A$AP Ferg celebrates his roots in latest album, ‘Always Strive and Prosper’

Kartik Sridhar

To say that the Trap Lord is back would be a crude understatement of A$AP Ferg’s latest album, Always Strive and Prosper. Musically, the album is experimental and diverse. Thematically, Ferg celebrates his home and family, pays respects to fallen friends and voices his appreciation for hard work and success.

On the first track, “Rebirth,” Ferg declares his stardom and defines his position in the rap game when he says, “Now that you’re no longer a lord that’s trapped, you have graduated to the Hood Pope.” By alluding to his first LP, Trap Lord, and his ascension in title to “Hood Pope,” Ferg immediately sets the tone for the rest of the album. Building on the trap beats that define his sound, Ferg capitalizes on a variety of notable collaborations to make this album both more dynamic and versatile than its predecessor. 

The first album collaboration with electronic music giant Skrillex on “Hungry Ham” is named after the block in Harlem where Ferg grew up. Following the bass-heavy chronicle of Ferg’s hometown is an uplifting collaboration with Missy Elliott called “Strive.” It features a chorus with a new sovund from Ferg — a piano-driven melody with R&B-style vocals. The chorus ends with Ferg’s voice singing, “I can see it in your face, and I know you want to fly, so get off your ass and create your life.” The rapping in the song is split equally between Ferg and Missy Elliott, each rhyming for a verse about their internal struggles and how they surpassed their respective obstacles.

Ferg’s desire to rap about success is best seen in the album’s leading single, “New Level.” Featuring Atlanta-based rapper Future, the song boasts a bass-heavy production style that is unmistakably in Future’s wheelhouse. The collaboration blends the distinctive sounds of the rappers together, as they both contribute to the hook in unison, repeatedly chanting “I’m on a new level.” 

The song “Yammy Gang” immediately follows “New Level” and pays homage to A$AP Yams, a co-founder of A$AP Mob who passed away in 2015. The placement of this song is deliberate, as Ferg largely credits his success to A$AP Mob, a Harlem-based rap group that both he and A$AP Rocky headline. Rather than simply mourning, Ferg celebrates Yams’ life by featuring a heartfelt outro from Yams’ mother Tatiana Paulino. Ferg’s inclusion of Paulino in the album is integral in establishing its theme of familial appreciation, emphasizing the value carrying on the memory of one’s life even after death. The song closes with her hopeful words, “This is for all my beautiful people around the world. My son was a genius. I want to continue his legacy.”

Always Strive and Prosper is impressive on multiple levels, all of which manifest themselves in the album’s concluding track, “Grandma.” While he mentions his success in the song, the thematic emphasis is on who he shares that success with. On one hand, he expresses the absolute trust he puts in A$AP Mob, explaining his trust in A$AP Rocky’s decisions as they navigated the record deal business. On the other hand, he longs to share his happiness with his late grandmother, pleading, “Wish you was here to smell this air and I could touch your pretty hair. We could talk for two more years, push you around in your wheelchair.” 

  • Always Strive and Prosper
  • Artist: A$AP Ferg
  • Genre: Rap/Hip-Hop
  • Tracks: 18
  • Rating: 8/10