Hip Hop/ Rap

Published on May 9th, 2016 | by gatsbyadmin

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“Always $trive and Prosper” – album review

Art being personal, sources of inspiration differ depending on the artist. Consider rap artistry as more than music, rap tracks as more than lyrics and instrumentals. Consider rap as a craft that seeks to reproduce context and lived experience. Perhaps this is why questions of authenticity matter to rappers and their audience whereas nobody seems to ask if country musicians are actual cowboys or if pop love songs are about real relationships. Sometimes there is more to a song than the song.

In 2012, Ferg blew up as part of the A$AP Mob on the already-classic ‘Lord$ Never Worry’ mixtape. He has since made strides in the fashion industry while dropping bangers with and without the Mob including “Work,” and “Shabba.” Defying many critics, he stepped out of A$AP Rocky’s shadow and began to cast his own.

Still, as a fan I can honestly say I didn’t expect Ferg to make another great tape. Seeing him excel in other venues while upping the quality ratio on his solo albums by shuffling in old A$AP Mob cuts, I figured he was finding satisfaction – a dangerous discovery for an artist. So I’m a selfish fan. Whatever.

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Then it happened. When A$AP Yams, a founding member and the ‘man behind the scenes,’ passed away in early 2015 at the age of 26 the Mob responded with tribute songs and public statements. Loss is part of life but it still sucks.

Loss and gratitude intersect at the point where art is made which kinda sucks when you think about it. It isn’t that loss ignites creative passion so much as artists have a way of making amazing things out of that which regular people merely hope to survive. It took a minute but Ferg made ‘Always $trive And Prosper.’

A sense of family and reflection saturate the new album and the results are beautiful. Ferg offers a fresh glimpse into his experiencing of fame, love, and time. He expands the notion of family by dedicating songs to his uncle, his grandma, his friends, and Yams (even bringing in Yams’ mother Tatiana Paulino to speak).

Features that would make a red carpet blush help Ferg tell the story. Missy Elliott lifts us up with a track about seizing opportunity (“Strive”) as does Chuck D on a track about striving through survival (“Beautiful People,” also featuring Mama Ferg). Frequent A$AP collaborator Crystal Caines is brought onto the Skrillex production “Hungry Ham” to help depict a young Trap Lord’s neighborhood and his decision to commit to rap music.

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A gruff Schoolboy Q kills it on “Let it Bang,” which draws parallels between the wars black men fight, foreign and domestic. Future’s work on “New Level” is so good it sort of makes one wonder if he intentionally tanked his verse on the new Drake. Big Sean helps Ferg explore the internal battles between fame, love, and loyalty (“World is Mine”). There’s more, too. Listen closely and you can hear Ferg gaining strength from the artists around him and they from him. This is what rap collaboration is all about: interweaving experiences and aesthetics to create something authentic and unique.

Great rappers, like super heroes, take us somewhere special during their origin story. When artists grant access to their full arc we can both identify and be inspired by them. Actively authentic, rap may be the most dynamic musical genre ever. Great rap never comes easy. The proof is in the struggling. The prosperity is in the striving. If you see Ferg in the street, thank him.

 

Written by: Martin Osborn @o_z.z_y

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