New York Hip Hop hasn’t been what it used to be, and a lot of people have recognized that. Southern Hip Hop (a combination of Houston and Atlanta) has had a major influence on Hip Hop as a whole, because the ‘trap’ beats are what have been popular for a while now. Now, older New York rappers who embraced that East Coast feel, they take shots at the NY rappers who rap like they’re from the South. Ironically, all of the talk started off when A$AP Rocky came on the scene with Purple Swag and his chopped & screwed influence in his music – that wasn’t New York, and the whole A$AP Mob took flack for it ever since, because they don’t have that traditional sound that the city firmly embraces. Enter A$AP Ferg, the Trap Lord. The ‘trap’ is in relation to hustling, and the streets of Harlem are his Kingdom. Off the bat, from the title alone, you know that this album is going to touch on street life, drugs, money, and women. It’s something that’s been repetitive for some time, and the fact that this was initially supposed to be a mixtape, but turned into an album, it gives you an idea as to what kind of execution he’d come up with for his first solo project. When I was given the opportunity to sit with him and chat about the album, he revealed that he thinks himself more so as an artist than a rapper, drawing a comparison to Basquiat and how he started off. Hip Hop is a form of art, and it should be treated as such, and with music being a religion in which he is a preacher, bow your heads in prayer.
Given his background of songs and individual verses prior to the album, I really had no expectations for what he’d be able to put on his own two feet, but Let It Go set the tone for essentially what the album as a whole would sound like – hard hitting bass, catchy – well formed hooks, and mediocre to average lyrics. What also would be a theme of the album would be a depiction of how the street life in Harlem is. Harlem has been notorious for their violence (yes, before the wave of Chicago took to the mainstream media), and this is where A$AP originates. A$AP Rocky touched on the subject of the streets here and there on LongLiveA$AP, but Ferg has a more gangster presence to him, so he’d be more into the nitty gritty of it all.
Kill a motherfucka with the magnum or the 4
’bout a jump snump, nigga, magnum on the road
Body full of bullets when he found him on the road
Lay a fucker down, spray it at him then reload
It’s incredibly easy to love and/or hate Shabba because of the hook alone (I mean, my own mother likes the song – thanks ESPN), but listening to the song itself, there’s not much to it that stands out beyond the hook, other than the sing-song 2nd half portion of each verse (including one from Rocky). It’s a song that fit a summer jam, because of the fact that Shabba Ranks (legendary Reggae artist, if you didn’t know) is used as a reference (and actually makes a cameo for the video), and also because in the club or whatever event where music is played loudly, it gets the energy going – it serves its purpose.
Now, you may or may not have remembered all of the discussions when A$AP first came on the scene and they were getting comparisons to Bone Thugs N Harmony, but because of the style that Rocky had with his first couple of mixtapes, it wasn’t exactly difficult to point out whom he was inspired by, although it wasn’t who he admitted to being inspired by
Write it on my tombstone, I was stoned nigga
Don’t remember me as a wannabe New Orleans nigga
Slash lean sipping, Tennessee nigga, nah
Influenced by Houston, hear it in my music
A trill nigga to the truest, show you how to do that – Palace (LiveLoveA$AP)
Bone Thugs were unique in their own fashion because of their style of fast rap, but could still hold meaningful context in their lyrics (Crossroads is in fact one of the best rap songs ever made, to this day). How Ferg managed to get the group (minus Wish Bone) back together on Lord and rap to the same tempo of them is beyond me, but he held his own 100%. The way I look at it, and many may call it blasphemous, but it’s like a newer version of Biggie’s Notorious Thugs, because Biggie had to take on the task of rapping with the ‘thuggish, ruggish bone’, and that’s not exactly an easy task, but Ferg was able to keep up with them. Their melodic flows fit the theme of it being a ‘religious’ feel, and I liked especially how at the end, there was a little prayer that led right into Hood Pope (which is probably in my top favourites on the album).
And we sick, cause we hurting
Pull a chrome fifth when they murk them
Then murk off in Excursion
All cause a nigga be lurking
Big money shit we earning
A bunch of hooligans need churching
I’m the Hood Pope, these my children
And I’ll be their Donny McClurkin
The lack of respectable figures to look out for the unwanted souls has been an issue for a while, and how Ferg perceives himself would be Sacrilege to many, but he’s singing his ‘hymn’ for the streets through the eyes of those who can’t tell it for themselves. Donny McClurkin is a gospel singer (hence, “let me sing my song” in the hook), and he brings uplifting messages in his music. Now, rap as a form of religion is looked as uplifting for a lot of people, so that’s the point he’s trying to get across. The 2nd verse stood out because as the stereotype goes, Single mothers lose their sons to gun violence more than any others, because when kids who were good and turned on by the street life and the streets claim their lives, it’s the last calls by the mothers that want their children back to undo the mistakes they’ve done, but the gruesome reality is that they’ve been lost, and it’s something that happens every day. That hit me a bit, so I salute Ferg for the imagery it painted.
Fergivicious (not to be confused with Fergielicious, although he plays along with that) is pretty much an introduction to Ferg, because a lot of people don’t really know who he is as an individual in the A$AP Mob. He too, like Rocky, lost his father and that’s how their able to relate to each other not only as rappers, but friends as well. Ferg takes the time to pay homage to his father on various tracks (even on the Work remix, the ending of Rocky’s verse brings that connection as well), and in an industry full of rappers who have had their fathers have little or zero involvement in their lives (but have fuelled motivations to excel), it’s a nice change to see the respect for fathers shown – I felt like that was sincere and important.
Skits and interludes are common, but most of the time, they’re not as entertaining (on albums, at least) like they used to be. 4:02 is labeled as a track, but it could easily be an interlude at the same time. The feel of it is very relaxed, vibrant, and given the time that it takes place (4:02 AM perhaps, if we’re taking shots in the dark), it’s definitely Booty Call hours, which is the premise behind it all, but here’s the kicker – Ferg’s sleeping with his girl and another man’s girl AT THE SAME DAMN – you get the idea (watch the flourish). Ferg had a clash of CuDi/Drake (but not simp Drake) based on the vibe given off from the singing, but I thought it was alright since he was high & drunk in the imagery. I like how the songs flowed into each other for the most part instead of stopping and going constantly, as well – that’s good mixing, but also good to maintain the attention span of the listener. The beats are dope so far, so I didn’t have a lot to complain about.
Between the next batch of tracks, two out of four of them I didn’t care for. For Dump Dump, it was a continuation from 4:02, but at the same time he brought out that Southern Trap sound (and flow alike), which is good for a certain amount of time, but eventually you’ll just let go of it since it starts to fade into the ‘songs that sound like 1000 others’ category. The Work Remix annoyed me because of French Montana & Trinidad James’ verses. I mean, Ferg was doing so well with having Bone Thugs featured, but then this happens. Good thing I have a version with just Ferg, ScHoolboy Q, and Rocky’s verses (although Rocky’s verse was crap). Whatever happened to remixes that used a completely different beat? I miss those. Murda Something, with an actually decent ‘rapping-and-not-screaming-his-usual-ad-libs’ verse from Waka Flocka was alright, but I didn’t like the beat; I just found it plain and didn’t live up to the hype that I had for it, since they’re such energetic rappers.
In between those mediocre three, Didn’t Wanna Do That sounded like something I wanted to hear. I don’t know if it was just me, but this track sounded like ScHoolboy Q could have done this track and no one would have noticed the difference (especially with the ad-libs in the background on the first verse). You got a bit of Biggie’s Warning influence in there as well with the phone conversation (I mean, everyone uses it at some point), but it felt like another interlude that was once again transitioning to another setting on the album like a movie scene change.
It’s crazy that at this point it’s nearing the end of the album, because I felt like it was all the way fulfilling; like for some reason, I was anticipating more than just 13 songs (although they used to be this short back in the day – but with complete tracks). Make A (crime) Scene has a wicked beat and the song overall was dope since it portrayed a lot of common street thuggery moments: Girls setting up dudes to get robbed (real life) and gun violence.
Neighbourhood is rough
And livin’ ain’t easy
Streets is so mean
Bout to make a scene
There’s like 1 and a half verses to this track, so there wasn’t much to shed light on, but how the ending of the song merged into Fuck Out My Face, I honestly thought it was still one song, because it had the same beat. I don’t know where Ferg found Onyx & B-Real at, but that was crazy. I love the hook, because it’s true, sometimes you just want to tell someone to literally get the fuck out of your face. I’m glad that it’s in song format, so you can sing (or rap) it to them on a periodic basis.
Cocaine Castle being the last song on the album shed light on a real thing that goes on in a lot of impoverished inner-cities – crack houses. The Cocaine Castle is a crack house where just about anybody and everybody who wanted crack cocaine went to do their business. Unless you’ve actually been to a crack house, or the closest you’ve come to was watching Bubbles and Johnny shoot heroin in The Wire, or Pookie in New Jack City, then you don’t really get a deep perspective as to what it’s like in one. I mean, I’m not trying to see one anytime soon, but I’m familiar with the idea.
Another day at the crack house, where demons be talking to fiends
Couple hits and a blackout, needles be stuck all in their veins
Sing a song that be stuck all in your brain
That shit so potent, it have you doing devilish things
Being an addict is no joke, and although I can’t exactly wrap my head around as to why people would do that to themselves, I understand that it’s escapism for many – and that applies to all addictions: retail therapy, alcohol, porn, etc. Crack is no different than them, and this is their reality. In the famous words of Tyrone Biggums:
“Remember what the Bible says: He who is without sin, cast the first rock. And I shall smoketh it”
I’m glad that this turned out to be an album more than a mixtape, because of the artistic value that was put in (not saying it was mind blowing, but for a first solo project, it’s a good start for him). Ferg had the mindset to go about this project with an album outlook than a mixtape, because albums hold more value (although mixtapes initially get you the buzz) and what he put out is a good start, considering that more popular artists who have put out multiple mixtapes beforehand, have underwhelmed with their first albums (I’m looking at you, J.Cole). So, I don’t knock Ferg. It’s fit for the summer with the production, while lyrically, he’s got work to do – I bought it anyways; he gave me my first interview (which you can check here), so I could at least do that much. But for now, this is my opinion, this is my review
That’s My Word & It STiXX