"Always Strive and Prosper"
Since his 2013 debut with the critically acclaimed album “Trap Lord,” Harlem rapper A$AP Ferg has created a strongly identifiable persona within the trap subgenre. Mixing hard snares and heavy bass lines, Ferg’s distinct sound melds well with the kind of rap music that is meant to be played on an expensive sound system. However, with the release of his sophomore attempt, “Always Strive and Prosper,” the self-proclaimed lord of trap music shows off a more lighthearted and honest side to his music, mixing unconventional beats and featuring unexpected guests to create an album that narrates his journey to becoming a successful artist.
Right away, Ferg highlights his musical metamorphosis during the album’s opening track, “Rebirth.” His mission statement is clear as he says, “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 / Be the voice of the people who couldn’t make it out the hood.” Though the lyrical content throughout the album retains a similar, comical tone that Ferg includes in “Trap Lord,” there is a hint of seriousness that is introduced that showcases the rapper’s ability to talk about meaningful content.
Ferg also includes an ode to his grandmother, with both a 20-second skit and an almost 4-minute–long hip-hop ballad that reveals pain and struggle. Lyrics such as “Grandma ain’t gotta go through pain no more / Arthritis and pain and sores,” tell a humbling story of the perils of losing a loved one, which is a refreshing break from the usual content Ferg’s audience is used to.
The album also incorporates elements of electronic dance music, deep house and funk-based songs, which is a surprising yet intriguing change of pace for Ferg. Songs like “Hungry Ham,” which features an intense EDM backdrop produced by Skrillex, incorporate an incredibly animated beat that livens up the entire album. “Strive” is another track that is unlike Ferg’s usual trap sound. Featuring Missy Elliott, the track combines a dance club beat with an old-school feel, adding color and variety to the album.
The most impressive feature of “Always Strive and Prosper,” however, is how the album is set up. Ferg weaves a series of spoken word skits and recorded voicemails, which are meant to fill the gaps of the album. If listened to in order, the skits flow right into the tracks, creating a narrative that includes both fun and genuine themes. The album is, overall, a story that takes the audience through the highs and lows of the rapper, ultimately introducing listeners to a more approachable side of Ferg.