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ALWAYS STRIVE AND PROSPER
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  • If A$AP Rocky seemed the young, punkish member of the A$AP Mob, A$AP Ferg always seemed the elder, referencing veteran icons like Shabba Ranks on his singles and bellowing like an East Coast, fashion week-friendly version of UGK's Bun B. Not only that, his hit single with Future, "New Level," landed not only after Drake had already recorded a whole album with Atlanta's version of "what's next," but also after Taylor Swift had made a consumer electronics television commercial with their hit "Jumpman." Then this sophomore LP arrived as a complicated, winding, and weaving effort that's identifiably post-Kendrick Lamar, and it seems the man prefers to chase rather than lead. Still, Always Strive and Prosper is so stimulating and so eclectic that Ferg could be nominated as hip-hop's truest maverick in the already free and freaky year of 2016. Here's the man who walks like a brute but talks like an edgy art magazine editor and acts like an enigma cloaked in a riddle and wrapped in a trap beat as the Skrillex-helmed "Hungry Ham" hits the speaker, with the expected bass drops and unexpected throwback, double-dutch style. Missy Elliott fits perfectly into the pumpin', house music-driven "Strive" because Ferg nails the underground club music style of delivering empowering lyrics ("And you're missin' opportunities/I know you're rich in opportunities") then slick silliness drifts into frightening mind games as "Psycho" tells the story of an Uncle that is just what the song says. The album is nothing if not diverse, as "Let It Bang," with Schoolboy Q, and "New Level" are radio-worthy winners, while the old-school "Yammy Gang" and the new-school "Uzi Gang" cover the streets. The lush and positive "Beautiful People" with Chuck D sounds as if Public Enemy teamed with Digable Planets, and if the sweet nothings of "I Love You" are more Chris Brown than Ferg, the trap lord still does fine on the bedroom number, letting "I just wanna hold ya/Make ya say 'Uhh' like a No Limit soldier" eclipse the lesser lyrics like "You've been doin' the squats/Your ass is as tight as a glove." The common criticism that Ferg is great for a feature and stretched on solo tracks and solo LPs is still up for debate, and plenty of arguments against it are included here. If he is that limited an MC, Always Strive and Prosper is a diverse, free, ambitious, sonically stimulating, often infectious, and surprisingly big example of how to get away with it on a major level. Luckily, Ferg ain't that rapper, and with this solid album, he ain't the A$AP Mob's second banana anymore, either. Cutting-edge production from Clams Casino, Lex Luger, Cashmere Cat, and DJ Mustard help him get the job done. ~ David Jeffries
Professional Reviews
Rolling Stone - 3.5 stars out of 5 -- "The follow-up to his acclaimed 2013 debut TRAP LORD sees the Harlem rapper open up with more honesty, humor and charm."

NME (Magazine) - "His second album is a much more personal affair, a result of having mined his formative years for inspiration."

Pitchfork (Website) - "The track 'Strive' brings a deep house vibe -- compliments of Mustard and Stelios Phili -- as Ferg shares the cautionary tale of sitting at a basic job with bigger dreams but refusing to trap like the rest of them."
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