If you’ve been waiting with bated breath for new shit from the A$AP MOB, or Ferg in particular, fret not … the latest entry in the Trap Lord’s enchiridion, Always Strive And Prosper is upon us.
On the opening track “Rebirth,” Fergenstein’s status changes. A voice ordains him, “Now that you’re no longer a Lord that’s trapped, you’ve graduated into The Hood Pope / You’ve made it to represent your people, (show them another way) / You’re the voice of the people that couldn’t make it out the hood.”
The Harlem rapper continues where he left off on his debut Trap Lord, with the same wit and depth, he assures his fans he’s not jaded by the success. “Rebirth,” serves not only as a passing of authority, it’s also an omission of truth, touching on the perceptions of the rap game. Ferg claims that his mother still lives in the hood and he’s not as rich as people think. He also lends some encouragement by mentioning that if he made it out, others can too.
"Hungry Ham," a head nod and salute to Ferg’s hood, has a playful tone but holds a serious message on the stumbling blocks and hazardous setbacks that are waiting for you everyday when growing up in the inner city. The track, produced by Skrillex, shows the modern musical range of the MOB. The A$AP crew have been on the forefront of combining hard trap beats and EDM for a more universal sound.
Another standout is “Strive” featuring Missy Elliot. As odd as the collaboration may seem on paper, it works. “Strive” is an energizing what-are-you-waiting-for anthem with a Robin S.-esque “Show Me Love” type of feel.
“Let it Bang” features Schoolboy Q with production by the super chill beat-smith Lex Luger. “Let it Bang” is a tale of two uncles, at first. Ferg’s uncle Psycho has had no issue airing a place out if he doesn’t get his way. Ferg states, “Grandma hid that hammer in her mattress from my uncle / He would listen to Wu-Tang 'fore walkin' in the jungle / Army fatigue jacket, kitchen knife, hope he don't cut you / With a deuce-deuce up in his boot in case he get in tussles.”
In the past the Trap Lord has been very critical of his uncle. Psycho, once revered by Ferg, had to swallow some tough criticism for his ways on “Uncle,” off Ferg’s 2014 Ferg Forever mixtape. The artist even mentioned in an interview that “Uncle” and “Let It Bang” are really one song.
Jay-Z said it best in a line that sums up many uncles; we all have one, or two. Jay was referring to his foes, yet the line is still "Blue Magic."
“They like the drunk uncle in ya family / You know they lame, you feel ashamed but love them the same.”
Schoolboy Q spits on "Let it Bang" about missing his crackhead uncle but quickly reverts to when he used to serve the same man crack, despite their relation, to clock dollars.
When Chuck D speaks you’re inclined to pay attention. That being said, Chuck D opens “Beautiful People” with a touching word. A word about what breaks us down and if black lives don’t matter, no lives matter. This track is the epitome of growth and consciousness that people claim is lacking in the game today. Although Ferg rhymes about wanting unity and awareness of our people, he also wants it to be known “This is nothing political, this is so we can be synced.” The production is handled by DJ Khalil, Clams Casino and has chords and melodies reminiscent of Marvin Gaye’s mega-hit “What’s Going On,” another plea for unity.
Lastly, Mama Ferg makes an appearance to share her outlook of beauty and how it goes beyond the physical. She eloquently states:
Beautiful people can be defined by / Her hair, her eyes, her body / Beautiful people / Beauty is behind the surface, it is the soul, the spirit / That lies beneath the soul, the skin / It is the power of that beauty that holds us / That strengthens us / It is the way we dance when we wanna cry / It is our mind that creates the definition of the beauty / Clear your mind, clear your body / Reach for the strength within / We are all beautiful people.
“Let You Go” chronicles Fergenstein’s significant other's take on his music and how this platform is difficult on her. He understands her point of view and makes a point to mention he doesn’t intentionally try to hurt anyone with his rhymes. “Let You Go,” appears to be an apology or a thank you for putting up with the double-edged sword that is The Rap Game. “I Love You,” featuring Chris Brown and Ty Dolla $ign, picks up where the Mea culpa ends. A celebration of making it thus far and, of course, a statement of love, togetherness.
Heavy is the head that wears the mitre; galvanizing and inspiring the people is no easy task. Nevertheless, The Hood Pope seems up to the challenge. This album is solid and gets to the point, then sticks to it. The Trapped Lord has undoubtedly progressed. A$AP Yams is probably somewhere smiling, talking his shit about this one.