A$AP Ferg (real name Darold Ferguson, Jr.) was born and raised in the heart of “Hungry Ham”, the cutthroat Harlem block that the renowned rapper has openly and proudly repped since day one (“I’m from 143rd, I come from Hungry Ham, you heard / Where the pigs will lay you down and make a n*gga bite the curb,” he spits on last year’s ‘Always Strive And Prosper’.) Growing up under the tutelage of his business-minded father – who owned a local boutique and printed shirts and logos for record labels like the iconic Bad Boys Records – young Ferg originally pursued a career in fashion, launching his high-end belt brand Devoni Clothing back in 2005. “Trapping means hustling,” he explained in early interviews. “I went from painting to making clothes to rapping. I always put myself into everything I do one hundred percent. They call me ‘Trap Lord’ because my hustle game is impeccable.”

Eventually, along with lifelong friend A$AP Rocky, A$AP Mob founders A$AP Yams (RIP), A$AP Bari and A$AP Illz recognised and appreciated Ferg’s relentless hustle, inviting him to join the New York collective and kick off his rap career. In 2013, he signed a solo record deal with Polo Grounds and RCA, and his debut album ‘Trap Lord’ cemented his vital role in the hip hop world with a top 10 Billboard 200 debut and critical acclaim across the board. The kid from Hamilton Heights became a self-described hustler on a global scale – just like he said he would.

Thankfully, A$AP Ferg’s ‘Trap Lord’ mentality also carries over to his hard-hitting live show. After seeing him in action, it’s almost impossible to deny that Ferg puts 100% of his energy into cultivating an experience, showing relentless devotion with every verse, ad-lib, interaction and movement on stage. While in Australia for Listen Out, Ferg dropped into The Metro Theatre on the eve of the festival for a special sold-out sideshow, allowing eager Sydney fans another special chance to witness that one-of-a-kind commitment and turn the f*ck up with their idol. As expected, the Harlem hustler tore the roof off the place, inciting an absolute riot with a set comprised of classics from ‘Trap Lord’, current bangers from ‘Always Strive And Prosper’, and a couple of sneaky extra surprises along the way.

Emerging from side of stage in a plume of smoke, Ferg launched straight into ‘Always Strive And Prosper’ opener “Rebirth”, churning out bars over a punchy beat and eerie synth lines. Peeking out from under his fluorescent orange hoodie, he kept up the palpable energy with the short and sharp “Let It Bang”, handling ScHoolboy Q‘s acidic verses with flawless finesse. “Grandma hid that hammer in her mattress from my uncle / He would listen to Wu-Tang ‘fore walkin’ in the jungle,” he snarled, channeling the intensity of his “crack-head uncle” Psycho as he knelt before the thrashing fans against the barrier.

Rolling into the jangling piano lines of Missy Elliot collab and most recent single “Strive”, Ferg tapped into the pulsating electronic production and subversive change in direction to steer the set into less hard-hitting, more light-hearted territory. This was the perfect time to throw in his soulful Chris Brown and Ty Dolla $ign collab “I Love You” and his hazy Hit-Boy-produced single “Tatted Angel”. After taking a moment between tunes to honour his fallen friend A$AP Yams, the introspective track was imbued with fresh significance and weight. “Sometimes I wish Yams was never usin’ / When we toured the U.K. I knew I’d lose him,” he lamented, stepping back from the assaultive set to provide a welcome dose of extra depth.

“Hey, listen – I want to take it back real quick. To the ‘Trap Lord’ days!” With one quick declaration, the room was catapulted into a trip down memory lane with early hits like “Hood Pope”, “Dump Dump” and A$AP Mob’s 2014 classic “Hella Hoes”. Bringing out his right-hand man Marty Baller to assist in the turn-up, Ferg popped a champagne bottle over the crowd while Baller zipped to and fro across the stage. With energy levels at absolute peak levels, the two rappers tackled “F**k Out My Face” and their collab “Uzi Gang”, snarling over metallic beats and spectral sci-fi synth hooks.

After taking a quick moment to recover, Ferg dropped a single line that was sure to send any hip hop fan wild: “Where the f*ck is Shabba Ranks?” The entire venue immediately descended into chaos as Ferg blazed through his biggest hit, flinging their drinks around in helicopter motions and forming violent mosh-pit circles in the centre of the room. In the heat of the moment, Ferg and Baller started pulling up aspiring emcees to prove themselves with a make-or-break freestyle. The first lucky local delivered on all fronts, impressing both Ferg and fans with his natural flow, but the second young lad wasn’t so lucky. “I give you props, bro, but you can’t come up here and read off your phone,” Ferg declared, delivering a devastating blow that the wide-eyed hopeful probably won’t ever recover from.

With a promise to “take this sh*t to another level”, Ferg ushered in “Work”, his go-to banger with A$AP Rocky, French Montana, Trinidad James and ScHoolboy Q. Coming through on this word, Ferg matched the ballistic energy emanating from his fans, roaring through every verse with more passion than ever before. As his DJ faded out “New Level” to close the set in a raucous singalong moment, it was clear that everyone was only just starting to come down from the high of a blistering set from the Trap Lord himself. This Harlem hustler wasn’t lying all those years ago: he really does put 100% into every damn thing he puts his hand to.

Photos by Jordan Munns:

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