The current laws of fame mandate that if you’re popular or a part of something popular, then you better stay active and produce for the public, and money is of course automatically involved, which is one though not the only source of motivation for Harlem cloths-designer turned rapper A$AP Ferg (Darold Ferguson), a rising rapper who with the A$AP clan of hip-hop artists is rivaling acts nationwide and citywide – that means you, Beast Coast. Like his 2013 debut LP, Trap Lord, his new sophomore LP, Always Strive And Prosper, or ASAP (April 22), is an ASAP Worldwide/Polo Grounds/RCA Records release and manages to appeal to both the rough and caring edges of Ferg’s nature. He is materialistic, sexed-up and criminally minded in parts, though love, family and work-life are other more-admirable themes, as he and his many close colleagues have put together nice rap verses, novel choruses and experimental production in fine style for this project.
First, we should brush away all the little bits and bones of contention arising from Ferg’s street/hood persuasion by stating that this is simply an expected given considering his rough Hamilton Heights, a.k.a. “Hungry Ham,” roots in NYC. The way and amount that it is presented here don’t add a great deal to or take much away from ASAP‘s uniqueness of content. The other sections of deeper meaning and noble purpose DO make for better material. Fans already know that Ferg can and will easily get nasty, gritty and braggadocious so it’s the smarter, unpredictable patches that deserve a little more attention. In “Strive,” he talks on being rich in opportunities but also on missing opportunities, hopes for the best and brightest for all people in “Beautiful People,” and wishes that his loved ones gone could still be here in “Grandma” for example. You may find Ferg to be effacing of his integrity in “Let You Go,” explaining his cheating unfaithful ways, but he bounces back and saves face somewhat by exposing his vulnerability with Big Sean in “World Is Mine” and by showing warm, tender, cozy sparks, twinkles and tingles of romance in “I Love You.”
Ferg lets us know why he does what he does, in the first song “Rebirth” actually. He wants to be remembered after he’s gone, but there are at least a couple other reasons not explicitly stated, and they are to give us good hip-hop music and to emphasize a few values while he’s at it. Ferg’s accomplished all those goals here, and he reviews the highlight reel of his career-past a few times just to retrace the steps that got him to his lofted spot. It almost seems like he’s a little blown away by the success, though he is mostly grounded, and anyway, he’ll really need to be, so as to prepare himself for the great music opportunities that await him later on. Through it all though, Ferg demonstrates most profoundly here that he is a master collaborator, able to feature many diverse artists and preserve his own artistry at the same time. ASAP is guested by talented singers and rappers of old (Missy Elliott, Chuck D) and new (Schoolboy Q, Rick Ross, Lil Uzi Vert, A$AP Mob, etc). The production is especially nice, stacking sonic textures up high from the minds of DJ Khalil, Clams Casino, Skrillex, Cashmere Cat, No ID and drillers of the day like TM88, the Honorable C.N.O.T.E. and Lex Luger. Ambitious for certain, Always Strive And Prosper by A$AP Ferg is a little typical on the lyrical side and not very revolutionary overall, but it does deliver a good quality hip-hop product for sure.