefully than you might expect from a kid who cut his teeth at the “Hungry Ham” in Harlem. And so it should come as no surprise that he’s now wading into the world of both F1 and esports with McLaren and Logitech via their upcoming e-racing competition the 2021 Logitech McLaren G Challenge. The event gives amateurs from around the globe the chance to prove themselves on the e-racing circuit, with winners flown out to Vegas for a grand finale.
Ferg himself will also be competing in an e-racing competition on July 7th: at the Pro-Am Celebrity Grid Race. Curious about this newfound interest, we sat down with the rapper to chat about cars, esports and what F1 needs to succeed in America.
InsideHook: To start out, can you just tell us how you got into racing?
A$AP Ferg: I was a part of this camp called Fresh Air Fund that inner-city kids go to to get a chance to travel to the country. I went about eight hours to Butler, Pennsylvania. These kids get a chance to experience a different lifestyle with these families, Caucasian families out in the sticks. And the lifestyle is totally different. I remember one specific thing that stuck out to me was this car race they took me to. Ever since then it sparked my interest in cars, because I mean, in a city, you don’t really see car racing or anything like that. We don’t really buy cars because we use public transportation. So there I could see a car race and I could actually go to a racetrack. It was intriguing to me.
How did your interest in racing evolve from there? I’m assuming going to a race in rural Pennsylvania is a lot different from F1.
Well, my interest in racing changed when one of my best friends, he was always into cars, and he had a blog and would post a lot of different stuff he was into, and he was into art and cars. And like I said, I was into bikes and stuff that was more in the neighborhood, but he kind of opened my mind up to like, “Yo, one day we are going to be driving these crazy F1 cars.” He put me up onto races and what to know and stuff on YouTube, and that’s how I really got opened up to it.
Do you have a favorite or a dream car of your own?
I don’t. I haven’t yet bought a car yet because I didn’t get my license yet — only got my permit. But the fact that I just bought a house in Jersey, I definitely need a car to move around. I have a few favorite cars that I look at it and I love. One of my favorite cars of all time would be the Lamborghini Countach. I love the shape of it, the retroness of it. The fact that it’s super rare. I also like, of course, McLaren. I actually drove a McLaren at one of the races in Europe in Budapest. I love the Tesla Cybertruck, where it’s super geometric shapes and stuff.
Reading some of your old interviews, you talk about how you went to a creative high school and you’re not just a musician — you’re a creative across a ton of different genres. Do you think there’s a big overlap between the car world and the creative world?
It’s definitely overlapping. Cars are created like art, you know what I’m saying? It’s like, it’s a luxury item that everybody can attain with hard work and dedication. It’s definitely a tasteful thing. You know, you collect cars, you can collect art. Luxury is about people attaining a piece of work or limited-edition work that can appreciate, you know, can store value as time passes.
I know you said some of the cars that you love, but do you have something in mind for the first car you’re going to buy?
I don’t want to say, cause I don’t want to jinx it, but like I said, my favorite cars [are the] Lamborghini Countach, Tesla Cybertruck and Bugatti. But I know the Bugatti is next level. I’ve got to sell out some arenas first for that.
I know you said you went to Budapest to drive some McLarens, but have you done any other traveling as it relates to the racing world?
I haven’t yet got a chance, but I’m definitely open to it. I had mad fun in Budapest: the different people, like the whole demographic — the racing demographic — is totally different. And the fact that a lot of the racers are fans of my music is super dope. Lewis Hamilton is actually one of my homies.
That’s really cool to hear. Can you speak a little bit about the overlap between the music and sporting worlds? How did your relationship with Lewis Hamilton come about?
Well my relationship with Lewis Hamilton, I forget how we actually met, but we went to the Met Gala and hung out a bunch of times. But also who he is as a person doesn’t have anything to do with him being a racer. The fact that he is a champion racer is dope, though, you know: now I got him as a friend and you want to surround yourself with champions. Like minds can build great things.
Hip-hop music and racing are two of the biggest genres in the world, and hip-hop artists love cars. We love driving fast cars and the lifestyle, popping the Champagne at the end of the races — we do that in celebration — the watches that racers get … You know what I’m saying? Like, we love those things. The lifestyles are very similar.
I also read an XXL interview where you talked about keeping yourself in check with all the various projects that come your way, and asking yourself, “Do I really want to do this?” to help maintain inner peace and whatnot. So I guess, in getting involved with this F1 project, how did you answer that question? Why did you really want to do this McLaren esports project?
The McLaren project is like something a kid would dream about doing. I knew the answer before I even got asked the question. I think it’s super dope that I’m able to bridge the gap between two very similar worlds, which is car racing and hip hop. And I can be a trailblazer for that. And one of the faces of that. Luxury car racing and music, I think that’s super dope. I think it should have been done already.
That’s really interesting, because I think a lot of the time those two worlds are kind of on opposite ends of the spectrum, right? F1 is arguably the most expensive sport in the world, and a lot of hip-hop is about, you know, grinding, starting at the bottom, having nothing. So it’s really interesting to hear you talk about wanting to bridge that gap. Can you speak a little bit more to that? How the demographic that hip hop caters to and the demographic that F1 caters to can overlap?
Everything is overlapping, right? There’s no such thing as demographic. I think everybody lends to each other. I think it’s time to show that. I think it’s time to embrace that we really mess with each other, and y’all listen to that type of music, and we love driving our cars.
And this is not just a car thing, this is also a video game thing. Can you speak to your interest in video games and specifically esports?
Well, the video games, I always played video games as a kid — we were stuck in the house. Whenever I wasn’t playing tag in the streets, I was upstairs on my games console. But yeah, I played on a pro racing console for the first time in Budapest and it was super dope. So when I got the opportunity to race against professional racers back home I was like, “Hell yeah.” And they set up the whole console in my crib — all of these cases came in with steering wheel and the seat and the three pedals. And it was super dope, because the console that was at the crib replicates how it was to drive a real F1 race car. So I thought that was pretty cool.
How similar was the system to actually driving an F1, and what was your experience like actually driving the McLaren?
I mean, you miss the rumbling of the seat, the steering wheel shaking, you know, actually being in the car and everything like that, the smell of the leather. But it’s like 90% accurate, because when you’re driving those cars, it’s very sensitive and you got to switch your gears or you can go off course the same way you can in the game. So it’s very similar in that way.
Going back to F1, I think that’s it’s a sport that has struggled a bit getting a foothold in America and gaining popularity in America. What do you think are the next steps to make F1 as a really popular sport here in the same way that something like NASCAR is?
I think F1 needs more Black racers. I feel like that’s what they’re missing. If you look up any type of genre, when Black people get on it, we make it eventful, because of the style and the flavor. We not only bring our talent, but we bring culture. If you can bring culture, it means you can bring a community of people like you to the game. So if you have A$AP Ferg turn into an F1 racer, imagine how many people would want to see that? Because of the lifestyle I’m into and the culture I’m into. You think about BMX, skate culture, fashion, fine arts, you think about graffiti, you think about streetwear — groups that can come support this game and want to see Ferg win. So you take people like me, Black and brown kids — that can move culture. You can save any type of art form that way.
That’s really insightful and poignant to hear. I know we’re at time right now. Any other updates from your end on what you’re working on?
I’m excited for my upcoming shows. Rolling Loud and also Made in America, two huge concerts where I’ll be performing. I’m super excited about that. I’m working on a lot of music. I’m still wrapped up in creating music. You know, as the world opens back up, I am just excited to travel again and perform.
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