When they first came on the scene, A$AP Ferg and A$AP Rocky offered two very different perspectives on rap’s new Harlem. In Rocky’s case, he brought a strong sense of fashion, with musical branches extending to Houston and Atlanta. Ferg stayed with the conventions of trap music, though his cadence and lyricism diverted from the genre’s formulaic sound. And just like that, the Trap Lord was born. His debut was aptly titled, full of chest-beating cuts that suggested Ferg was artsier than Rocky and slightly more overbearing—the Kanye to his Jay. But what happens when you’ve run out of superlatives for yourself and self-reflection kicks in? Well, you work in reverse, which is exactly where Ferg resides on his follow-up project Always Strive and Prosper. If Ferg secured a strong group of followers off Trap Lord, then his new album will surely lock them down as a cult.
An argument could be made that ASAP is the prequel to Trap Lord, where we’re finally understanding the Bruce Wayne before the Batman. But the underlying self-awareness suggests that Ferg has tasted fame and rejected the poisonous parts. The opener “Rebirth” makes that declaration in no uncertain terms. Over a joint production effort of DJ Khalil and Clams Casino, a chopped-and-screwed Ferg talks to himself: “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.”
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