It's been 16 months since A$AP Ferg released his sophomore album, Always Strive And Prosper. Reviews were up and down, mostly favorable from critics, but I remember many complaints that the LP didn't match the bar set by his Trap Lord debut. The infectious single "New Level" was especially successful, though, certified Gold, and added yet another banger to Ferg's growing collection.
In the current hip-hop climate, there is little time for extended breaks when fans are constantly clamoring for more and flooding the market is bringing countless rap artists prosperous results, especially when your last project failed to take the big step forward it was expected to. So Ferg is back with a high-profile guest list for his fourth official project, Still Striving.
Still Striving is considered a commercial mixtape. All the songs are original music, plenty of big features, and posted across all the major streaming services, yet mixtape is the classification. I miss the OG Gangster Grillz days. Ferg has always been a feature-heavy artist so a number of friends appearing on almost every song is far from surprising. No big expectations going into this one. My hopes are high for big bangers, but I would love to see some artistic growth from one of the A$AP Mob’s best.
In usual 1-Listen fashion, the rules are the same: no skipping, no fast-forwarding, no rewinding and no stopping. Each song will receive my gut reaction from start to finish. Issa 1-listen review!
1. "Trap and a Dream" ft. Meek Mill
Excited to hear Meek Mill on someone else's intro for once. "Pray for the trap," Ferg said. Aggressive flow. Very aggressive. You can almost feel the spit hitting the microphone. Hard beat, a real bass kicker. Ferg has a few different flows, his voice is far less animated than usual. Trap And A Dream" sounds like a Jeezy and Martin Luther King Jr. compilation. Can someone make that happen? MLK speeches over Shawty Redd beats would be tight. Meek sounds at home. This fits his flow better than gloves fit OJ. For the most part it’s a hard-hitting trap record. Exactly what you'd expect. Decent. Monster of a beat. Not likely to be played again. Kudos to Ferg for the album cover though, Du-Rag Nation.
2. "Rubber Band Man" ft. Cam'ron
Rubber band man! Wild as the Taliban! Long live T.I. A bell. A daunting, ringing bell. Dipset x A$AP. I'm liking the vibe, it's very dark. Drums just hit, and I feel like this is what is played before being mugged in a dark Harlem alley. Ferg sounds good! Sliding across the beat like it’s a waxed wood floor. Killa Killa. “Running this shit you can call me Usain Bolt.” I feel like Bolt is bound to be in hip-hop for a long time. Kill with the slow flow. He sounds a bit sluggish. He also sounds like he might have a cold. Killa just doesn’t sound like himself. Was hoping this verse would make me want to pray for a new Cam album but it just lacks any real liveliness. The beat is stronger than Superman in a weightlifting competition, and Ferg did his thing but the song doesn’t end strong with that Cam verse.
3. "Olympian" ft. Dave East
Ferg keeping it New York by following Cam with a Dave East feature. Another knocking trap banger. It has the bounce and tempo that would get Hillary Clinton to shake her money maker. I like, I like. Dave East with the swift flow. He’s dancing. Razor blade sharp. I’m pretty impressed with the way he’s skating right now. This is how you put a beat in a body bag. Ferg following Dave’s punchy flow. “I was 9 in Versace” is a very Harlem thing to say. Ha. He said Serena was twerking on his tennis racket. I accept that as a stunt. The hook is fairly lazy, but overall an early favorite. Ferg’s ear for beats, though. He's got him a few that will cause the ground to shake. Just listen to them drums knock!
4. "Aww Yeah" ft. Lil Yachty
The last Yachty and A$AP collab was strong so hope is fairly high for a repeat performance. Singing Ferg. His melody game tends to be strong. This is a fairly catchy hook. The most catchy thus far. Another trap thumper. Ferg might have a few bangers spawned from this release. Hahaha. The way he closed the first verse is funny. Those strange vocal inflections kill me. Yachty said he lives movie scenes. Melodic flow. Heavy Auto-Tune. He sounds like robot Yachty. He said he could be your momma son, a funny fact. Not really sure how that’s a brag or boast, though. Part of me would like to see this become bigger because of the beat and hook but overall it didn’t feel like a song that would be worth various revisits.
5. "What Do You Do" ft. NAV
Oh no. NAV. Anyone but NAV. He still sounds like a rapping Siri. Does this kid have a life force? A pulse? If Apple has a deal with Chance what’s stopping Apple from making a robot rapper? Someone check NAV’s XO jacket for batteries. Typing all this, I’ve completely ignored how fairly catchy “What Do You Do” is. It’s the sugary trap from that same melodic family as Drake’s "Fake Love" and T. Scott’s “Pick Up The Phone.” Would enjoy this much more if it wasn’t for the robot. He really sounds like if R2-D2 desired to be a SoundCloud rapper. “Just 'cause it's Japanese don’t mean that that’s a foreign car” hahaha. Funny one-liner. Probably the closest thing to a radio-friendly record/playlist hit but that NAV verse is like listening to your laptop freestyle.
6. "Coach Cartier" ft. Famous Dex
Read this as Coach Carter. Great movie if you haven’t seen it. Already hating how much I’m enjoying this knowing Famous Dexter is going to kill my entire vibe. Animated Ferg, highly energetic verse. More like shouting rhymes than smooth rapping. Trap flows are always either inventive or lazy. Famous Dexter really sounds like he spent too much time eating candy growing up. This is the one with red hair, right? They all start to sound the same and treat women the same, and I’m tired. It wasn’t a bad performance. Very trap rock star. But I can’t unsee the video of him beating the woman so there's no chance I'm replaying. Good hook, better beat. Frankie P has been lacing Ferg since track one.
7. "Mad Man" ft. Playboi Carti
TEAR THE CLUB UP! LETS GO! Already expecting this one to explode. BEAT JUST DROPPED AND IT'S EXCELLENT IGNORANCE. Master Bruce Ferg really found a beat that sounded like starting a riot. High energy. Stunt raps. Ferg got a sneaker? He just bragged about it. Dope flow. Really like the energy pulsing from the record. Carti just arrived. The ohs and yeas are in abundance. He does it so often that I feel as if the song is skipping. I can occasionally enjoy the new kids but I get more and more disinterested the less they use their words. Hemingway was a master of the short story, you can do more with less, but Playboi isn’t quite Ernest Cartiway yet. I wonder if this will be a big record because of Carti? It doesn’t scream hit but it could be a late slapper. Honorable C.N.O.T.E. deserve all the roses and payment for his beats.
8. "Plane Jane"
The first solo Ferg record. Slow buildup. I like this already. Minimal. No drums so far and he’s using the "Slob On My Knob" flow. Just got an adequate drop. Fire flame is the only way to describe this heater. Getting introspective Ferb. This is the Ferg I've been wanting. Free-flowing lyricism and a beat insane enough to join a clown posse. So far the album has made me want more solo Ferg. The features don’t allow him enough time to shine. Second verse flow has a great bounce to it. Reminds me of Big Sean a bit. Ferg is in his bag. Surprised this isn’t a bigger record.
9. "Nasty (Who Dat)" ft. Migos
Man, the Migos have been in high demand this year. I’m happy for them. Let’s see how long this run lasts. I have no idea what’s happening in my ears. Sounds like someone doing a drunk, Auto-Tuned chant. Second time Ferg mentioned the Adidas deal, must be a lucrative deal. Nice flow switch. The melodic flow on this… man this is a terrible hook. It’s all the sounds we used to make when singing into rotating fans. Takeoff! Cool, quick verse. Quavo also with a solid performance. Nothing too special. Not the most memorable Migos performance. The back and forth between Takeoff and Quavo is a solid pass the microphone. “I can flip a pigeon and a dirty bird.” Wonder how many rappers have admitted on record to falling in love with strippers? The hook is absolutely unbearable. Otherwise a solid song.
10. "The Mattress REMIX" ft. ASAP Rocky, Playboi Carti, Rich The Kid & Famous Dex
Okay! Now we've got something dirty. The bassline sounds evil. It’s badder than a man who killed a Keebler elf. Grandma Ferg was kicking the Glock. This sounds like the old A$AP Mob music. Straight gutter. I feel like if there were three Fergs they would be the Northern Migos. He just has a style I think would be cool if replicated three times. A$AP Rocky! Rocky has a voice that can sit upon any beat undisturbed. I would love to hear him over more soulful sounds. Back and forth between Ferg and Rocky. Crazy tag-team. The chemistry is still intact all these years later. I don’t need any other features! Should’ve just been Rocky and Ferg. The sudden change in vocal pitch was extra but dope. Man, need the “Shabba” collaborators to give us the tape. Dexter's Lab is boasting. Said they gonna put him on the Forbes, what is Dex getting a show? Carti coming at the end. Carti actually sounds like he could’ve made "Mattress" a hit if he had the song before Ferg.
11. "One Night Savage" ft. MadeintyTYO
Slow builder. Man, for all the hard-hitting beats the bangers really aren’t banging. They start off promising but I can’t imagine most of these crossing over into being big records. Rather bored by this one. What’s the trajectory for Tyo? I've been wondering if he will produce another hit. “Never cut a camera on but all these niggas acting.” I like that, lol. Pretty solid. Something about these songs are beginning to feel like throwaways that didn’t make Always Strive And Prosper. Where are the big records!?
12. "East Coast REMIX" ft. Busta Rhymes, A$AP Rocky, Dave East, French Montana, Rick Ross & Snoop Dogg
Massive remix back! Feels like a DJ Khaled remix. Busta Rhymes! I swear Busta been rapping fast on features like this since the “Look At Me Now” and hasn’t slowed down since. He’s running the blitz and killing it. Still one of the most electrifying emcees on earth. Busta is so lively. And all these flows! Can we get a new Bussa Bus album? Ferg following up. “Only thing that I’m missing is a Hov verse.” I think it’s dope New York rappers still want the Jay feature. Okay. This is dope. Rocky might have the smoothest style out of New York since Fab. All his verses sound like he recorded them in a robe. Just relaxed. Cozy. Dave East didn’t come to be shown out. He's already sounding better than his previous feature. Yeah, he’s going for the jugular. Beat switch for French Montana. Haha. French is so French. He’s on fire, though, I won’t overlook this fact. The beat sounds like it was begging for Rick Ross to sit on it. Did everyone decide to bring their murder weapons? Ross is tap-dancing with the flow. Snoop! The OG is still able to hang. I have no idea who he’s talking about but she’s either a Blood or a Crip. A nice "fuck the police" got off. Okay. I haven’t been big on mega remixes but I like how this one came out.
The solo Ferg songs have been pretty good thus far. A bit slower style—ha, he just mentioned Kirk Knight’s slower tempo. Joey x Ferg is the feature Ferg is missing. The knock is dynamite. Kirk’s atmosphere is colder than a morgue. Super Saiyan Ferg on the second verse. I like this one. Only the hook feels a bit slow, lagging instead of lively. Would likely replay again. Really good ear for production, Ferg.
R&B singer? Not listed. Not bad. I would prefer Jeremih but I’m not going to be picky. I like how this one is building up. Ferg spitting real life. The story about his dad is so sad. Okay! This Ferg is good. Introspective rhymes and a beat that I wouldn’t mind hearing Tupac speak on. This is what I wanted more from the project. Ferg just floating and letting listeners in a bit more. We finally get a bit of depth at the album's end. A feature-free Ferg could bring some results worth revering. Some good lines, mostly personal. You can tell he really does miss A$AP Yams. I think we all do. A song this good deserves to be on a better album.
Final (first listen) thoughts on Still Striving:
Ferg is a good rapper with a good ear for beats. I find him at his most interesting when he has an entire canvas, rather than just a corner.
I think all the features are solid, an occasional standout, but they mostly felt like fillers. Collaborating for the sake of collaborating. The album drags due to all the extra cooks in the kitchen.
I would much rather see what Ferg can produce when given more room to breathe. He has all the tools to be a wavemaker in this current climate―style, charisma, personality―but Still Striving doesn’t showcase enough of what will allow Ferg to truly thrive in this industry: himself.
Early Favorites: "East Coast REMIX," "Olympian," "Plane Jane"
Early Not-So-Favorites: "Coach Cartier," "What Do You Do," "Nasty (Who Dat)"
By Yoh, aka A$AP Yoh, aka @Yoh31