By DeMarcus Cobb
Artist: A$AP Ferg
Album: Always Strive and Prosper
Label: A$AP Worldwide/Polo Grounds Music
Release Date: April 22, 2016
The long-awaited sophomore release from the Trap Lord is finally among us.
It’s no secret that Ferg, birthname Darold Ferguson Jr., is one of the more colorful members of A$AP Mob alongside A$AP Rocky, Nast and Twelvy (RIP YAMS.) It’s been a two-year wait since his last mixtape Ferg Forever dropped and everyone was waiting to see what direction Ferg would take on his next album.
If you don’t already know about A$AP Ferg, he is a rapper based out of Harlem, New York known for his breakthrough single, “Work,” and its remix that featured Schoolboy Q, Trinidad James and French Montana on his Trap Lord debut. Since then, Ferg has tried to find his own lane in this rap world and not piggyback on the success of his buddy A$AP Rocky. What makes Ferg stick out amongst his peers is that he has a weird, unique rap delivery that still gets you hyped; One of those voices you can recognize in an instant. A good example of this is his song “Tatted Angel.”
This time around, Ferg welcomes his fans and newcomers into the life of Darold Ferguson Jr., growing up in an area of Harlem known as Hungry Ham (Hamilton Heights) before he became a member of A$AP Mob with Rocky. Ferguson originally was a fashion designer and sold his own line of high-end belts, following in his dad’s footsteps, before he decided to pursue rapping seriously.
Ferg eases off the hardcore rapping from previous releases and shows us his soft side. You may be curious as to what made him decide to take this direction on the album and one of his posts on Instagram will answer that entirely. As he states, he wanted to make something to empower and encourage people to be great through tracks such as “Beautiful People” and “Strive.”
“Live life in harmony, put love in your arms
Forgive to receive the blessing of peace and calm
Just a product of Malcolm X and Farrakhan
Martin Luther and Marvin Gaye came all to do a ghetto song”
– “Beautiful People” by A$AP Ferg
The album overall was a great listen. The track listing and song choice stuck to the overall theme of “Strive and Prosper.”
At some points during the album, I felt like I was hearing the same story on a new track but it’s still a cohesive album with great storytelling. It features a little bit of the “Hood Pope” persona and just enough of the “Trap Lord” Ferg we know and love. I would give this album a 7 out of 10 including replay value. Even though this album was totally made with radio appeal in mind, I can’t help but say that there is a good kid, m.a.a.d city essence that rings throughout the album.
I was disappointed in the replay value of “Hood Pope” (his debut release.) Some songs just weren’t good to me to keep it plain and simple. Ferg had so much potential but he insisted on making simple hood anthems instead of going for the sound we hear on Strive and Prosper. Of course, we still have our turn up Ferg with with some tracks previously heard as singles.
Crystal Caines and Ferg collaborate once again on “Hungry Ham,” backed by a minimal trap beat provided by Skrillex. Schoolboy Q is featured on the latest single “Let it Bang.” Future, Rick Ross, Big Sean and Lil Uzi Vert are all also called on to liven up the party, which comes in the middle of the album. We have Chris brown, Ty$, Chuck D, Big Sean and Mama Ferg as we get to the closing chapter of the album around track 11, “Beautiful People.”
As a fan of Ferg myself, I’ve always seen him as the one out of A$AP Mob to break down musical boundaries. While Ferg does succeed in delivering an honest album about his trials and family business, the features lack appeal. We see features from big electronic names such as Cashmere Cat, Lido and Skrillex but I was hoping for a little more variety from the production credits on the hip-hop side as well. TM88, Lex Luger, DJ Khaled, DJ Mustard, Clams Casino and NO I.D., along with the three mentioned, have been on seemingly every big track these past two or three years. I would have loved to see some lesser-known acts used.
Which leads to my biggest gripe with the album. Although we see an all-star cast, I can’t help but wonder if this album was solely the work of Ferg or his label just recruiting writers and features for him such as Marvin Gaye and Stargate for that radio-friendly sound.
I wasn’t really impressed by the rap features on this album either. It’s the same major label cast we always come across and no one really shines on the album lyrically. Well, besides Missy Elliott, because it is Missy Elliot; she can never disappoint. I didn’t know how to react when I heard “Strive” the first time. When reading the album credits, you see DJ Mustard as a producer and Missy on the feature so I was not expecting to hear a house track. Even more surprising was how catchy it is. His message of Strive and Prosper can if the chorus may seem a little cheesy:
“You can be you today, you can be you tonight/Know you’re feelin’ really great/It’s gon’ be alright/I can see it in your face and I know you wanna fly/So get off your a** and create your life.”
“Strive” by A$AP Ferg
I think this song has a lot of potential to find its way into DJ sets, even though many may disagree. Yes, it’s a typical house track but it’s undeniably catchy and the Missy-Ferg combo was delightful to hear even though it wasn’t what I wanted to hear. “Psycho,” “Let it Go” and “Hungry Ham” were some of my other personal favorites.
All in all, Always Strive and Prosper is worth a buy or listen. Ferg has grown up a little bit and decided to use his voice to spread positive messages and educate the people, which is what hip-hop is all about. Don’t expect to hear Nast narrating but you will still hear a few skits here and there throughout the album.