Becoming a full-fledged star is always a double-edged sword. Material wealth and recognition serve as trophies that help compensate for the newfound lack of privacy that precludes the nuances of normalcy that were once taken for granted. It’s a feeling A$AP Ferg is getting to know all too well and on his latest mixtape, Ferg Forever, the Harlem spitter confronts the many facets of his former life while embracing the all-encompassing transition into fame.
Stylistically, Ferg picks up right where he left off on his debut LP, Trap Lord, chopping up syllables and schizophrenically changing his vocal tones and inflections in a manner that’s somewhere between Slim Shady and Kendrick Lamar.
While on Trap Lord Ferg showed his love for the OGs with features by from crews like Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Onyx and Cypress Hill, this time around he continues to pay homage on songs like “Jungle,” which features a chorus reminiscent of Bone’s 1995 album E. 1999 Eternal to go along with Ferg’s Young Thug-esque high-pitched tone.
Ferg also pays homage to T.I.’s "24’s" on the Big K.R.I.T. crafted “Now,” reworking the chorus of the Rubber Band Man’s first big hit. On “Weaves,” he daps up Juvenile’s “Back Dat A** Up” over the Very Rare-produced track which features the mixtape’s most unique percussion pattern.
One of Ferg Forever’s more revealing tracks is “Bonnoroo,” which showcases Ferg’s uncanny storytelling ability –– which might be the most intricate hip hop has seen since the aforementioned K-Dot — as he details the excitement of talking to Lauryn Hill while also expressing a newfound recognition of his own level of fame.
“I spoke to Lauryn last night, man she still got it/She performed 'Ready or Not,' the whole set was rockin’/Skrillex brought me up before her set I did “Shabba”/She said, ‘I watched the whole thing Ferg, your s**t was proper,” rapped Ferg.
Ferg Forever gets more gangsta and more personal for the second half. Songs like the YG-assisted “This Side,” which serves as a shout out to his Blood family and the self explanatory “Hood Tales” show love to the streets, while the more introspective “Commitment Issues” sees a conflicted Ferg arguing with himself over whether or not he should embrace his father’s old habits.
“Ja Rule” is one of the mixtape’s high points, combining a beat reminiscent of “Work” with the A$AP Mob rhymer’s propensity to compare the elements of his own style to traits made famous by others (i.e. “Shabba Ranks”).
Other high notes include “Thug Cry,” centered around a man about to do a 15-year bid, and the maniacal, A$AP Ant-assisted “NV,” which is a lyrical brawl between Ant and the rest of the A$AP family. The "Work" MC also touches on Ferguson on "Talk It," a timely nod.
Perhaps the most ominous track on the mixtape is “Reloaded Let It Go 2” which features M.I.A. and Crystal Caines. The song touches on the dangerous side of Harlem with lines like, “Dead, casualties in Harlem/Drug, guns like galleries in Harlem/No life they’d rather be in coffin/Their right is wrong what the OGs taught ‘em/Get down! That’s what the police taught ‘em/Come with the van, they scoopin’ all ‘em.”
Ferg Forever is the combination of A$AP Ferg’s growth as a person and as an artist. Even on some of the less memorable tracks like “Uncle,” “Doe Active” and the half reggaeton “Jolly,” Ferg’s versatility shines through. As he embraces his growing level of stardom, his music is progressing as well and though his lifestyle raps help get him airplay, he still manages to make hits for the streets without sounding inauthentic.
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(Photo: ASAP Worldwide, Polo Grounds Music, RCA Records)