There was a time when it seemed like A$AP Ferg’s debut mixtape Trap Lord would never see the light of day. Since the A$AP Mob member’s introduction to the world on standout cuts “Persian Wine” and “Work” from the collective’s 2012 Lord$ Never Worry mixtape, fans who desired a grittier, more versatile answer to A$AP Rocky’s efficient but clean-cut raps called for Ferg to release a project. As the pleas grew louder, Ferg started to tease his project and miss new release dates with every passing month. Then in May (days after Lord’s most recent “release date”), he finally came out and said it—Trap Lord was set to drop on August 20. Since then, the project was upgraded from free mixtape to a studio album, which actually (really) drops today.
On first listen, Trap Lord is a fun ride chauffeured by a sex—and braggadocio—obsessed Ferg. Through 13 tracks, he soundtracks the type of night you imagine the Mob has when they’re back home in New York—filled with bountiful amounts of sex, drugs, money and nondescript, boastful fuckery. If there’s one thing Ferg knows how to do, it’s get you in the mood to rage, and so Trap Lord is sprinkled with a handful of party-starters, including: rowdy posse cut “Work (Remix),” with a beat so booming even French Montana’s lyrical deficiency couldn’t ruin it; the Waka Flocka-assisted anthem “Murda Something,” a perfect collaboration that establishes Waka and Ferg as a raucous tag team made in trap heaven; and “Dump Dump,” which features the aggro, all-caps refrain “I FUCKED YOUR BITCH, NIGGA, I FUCKED YOUR BITCH.”
The problem with Ferg’s swag raps, though, is that like any party (or after-party) that goes on for too long, it ends up just feeling overwrought and repetitive, as if he set out to pen How To Make Illuminati Rap For Dummies. An easy touchstone to compare Ferg’s Trap Lord to would be his friend Rocky’s—their styles, subject matters and aesthetics are nearly identical—debut Long.Live.A$AP, which soared to the top spot on Billboard partly because of its radio-friendly single “Fuckin’ Problems,” but mostly because it was a solid, diverse and interesting album that kept listeners intrigued throughout. Rocky’s debut had depth, where Ferg’s Trap Lord submits to cliches and reiterates the same ideas over similar-sounding production. Then there’s “4:02,” a three and a half minute interlude that finds Ferg narrating a threesome starring… you guessed it, your bitch.
What’s most disappointing about Trap Lord is that Ferg’s vocal dexterity and general weirdness could yield some incredible music. Just take a listen to his bat-shit crazy verse on “Ghetto Symphony,” a bonus cut from Rocky’s debut, where Ferg bends his voice, stops, starts, dips and dives through a rapid-fire 16 filled with references to OutKast, Chips Ahoy! and Arnold Schwarzenegger. It’s un-duplicatable superhero rap from a guy who convinces you he could do anything on the right beat, but just as promising as that verse is, Trap Lord’s 13 tracks are indicative of a rapper who may be way more limited than we thought. The project is also marred by a litany of unnecessary references to Rocky and the rest of the A$AP Mob, perhaps hinting that Ferg is afraid or unable to stand on his own without his cohorts behind him.
Still, there are a few shining moments on Trap Lord, like the swaying “Hood Pope,” which finds Ferg crooning about finding his purpose in bleak surroundings, and “Cocaine Castle,” a ruminating, meandering ode to the dark side of drug excess. For a guy who’s able to craft such challenging songs, it’s a shame to see him waste his talent on a batch of hood anthems, but maybe that’s all it takes to become a Trap Lord. On the album’s intro, A$AP Mob’s leader A$AP Yams proclaims, “The limbs never been so relaxed, ever.” You can’t help but wonder if Ferg hadn’t been so relaxed making Trap Lord, it might’ve come out a much stronger work.