To open up his sophomore album, A$AP Ferg makes his objective crystal clear: “Now that you’re no longer a lord that’s trapped, you have graduated to the Hood Pope / You have made it to represent your people, show them another way.” Evolving from the rowdy and rugged Trap Lord, his 2013 debut, Ferg becomes Hood Pope on the follow-up, delivering his most earnest, ambitious, stimulating, and personal project yet.
While talking to REVOLT earlier this year, the "New Level" rapper described Always Strive And Prosper as the "story of my life." Blending life experiences into palpable skits and placing them over genre-spanning rhythmics, all the while interweaving precious tales of loved ones like A$AP Yams and his grandmother, Ferg's latest album is his own, self-produced "Boyz N The Hood." Recalling the days when he played the dual role of Doughboy and Trey, the Harlemite sonically narrates his coming of age through a myriad of sounds. This eclectic palette includes everything from house-driven pop ("Strive") to early 1970's soul ("Beautiful People"), old-school R&B ("I Love You") and shrieky EDM ("Hungry Ham"). And on each record, these sonics all get chaotically pieced together for a fluid cohesion that provide the hues to Ferg's as-told-to effort.
On "Psycho," he recalls the antics of his badass, hard-as-nail uncle of the same name. “Wanted to be like you, jail tat on the chest / With the rugged cornrows and a stab on my neck," he raps. On "Let It Bang," a mosh-pit ready banger, he finds time to recall his youth and also celebrate his tough grandmother. “Grandma hid that hammer in her mattress from my uncle / He would listen to Wu-Tang while walking in the jungle.” This walk down memory lane also offers heartwarming moments like on "Grandma," a touching ode to his late family member and "Yammy Gang," where he leaves room for Tatiana Paulino to pay tribute to her late son, A$AP Yams.
Throughout the project, Ferg is earnest, humble, and transparent, while also brilliantly showcasing his talent as one of rap's unrelenting mavericks. Long gone are the days when he played A$AP Mob's second fiddle. Trap Lord is gone, all hail the Hood Pope.
The very song embodies "Show them another way," as mentioned on "Rebirth," this house-y anthem is a true step up from Ferg's signature trap-skewed sound. With Missy Elliott in tow, Ferg recalls how his journey to rap began with an epiphany experienced while working at Ben & Jerry ("You got talent, why you here?"). Later, Missy drops off a revealing verse that stems on a wise advice given to her by an aunt: "Just be yourself, don't be nothin' like them." Over all, these two serve up a highlight that is not only undeniable, but also a must-hear for everyone's morning blast.
Over plucking synths, Ferg and Ross cook up a hard-edged street banger that will undoubtedly blare out of car speakers this summer. Ross delivers his hardest verse to date on the promising street sweeper, rapping, "I pay for the Cad', I might swipe the card / Then I may get head, or I might wipe your broad." It's not as experimental as most of the other songs on the album, but it's one of the few that carries over some of remnants from Trap Lord .
Introduced with a spoken word from Chuck D (already a feat in itself), Ferg drills the stern message of empowerment and unity — all during a time when it is the most necessary. "This is nothing political this is so we be sync," he raps. "Stick together forever and we'll weather the rain / We'll weather the storm, let's try to move on / Build a better community, so our children be on." The song is one of the many indications of Ferg's maturation as an artist. Utilizing his platform, he strikes uses his voice as the instrument to shed a guiding light for his generation, while his mom (Mama Ferg) and Chuck D enhance this sermon with some spoken word.
A$AP Ferg's Always Strive And Prosper is available now on iTunes.