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Album Review: A$AP Ferg – Still Striving

4 min read
Photo: RCA / Jason Goodrich

The A$AP Mob was once on of the most exciting new groups to hit the hip-hop scene, with members seemingly thrusting themselves straight into rap royalty circles. Whilst the momentum surrounding them as a collective may have slowed down; with the likes of A$AP Rocky pursuing a modelling career, A$AP Ferg remains the group frontrunner in the music world. Still Striving is his third full length record after he leapt into the public conscious with track Work. 

 Ferg’s freshest effort reads like a who’s who of big names, placing himself side by side with the likes of Lil Yachty, Meek Mill and Rick Ross to name but a few. With a special guest featuring on every track bar 3, Ferg has the tough job of standing out on his own record. Most of the time he; thankfully, manages this but at times the guest spots steal a little too much of the limelight.

Kicking the record off are Ferg and his pal Meek Mill, a name those who aren’t familiar with hip-hop may remember for fighting with Drake on more than one occasion. Their respective flow’s on Trap & A Dream are faultless, attacking the mic at an unmatchable speed. It doesn’t break any new ground in terms of subject matter, money and success go hand in hand here, but it would be nice if Ferg strayed a little further away from such stereotypes in his music.

Dave East is on hand for Olympian, which Ferg would win a medal at for this effort. The beats pace about with a focus level of an Olympic athlete, driving the track to a powerful photo finish. If that was the race, then Awww Yeah is the celebration. This time it’s Lil Yachty up on collaborative duty as he and Ferg sing about diamonds, girls and ferraris. Hip-hop continues to be big money, and A$AP Ferg’s adoration for living the high life recalls the golden era of the genre back when Death Row Records reigned supreme. The grandiose rewards that come with success are easy to get sucked up in, but Ferg retains the humble side that comes from growing up away from privilege.

Mad Man begins with spoken vocal samples similar to those used by Septa, who littered them throughout his Mercury Prize winning record Konichiwa last year, highlighting hip-hop and grime remain kindred spirits still. It’s a hard hitting track that contains bravado by the bucketload, taking audiences right back to Ferg’s childhood in in Harlem, New York. The intimidating backing vocals echo the danger felt on the streets for a young man of colour, sadly something that is not becoming easier for people still even in 2017.

The Mattress REMIX is fantastically weird, a track where most sentences end with the word mattress… Not an object one would ever expect to hear full tracks about. By the end of this one, you will have heard the word mattress so many times that it loses all meaning entirely. But for all of its ridiculousness, it’s easily one of the catchiest tunes from the entire record. Whilst we’re on the subject of bed, One Night Savage will have a lot of people setting this as their Tinder bios. It’s a powerful flex of masculinity that shows no vulnerability whatsoever, and veers too far into misogynistic territory to enjoy at a care free face value.

A cheeky Nandos’ with the lads may not be as culturally significant anymore, but A$AP Ferg’s track Nandos only references the restaurant chain loosely. Perhaps he’s after one of the legendary black cards that entitles the owner to free chicken, which is alright because this tune is a masterclass in how to take down someone you’re not seeing eye to eye with.

A$AP Ferg choosing to close the record with solo track Tango shows the rapper is steadily maturing into his career. His flow remains fast, but the lyrics take an introspective turn at the journey he has taken to arrive at this destination. Reflecting on how he has gone from cleaning dishes to cleaning up for award shows, Ferg exercises his humble side yet again; making himself seem more human than ever before.

Whilst much of Still Striving reads as a boast of masculinity with some problematic moments, there are flashes of A$AP Ferg progressing to a more mature artist. The excitement and power that comes with being a professional rapper has yet to wear off for this young man, and the result is a formulaic yet refreshing collection of tracks that will no doubt propel A$AP Ferg closer towards the success he has been dreaming of.