Talk about running the gambit! A$AP Ferg’s “Always Strive and Prosper” is probably the definition of the sophomore slump. Ferg puts out an album that is muddled by being unfocused and scatterbrained. What good there is on this album is outweighed by how forgettable the rest of the album is.
A$AP Ferg is a rapper out of Harlem associated with the A$AP rap group, which I know has more than just Rocky and Ferg, but I’ve never heard of any other members (doesn’t help that they’re only listed as “A$AP mob” on the one track they are featured on). Ferg’s last release, “Trap Lord,” was exactly what it sounds like, a trip into a trap house filled to the brim with bangers from beginning to end. Ferg also released a mixtape between albums on which he experimented with his style – not to much acclaim. Ferg’s new album is kinda in between the two projects, making it hard categorize his style definitively.
My first big complaint with the album is that Ferg is trying his absolute best to appeal to both sides of his fanbase. On one hand, he wants to keep the fans that made “Trap Lord” a successful album, which means putting in tracks like “Swipe Life” or “Let it Bang.” But on the other hand, Ferg wants to experiment with his style, and by experiment I mean he wants to copy Lil B.
I’m not saying that Ferg’s musical style is the same as Lil B’s (although they both croak out their lyrics and feature production by Clams Casino), but both Ferg and Lil B put out this persona of a rapper who’s loves everyone and wants everyone to get along and see the beauty in the world. For Lil B, it’s hard to tell if he is genuine or not, but with Ferg, I really get the sense that it’s just an act.
Ferg will be the first, second and last person to tell you that he’s a nice guy that just wants everyone to realize their inner beauty with songs like “Beautiful People” and “I Love You.” Sure, the message is commendable, but I can’t shake the feeling that Ferg doesn’t genuinely believe this.
Take the song “Beautiful People,” for example. It makes me sick. Ferg is trying to force a cathartic moment on the listener and it fails miserably. Ferg just doesn’t get that moments like these have to be developed and occur naturally, not haphazardly placed wherever he feels like. This song also has a terrible, terrible outro featuring a speech by “Mama Ferg.” Maybe Ferg and his mom were having a fight during the recording of the album, because this speech is literally phoned-in. There’s something hilarious about a rapper not being able to get his own mother to record a speech for him in the studio and instead just has her do it over the phone.
Ferg also tries to juggle many different styles at once. One track he’s trying so desperately to sing (on the Big Sean-featuring “World is Mine”), the next he’s trying to reprise his role as the Trap Lord. You might think he’s pretty proficient at the latter category, especially after how well he did on “Trap Lord.” But then you hear Ferg get consistently outshined by his features such as Rick Ross, Schoolboy Q and A$AP Rocky.
As with most albums that take this scattershot approach, nothing really comes off as memorable. There is a five-track stretch on this album that doesn’t do anything but attempt to make songs that have already been made a thousand times before, the exception being an absolutely killer verse from featured rapper Rick Ross on “Swipe Life.” Ross brings a frantic energy to the track that the album sorely lacks.
There is a stretch at the beginning of this album where Ferg really does find his groove, however. The first four tracks on this album (excluding a skit) are pretty killer. “Rebirth” is a short track that introduces Ferg’s new persona, the “Hood Pope,” but Ferg’s rapping makes up for the terrible name. “Hungry Ham” features guest producer Skrillex on an energetic anthem to Ferg’s block. “Strive,” my personal favorite from the album, is a catchy House-EDM track that Ferg actually meshes very well with. Finally, “Psycho” tells the story of Ferg’s crazy uncle and features production from the always excellent Clams Casino.
If there was one thing I would wholeheartedly commend from this album it would have to be the production. If Ferg can’t keep up with the shifting styles of this album, the beats most definitely can. From the EDM-inspired tracks to the quiet and simple “Let You Go,” the production on this album perfectly matches the style of each song. Unfortunately, the same compliment can’t be given to Ferg.
Ferg simply isn’t ubiquitous. On every single track he uses the same croaking voice and only changes up the speed at which he raps. If it’s a slow song, Ferg raps slow; if it’s a fast song, Ferg raps fast—that is all he changes. Pretty funny then that Ferg’s style works the best on the songs that are the furthest from hip-hop on this project. “Hungry Ham” and “Strive” are two EDM-inspired tracks and they absolutely bang. From the fast-paced chorus on “Hungry Ham” to the hook on “Strive,” Ferg works wonders over theses tracks and I can’t imagine anyone else doing a better job. If only the rest of the album were like these tracks.
For the rest of the album, I was left thinking about how much better the songs would’ve been if someone other than Ferg was creating the song. Other than the first four tracks and that killer Rick Ross verse, Ferg really doesn’t bring anything memorable to the table with this album.