It’s the final act of Dillo Day. After hours of weather delays, this is it. The headliner, the main event: A$AP Ferg. A large crowd mobs together. We want to finally see Ferg. And he wants to see – “titties.”
The rapper starts his set off with a few high-energy songs. Mixed with the flashing lights, the crowd of the nation’s “largest student-run music festival” gets riled up into moshing masses that fling themselves in all directions.
At one point, the mosh pits are put on hold for a moment. Ferg says he hears the men in the crowd, but calls for the women present to make some noise and then to get on the guys’ shoulders. Then, Ferg asks for the girls in the crowd to show their “titties.”
A few girls do. Some shake their breasts. Others do nothing.
I see a girl sitting on someone’s shoulders hold the sides of her top, eyes scanning the scene. Eventually, the moment passes and Ferg moves on in his set. The girl’s top remains unmoved.
Weinberg freshman Bailey DuBoe and her friends were at the front for Ferg’s entire set. She said before he made the “titties” comment and while other girls were getting on shoulders, the artist called her out specifically.
“He was like, ‘Oh, you in the black jacket with the pink shirt. You’re hot.’ I was like ‘Oh my God, a celebrity looked in the crowd and picked me out.’ I liked it. I felt special,” she said.
According to DuBoe, she and her friends were so excited by the attention from the rapper that they barely realized what he said next.
“We heard him yell out like ‘Let me see some Chicago titties’ and we were all like, ‘Is he asking girls to flash him?’ We were not sure,” said DuBoe. “But it went really fast, like he was calling girls out, but the next song came on – honestly most of what I know from that part is from the memes in the Northwestern page.”
DuBoe agrees with the memes that point out that Ferg’s actions are unsurprising due to the vulgar lyrics in his songs. “Like what did you expect, you know? It’s not right that he called out girls individually, but it’s not super surprising considering that’s what his lyrics are about.”
However, DuBoe said she understands the negative feelings people have regarding Ferg’s comments towards women.
“For me, it was a compliment… It wasn’t implying like ‘take your shirt off and flash me,’ which is what it was for other people,” DuBoe said.
The setting of the concert and the rapper’s age – 30 – are the main factors that affected her view of Ferg’s behavior.
“This is school-related… Everyone around you could be your next classmate, your next professor, your next TA,” she said. “And also there’s a controlled age factor ’cause we’re all college students and he’s 30. At most concerts, technically you don’t know how old they are, but he knows we’re 18 to 22 generally. And then also just it’s so different to compliment girls versus asking them to do something for you.”
“It’s like asking for fan mail,” she adds. “If that’s how a fan thinks they want to appreciate you, is sending you a letter, then they’ll do it. But you shouldn’t ask for it because it’s weird. And then it’s so much weirder ’cause it’s like a sexual act and some of these girls might be minors. And if they’re not minors, they’re like eight years younger than you – or more.”
Weinberg sophomore Katrina Holland flashed Ferg after getting on her boyfriend’s shoulders.
She said it “was fine and dandy, because [Ferg] asked – like he literally asked for consent.”
While Holland was okay with Ferg’s behavior, the behavior of some men in the crowd was more of an issue for her.
“I wasn’t really focused on Ferg that much because there were some boys in front of me who kinda saw that A$AP was clearly looking at someone behind them and they spun around obviously, but were just staring for too long and were like ‘Again, again,’” she said. “And I was like ‘That was not for you, first of all. And it’s not happening again.’”
The reason Holland does not find issue with Ferg’s behavior, aside from it being a “huge part of rap,” is because she thinks that “no, they shouldn’t be able to ask girls to show a certain sexual part, but having said that, I don’t think that we should consider our breasts as sexual as we do… But I can’t speak for the rest of the crowd. These things are obviously super slippery slopes… There’s definitely a line that could be crossed there but I don’t think he crossed it.”
In addition, she points out that the girls were still free to choose how to react to the rapper’s words.
“It’s not like we all were like ‘aye aye, captain’,” Holland said, throwing out a salute jokingly, “and all of us got on guys’ shoulders and were like ‘Yes, sir.’ It was a choice and a very small percentage of people did it.”
However, Medill sophomore Andrew Golden had a different perspective on the rapper’s influence on the women in the crowd.
“Because he has a lot of authority, being a rapper on stage and being famous, he might make someone feel like they need to do something maybe they shouldn’t have done,” Golden said. “You don’t know where [people in the audience] are in terms of like being under the influence, that sort of thing.”
Like DuBoe, Ferg’s age and the concert’s setting were influential factors on Golden’s view of the issue.
“You’re like a 30-year-old man and you’re on stage. Yeah, granted, there are college students who are probably in their early 20s or whatever, but there’s also kids who are 18 years old, 19 years old, even younger, who come to this performance just to have a good time and you’re asking them to expose themselves in front of everybody,” Golden said. “It just felt like the wrong situation for him to be doing that.”
Aside from the “titties” comment, Golden believes the rapper made other questionable remarks.
“I think he was talking about going to some college parties or whatever, and trying to like – I think it was like ‘getting buns’ or something like that. Whatever it was, something about like having sex with people,” he said. “Again, just very odd… I just don’t think there’s a place for that, especially on a college campus.”
Weinberg sophomore Lauren Miller heard these comments as well: “I get [they] can be a joke and maybe he’s just trying to hype up the crowd, but also just it’s pretty weird for a grown man to be asking to come to a dorm, even if it is halfway a joke.”
Miller adds that she thinks that “girls and women and whoever can do whatever they want at concerts and all the time with their bodies,” emphasizing that she does not think the girls who chose to flash should be shamed. “But I don’t think it was his place to be on a college campus [and tell women to expose themselves] where he doesn’t know how old anyone is.”
Weiberg sophomore Angela Evans said another of Ferg’s comments – “Asian persuasion” – made her “uncomfortable as someone who is half-Korean.”
After the girls in the crowd had gotten on the shoulders of those around them, Ferg called some of them out specifically, making comments such this.
While this and the “titties” comment bothered Evans, another moment in the performance was more unpleasant for her.
“I think the most uncomfortable moment for me was a song and everyone was singing like ‘I got hella hoes’ over and over again,” she said. “I was just surrounded by men and all of them were really into it and singing it and it felt like a weird chant kind of. I just really feel objectified just by that moment.”
Evans added she also heard Ferg’s comments later in the show about visiting a dorm.
“He was like, ‘I’m not too cool to hang out with you guys,' like, 'invite me to a dorm party,’” she said. “I felt sad ’cause I feel like he has so much power as a celebrity. And, as someone who is famous, if he had sex with someone I feel like it’s just, there would be a weird dynamic there. And him suggesting that on stage at a school thing also felt extra sexual and weird.”
She thinks women have the “autonomy to make that choice,” but that his status as a celebrity is enough “for it to feel like a weird power dynamic.”
The day after Dillo, A$AP Ferg posted a message written in his Notes app to Instagram.
Evans put Ferg’s post on her own Instagram story, with commentary.
“When he posted that post about like ‘all women are beautiful’ – which is a really surface thing anyway – and everyone was reposting it, it was just like ‘wow,’” she said. “I felt really violated during his performance and just the day after, everyone’s championing him as like a feminist kind of guy, which felt really weird – especially people who were at the same concert.”
Referring to the fact that the official Dillo Day Instagram account liked the post, Evans thinks that “Mayfest and Dillo Day, they should know better and they should know that we’re mad. It’s been on social media, so not [apologizing] and liking his new stuff – and I’ve seen members commenting on his stuff saying like ‘Thank you so much for coming’ and things like that – just made me feel like they’re just not acknowledging this whole thing.”
DuBoe also took issue with the post, finding it did not properly address his performance comments.
“I feel like he missed the point,” she said. “The important part was like you were asking to see shirtless college girls as they’re at a school event.”
Golden thinks Ferg’s post was an attempt at an apology for his behavior at the festival, but is not sure how effective it was.
“I don’t think it addressed [his comments made during his performance],” Golden said. “I just think he reiterated why he did what he did and kind of defended himself.”
Golden also pointed out that in the post Ferg says that “he just wants people to express themselves.”
“But I think everybody should feel free to express themselves in their own way, not be told by somebody how to express themselves,” said Golden. “I think body positivity is obviously important and everybody should value that and their bodies and be comfortable in their bodies, but I think that’s up for them to decide, not for someone to tell them on stage what they should be doing, or feel like they need to pressure themselves into doing that.”
Miller added that Ferg’s post relates to his Dillo comments because it shows that “he’s pretty thirsty to see tits.”
“He’s also kind of saying that he loves and respects women, when I don’t think his actions at the show really reflected that.”
“I was kind of expecting [an official source] from Northwestern to say something about it.” she adds. “I guess it’s not [their] job to apologize on his behalf, but if people are uncomfortable, I think they should know that the school doesn’t support girls being made uncomfortable at a school event.”