[Album Review] Always Strive And Prosper :: A$AP Ferg

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I slept soundly on A$AP Ferg until some time last year when I heard the “Work” remix, featuring French Montana, Trinidad James, Schoolboy Q and fellow A$AP cohort Rocky. The energy on that record alone inspired me to pick up 2013’s Trap Lord out of curiosity (and by pick up, I mean “save” on Spotify) and I was pleasantly surprised. I slept on Ferg before this point mostly because of the disdain I have for the music of A$AP Rocky, front-runner of the A$AP crew. Something about this guy in little-sister braids calling himself “pretty” on songs that I couldn’t quite rock to. Nevertheless, Ferg brought something different to the table on Trap Lord and later records like the hilarious “Doe-Active”, which indicated an ambition beyond what his friend was offering musically.

I was fully onboard when I stumbled upon the Complex City Cypher where Ferg appeared alongside RATKING’s Wiki and one of my favorite current rappers, Your Old Droog, with jazz musician Christian Scott and band providing the musical backdrop. Ferg’s compelling verse from the cypher eventually ended up on “Beautiful People” on Always Strive And Prosper, which was much to my disappointment, one of few bright spots on the album.

“Strive” is easily the worst song on the album by far and (because I don’t usually lend my ear to things I think will be horrible) probably the worst thing I’ve heard all year. While I didn’t have high hopes for a Missy Elliott feature, her input ended up being the only salvageable part of the song for me. Ferg’s hook sounds like a rather dry imitation of dance-pop music one would expect to hear from someone not quite old enough to recall when dance and house and hip-hop used to get equal burn on the same urban radio stations. This sounded like Barbie Girl 2016. I’ll be looking forward to a remix at some point of “Swipe Life”, which unfortunately squanders a Rick Ross feature on a song with a weak concept and chorus, but a hard-hitting beat and decent input from Rozay.

The very busy “Uzi Gang” was my first introduction to the recently popular Lil Uzi Vert and I’m not surprised to be saying I won’t be looking for further material from him (the Internets tend to suck at recommending rappers). Big Sean appears on “World Is Mine”, yet again dropping the same middle-school-notebook bars that young rap fans seem inexplicably impressed with since his debut. Needless to say, that song was also a dud. I wanted to enjoy “New Level”, but Future’s guest appearance seemed like a throwaway, as if Ferg could have easily saved his imprint some cash and just paid Future’s vocal stunt double, Desiigner, instead. Oh, and “I Love You” featuring Chris Brown and Ty Dolla $ign was a dose of guy-with-nosering music I didn’t need in my life.

On the bright side, “Let It Bang”, an ode to wild but troubled uncles, is a song I can’t get enough of and really should have been the standard the rest of the album was held to throughout its production, seeing as how this song was released as a single relatively early on. This was a topic I can relate to personally due to losing two uncles over the past couple of years. Schoolboy Q manages to redeem himself for me after what I felt was an underwhelming last album (Oxymoron) and other recent records like “Groovy Tony” indicate he’s on an improvement streak. “Psycho” worked perfectly as an intro of sorts to “Let It Bang”, discussing the life of Ferg’s Uncle Psycho in an honest but endearing way, while Uncle Psycho himself has some dialogue that bleeds over onto the next track. The dreamy production serves well as a precursor to the energy on “Bang”.

Ferg has displayed the Drunken Master musicality and off-kilter melodic tendencies of an ODB before, but lacks the unbridled creativity to pull off the same chaos here. Ferg at times has the ferocity of a young Busta Rhymes, but seems to shy away from showing and proving that beneath all that energy he can also rhyme well, as Busta often did. Always Strive And Prosper is, to me, a botched attempt at trying to reign in some of the wildness that made Trap Lord so interesting. Even the random, seemingly freestyled loosie he dropped days before the album’s release would have been better than some of the finished records he chose for this album. Ultimately, due to the rather simple palates of many new rap fans, Ferg definitely stands to prosper from the blatantly commercial leanings of this album, but I don’t see where he’s striving to be recognized as an improving MC or one who stands out from his decidedly less creative contemporaries who don’t have the same potential I witnessed on Trap Lord.

JerrySeinfeld

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Let It Bang [Video] :: A$AP Ferg f. Schoolboy Q

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A$AP Ferg channels 90s Wu-Tang on this latest record off of his upcoming Always Strive And Prosper LP. Though I wasn’t at all impressed with Schoolboy Q’s last album, I was pleasantly surprised by his verse here. As for Ferg himself, I think he’s a unique and clever MC who’s well on his way to surpassing his A$AP cohorts by leaps and bounds creatively. I’m here for the come-up.

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[Album Review] Oxymoron :: Schoolboy Q

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It took me some time to figure out that, though I wanted to appreciate Kendrick Lamar’s critically acclaimed album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, I really prefer Lamar as a featured guest on other rapper’s projects.  I was on the fence about labelmate Schoolboy Q until I received a copy of his latest project, Oxymoron.  While each track features quality production in terms of achieving what they were going for, as a whole this album is all over the place and a little too trendy for its own good.  There’s a studied lackadaisical element to Schoolboy’s flow that just comes off as lazy in parts and potentially genius in others.  Hopefully, him finding more consistency comes in time.

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Intoxication seems to be a running theme and therein lies the problem.  However, while one could enjoy anything in Cypress Hill’s catalog without ever touching weed, it seems like Schoolboy’s music requires some heavier drugs to actually tolerate for more than two consecutive tracks.  The unimaginative and excruciatingly repetitive hooks and Q’s tendency to ramble on and yelp in the background incessantly made small doses of this album the only viable option for replay value.  The EDM/trap influence also made tracks like “Hell Of A Night”, “Los Awesome” and “Prescription/Oxymoron” difficult to tolerate and will also make sure that this album remains right in the here and now due to trendiness.  It’s far from a timeless effort and just doesn’t succeed as one cohesive vision like good kid, m.A.A.d city did, though dedicated fans of Q’s will have a good time with it.

“The Purge” featuring Tyler The Creator and Kurupt was a standout for me, if only because I appreciated hearing a Kurupt verse.  The hook’s repetition of the words “yeah, nigga” seemed like lazy filler between verses.  Another guest, Raekwon, outshines Schoolboy on “Blind Threats”, another standout on the album with top notch production reminiscent of classic Wu with a modern touch.  “What They Want” featuring 2 Chainz was predictably garbage while I marveled about the great things that could have been done by better artists on “Studio”, which featured BJ the Chicago Kid in a typical “I sing but look, I curse and talk about vagina like I’m a rapper, how cool!” fashion.

Maybe I’m just too old.  I came up in an era where dudes pushed the pills to rave-goers, but you were a weirdo if you were taking them…and now it’s all certain guys rap about.  But I also realize when something isn’t personally for me but is well done and this isn’t that.  While Schoolboy’s Molly-addled fans will probably eat this up, I don’t see this as the kind of album people will be talking about in a year.  But in the age of a la carte music purchases, nobody gives a shit about long-players or about making cohesive albums intended to be listened to all the way through.  In reading some of the other reviews for this album, I sometimes get the feeling that reviewers are finding new ways to say the same things about the “hot” album.  One can’t help but think that some of these music sites act in the interest of staying on the good side of whoever’s “on” at the moment.  That isn’t to say that Oxymoron is undeserving of positive opinions, but some of the praise seems to be over the top, which I’m sure is fueled by the significant anticipation that’s been building for it since last year.  This is a very now record, whether you think that’s a good thing or a bad one, but I’m of the mind-set that even things that come off as current should still show some sign of being playable a year out from their release and I unfortunately don’t see that for Oxymoron.  Here’s to wanting better for Ab-Soul’s expected 2014 release…hopefully with a more palatable feature from Schoolboy on it.

 

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