REVIEW: A$AP Ferg branches out, gets personal on ‘Always Strive And Prosper’

asap ferg review

Artist: A$AP Ferg
Album: Always Strive And Prosper
Genre: Hip-Hop
Labels: ASAP Worldwide, Polo Grounds Music, RCA Records

When listening to 2013’s Trap Lord in anticipation of A$AP Ferg‘s new release, Always Strive And Prosper, I was reminded of how much I loved the moments of introspection and storytelling on that album. Yes, Ferg the Trap Lord and Hood Pope is impressive, but even more so is Ferg’s ability to walk us through his journey there. Always Strive And Prosper (which is also what “A$AP” stands for) finds Ferg digging deep into his life and experiences to give us a deeply personal record.

Even before we get to any songs, I want to bring up the skits on Always Strive And Prosper. At their worst, skits can be distractions on an album that interrupt the experience. At their best, they give us a look into the thought process and life of an artist. Ferg’s skits thankfully lean towards the latter. Whether it’s meeting up with his Uncle Psycho on “Meet My Crazy Uncle (Skit)” or reminiscing about his grandmother on “Grandma (Skit),” Ferg brings us into his life.

Family and storytelling is also where Ferg thrives lyrically. On “Psycho,” when Ferg raps that his uncle “front-flipped through a building window / land in the lobby. He was cut like Bruce Lee / but he didn’t know karate,” it gives the listener a vivid and memorable mental picture while also illustrating how crazy his uncle could be. It’s moments like this that Ferg shines. The album closes with “Grandma,” a deeply moving tribute to a woman who clearly meant the world to Ferg.

Ferg has a history of having great features, and Always Strive And Prosper follows this trend. Highlights include Schoolboy Q on the dark and droning “Let It Bang” (“I’m the reason why your mama OD’d” will never cease to be an amazingly brazen line), Big Sean on the echoing “World Is Mine” (“I’m young, man, and I’ve got everything to lose” makes for a fantastic hook and a mature worldview), and Missy Elliot on the pop-influenced “Strive” (I would copy the whole verse here if I could. It’s that good).

There is some imbalance in the quality of production on the album, however. We get crisp, clean highlights like the DJ Khalil-produced “Grandma,” “Rebirth,” and “Psycho,” but not every song is so good. In particular, the Skrillex jam “Hungry Ham” is a sonically garbled, confused mess of a song.

I sincerely hope that we get more of this A$AP Ferg going forward, as his lyricism and wit in telling a story are incredible. Always Strive And Prosper is like having Ferg sit down with us and tell the story of his life, and it’s definitely a story worth hearing.

SCORE: 8/10

Gabe Aikins

Gabe Aikins resides in Michigan and writes with his trusty 18-year-old cat by his side. When not writing, he is more than likely working through his back catalogue of video games or reading a book. Follow him on Twitter to listen to him give opinions on pop culture and yell about sports.
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