Review: A$AP Ferg Displays Stylistic Shifts On “Always Strive and Prosper”

A$AP Ferg is the second member of the Harlem based collective A$AP Mob to really break into the mainstream of hip-hop, having released his debut album back in 2013 aptly titled “Trap Lord”. He’s set himself apart in the game bringing his own brand of unorthodox aggression, big personality, and, above all, trap.

Three years later, a lot has changed in the world of A$AP. In January of last year co-founder and manager, A$AP Yams, died of a drug overdose. His passing was a tragedy for the hip hop community as a whole. Later that year, however, A$AP Rocky released his sophomore LP and has been launched into mainstream popularity ever since.

Now in 2016, it’s time for Ferg to show us if the niche style he brought three years ago has longevity.

For the most part, Ferg manages to keep his enigmatic style while still delivering a project than feels much more polished than anything we’ve heard from him. From the banging production of the Harlem anthem “Hungry Ham” to the bass heavy “Swipe Life” (which has a shockingly good verse from Rick Ross), he’s definitely still making mosh pit inducing music.

On the other hand, Ferg seems to have traded in some of the aggression we heard in past songs like “F**k Out My Face” for some more retrospective and heartfelt tracks, such as in the closing track, “Grandma”, which he dedicates to his late grandmother and raps about what he would tell her if only he had a few minutes with her now.

However Ferg does experiment with new sounds in this record, to varied results. One of the more subtle yet most successful risks taken is the A$AP Mob posse cut “Yammy Gang”, which this very animated while charmingly minimalistic beat. Unfortunately the rest of what Ferg tries doesn’t go as well.

One of the worst instances is found near the end with “I Love You”, featuring  Chris Brown and Ty Dolla $ign. This song has such glossy and unoriginal R&B production that it sounds more like one of Chris Brown’s more generic cuts than a Ferg track. This, along with a few other songs where it sounds like Ferg is featured in someone else’s record, derail the album’s tracklist here and there.

Overall, “Always Strive and Prosper” managed to brings a more streamlined and refined sound than what Ferg has delivered. Even though there are some stylistic shifts that don’t always pay off, it still makes for an enjoyable listen from front to back. Which is especially true if you want to try something a little zannier and unhinged.

Grade: B+

Listen if you like: A$AP Rocky, ODB, Waka Flocka Flame, ScHoolboy Q

Highlights: “Rebirth”, “Hungry Ham”, “Psycho”, “Yammy Gang”, “Grandma”

Lowlights: “I Love You”, “World is Mine”

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Jose Alberto Orive

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