Before A$AP Ferg’s Always Strive and Prosper listening party in New York City last night (April 14) the rapper took to Twitter to set the tone, saying, “This is really not an album for me, it’s an album for you.”
In a matter of minutes, his intention became more clear — this new project really is about baring his soul and putting his own sacrifices on the line, all in hopes that someone can use his story as fuel towards his or her own ambitions. In a way, that’s the definition of a true artist.
“I didn’t want to do a listening party because I thought it was corny,” Ferg said as people poured into the showroom of an Adidas store located in SoHo. “I hope that you all listen to the music instead of just get drunk.”
Ferg’s DJ, TJ Mizell, went through the album – which was titled in conjunction with his A$AP moniker – track by track, and took ample opportunity to hop on the mic to give a little bit of backstory for each song.
Always Strive and Prosper is an 18-track effort, with several skits scattered throughout, including a phone call between himself and Chris Brown that details and reflects on how the two met and how far Ferg has come in his career following.
The album is jam-packed with guest features, including Skrillex, Missy Elliott, Future, ScHoolboy Q, Rick Ross, Lil Uzi Vert, Chuck D, Big Sean, Chris Brown, Crystal Caines and Ty Dolla $ign. The production duties are handled by DJ Mustard, DJ Khalil and more. While bringing on many, many talents to accompany his own, Ferg doesn’t get lost among his curated squad on this album and therefore sets the “this is how it’s done” tone with seemingly ease.
Always Strive and Prosper has the ability to appeal to everyone in turn, from party anthems to “something for the ladies” to Ferg’s own stylized brand of straight-up trap. By taking lyrical risks and getting more personal, he doesn’t lose the “hustler soundtrack” vibe of his 2013 debut, Trap Lord, but instead elevates it by mixing in his renowned hustle with heart.
Calling attention to his family with gratitude for being in the building, the rapper shouted out his “second mom,” A$AP Yams’s mother, his own mother and his uncle. Taking things to a personal level, he reflected briefly – but importantly – on his journey through music, which now has gone on without his dear friend by his side.
Yams, who was the founder of A$AP Mob, passed away last January and continues to be a daily inspiration for Ferg. Ferg’s decision to dedicate his music to his fallen friend gives yet another layer to the album’s passionate and inspirational nature. At this point in the game, it’s about more than just music to Ferg, and that plays a big role in digesting and experiencing his art this time around.
Ferg expands on just how personal recording his second album was, detailing further how working on this project cost him a relationship.
“I lost a girlfriend over this,” the artist told the crowd. “The dream had to come first. You might not get another album like this from me.”
“I sacrificed a girl for art,” he continued. “I like to say that I’m a real dude and I can only speak real. I’m getting to this level in my life where I’m still the same as when I was broke, but I’m going through different experiences, different funds, traveling... all while having a girlfriend on the road. I’m tryna be real here with y’all. You f**k up sometimes. Whenever I do a song, my girl, she had to hear it, her mom had to hear it, her family. She had to deal with it. She didn’t ask to be a celebrity, you know.”
As Ferg continued going through his upcoming second studio LP and narrating to the crowd, he also shared that he has been sick for the last couple of weeks. As the standing-room event became even more packed, he was not only fighting through not feeling well, but was fighting for the attention of those that gathered, calling everyone out for talking while he was talking.
“No more distractions,” Ferg said with conviction, going on to introduce his track “Beautiful People,” featuring Chuck D and his grandmother. “Bartenders, take the liquor off the table. I don’t want to see any of that. This is about A$AP right now.”
The audience swiftly responded (because real recognize real) and as the rest of the album blared from the speakers, the energy kept building and it all amounted to one undisputed fact: Ferg wasn’t lying. We may not get another album like this from him. He’s successfully demanding attention while still remaining humble, and in bearing his heart on Always Strive and Prosper, it grows three sizes bigger.
“This last song is called ‘Grandma,’” Ferg said to end the night. “It’s the song I’m going to perform at the Grammys. Gotta speak it into existence.”
Always Strive and Prosper is out on April 22 via Polo Grounds/RCA Records.
KC Orcutt is a writer from upstate New York and freshly based out of Brooklyn. Follow her on Twitter: @KCOrcutt.
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