A great deal has happened to A$AP Worldwide since 2013, when both Long. Live. A$AP and Trap Lord graced the airwaves. First and foremost, A$AP Yams, A$AP co-founder and creator of the collective’s ideals, passed away. The loss shocked the group and had a clear effect on their overall morale. In fact, it was in the months following Yams death that A$AP Ferg dropped “Tatted Angel,” a tribute to his late comrade and mentor, which was also his first new song in some time. Announcements of a follow-up to his hit debut album came up as well with his “fourthcoming” album, Always Strive and Prosper, being born. Five singles would precede the highly anticipated album, each bringing with it new feelings towards the direction that Ferg was taking with his music. However, in the end, Always Strive and Prosper serves its purpose as a means for Ferg to express himself, pad his pockets a little bit, and maintain his relevancy in the hip-hop industry.
There may not be a “Let It Go” but “Let You Go” is a quality track, “Psycho” makes you forget there’s no “Shabba,” and the stellar feature line-up makes up for the relative lack of “bangers.” Ferg’s production remains on point as well, with notable names like Skrillex, Lex Luger, Clams Casino, and No I.D. making appearances in the production credits. Ferg also managed to nab a Lido and Cashmere Cat production collab for “Yammy Gang” that features an excellent use of bass. Thanks to their efforts, Ferg is still able to deliver songs to go ham to, something that could be considered his specialty. Try NOT to start a mosh pit when songs like “New Level” and “Swipe Life” make their way through the aux. Variety is the spice of life, which Ferg clearly understands with his choice of beats, covering the entire spectrum of sounds from trap to more soulful sounding production. “Beautiful People” is one of the production highlights, the bongos bringing back memories of “Bonaroo” off of Ferg Forever. However, there are a few drawbacks to the overall sounds as it gets a bit too poppy at times, like “I Love You.” Perhaps those tracks are aimed for the radios though, as they are few and far between.
Thematically the album explores Ferg’s upbringing, ideals, and of course the success he’s experiencing now, providing a far more introspective look into Ferg’s mindset. Despite “Tatted Angel” not making it onto the album, “Yammy Gang” serves as the tribute to the late Yams, including a feature from his own mother on the end of the track. It seems as though Yams really infused this belief that anyone can be successful into Ferg as that is the most prevalent message on the album, surfacing all over different tracks. This is perhaps the most jarring comparison to his previous efforts that are far more lyrically trap-oriented. While it may not be entirely apparent, Ferg has progressed as a human being and has adopted a more positive outlook despite the loss of his close friend. Maybe it was this very loss that inspired such a change, as it’s only normal for such a shocking experience to change people in some way. Chuck D’s opening on “Beautiful People” only seems to promote that perspective:
We got our ways, but ain’t we human beings too? If our lives don’t matter, no lives matter. Thus life is our future, dying is unacceptable. Living for what we believe in is life itself, iight.
Although it may seem like more of a political statement, this isn’t the case, as confirmed by Ferg during his opening verse. Instead, it’s meant to be an anthem for the many different beautiful facets of life, no matter what form they may appear in.
Despite this positive message, the album lacks some broader sense of organization. Chronologically, it’s all over the place which hampers its flow as a complete, thematic project. This is given that Ferg is trying to accomplish such a task at all, as he isn’t necessarily known as an artist trying to put together a complete album given his previous discography. He seems to be more of an artist who attempts to use an overarching theme that’s apparent no matter what random order the tracks may be in. This is somewhat of a disappointment for someone trying to look at the album from more of a project standpoint, especially given that Ferg talked about it being his most complete and introspective record leading up to its release. No matter how you look at it, Always Strive and Prosper just doesn’t put off a “complete” feel.
Drawbacks or not, Ferg released some quality tracks that can be appreciated for what they are-blessings from the Trap Lord. Always Strive and Prosper attempts to bring positivity to the hood and eliminate any assumptions that the Hood Pope can’t open up emotionally. All that matters in the end is that Yams would be proud, a feat that probably topped Ferg’s list of priorities. Regardless, one day Fergestein will bring his ideals to the people of Harlem. It just won’t be with this album.