ASAP Ferg Sticks to His Roots on ‘Still Striving’ Mixtape
On A$AP Ferg's last album, Always Strive and Prosper, the Harlem rapper found himself more personal and introspective than ever. The album saw Ferg reflecting on death, particularly the passing of his friend A$AP Yams and his grandmother. While the project had its fair share of the hard-hitting street raps that made Ferg the "Trap Lord" in the first place, it was a refreshing look at a more intimate side of the rapper that listeners had rarely seen. The effort also featured Ferg experimenting with his sound a bit more.
Still Striving is Ferg's first release since that LP showcased a sort of maturation for the MC. It's part of A$AP Mob's month of Awgest, along with A$AP Twelvyy's debut 12 and the Mob's second volume of the Cozy Tapes. The tape sees Ferg going back behind the curtain once again, showing less of that introspection and more of the fun trap music that got him attention on Trap Lord.
The project has the designation of a mixtape and not an album, and it very much feels like it should be given that distinction. Unlike Always Strive and Prosper and Trap Lord, it feels less cohesive as a unit and more like a collection of songs that Ferg appears on. Still Striving is a fun project that will appease fans of A$AP Mob, but it's not going to reach the heights of those albums.
Ferg has never shied away from releasing guest-heavy projects, but Still Striving feels especially guest-heavy. Only three songs feature more than one verse from Ferg. He'll also provide hook duties, intros and outros, but his actual rapping seems to be at a minimum. This allows for a massive collection of guests to take the mic away, including A$AP Rocky, Meek Mill, Cam'ron, Busta Rhymes, Migos, Rick Ross, Snoop Dogg and more.
Still Striving seems especially interested in giving young rappers a chance to shine. With the likes of Lil Yachty, Playboi Carti, MadeinTYO and Famous Dex showing up on the project, there's a huge youthful energy that abounds. Carti gets two opportunities to shine, including a fun turn on "Mad Man" ("Poppin' these pills in the coupe/I'm on the roof like I'm batman/Margiela mad man"). The rest of the lines aren't as memorable, but Carti has enough fun to sell it. Fellow New York MC Dave East also gets two turns on the microphone, killing it on "Olympian" and the "East Coast" remix.
While the guest features for the most part are worthwhile and showcase Ferg's chemistry with both the old and new generations of rappers, it's also the project's most glaring flaw. It may be especially nice to see him put young talent on, but you get the feeling occasionally that Ferg is absent from his own project.
The production provides a dark, sinister trap background for Ferg's raps about dope, money and women. Kirk Knight's work on the keys shines on both "Plain Jane" and "Nandos." DJ Khalil and Tariq Beats' work on "East Coast" is perfectly grimy for the massive lineup of rappers that show up. Frankie P ends up being the star of the show on the boards, with five tracks he produced on the project. Frankie's atmospheric soundscapes mesh really well with the vibes of Ferg and his collaborators.
Most of the project might be a return to the trap sound that made Ferg famous, but it's still when he does decide to show that personality and bit of introspection that the project really shines. On "Tango," he reflects on his family. "Just found out my daddy died for the wrong reasons/Wasn't the kidney that took him, it was the bad treatment/Ain't go to court because our heart was still bleedin'/Family grievin', no money could fix the pain that we feelin'," he rhymes before going on to reflect on his success and conversations he's had with Yams' mother. He also references his family and upbringing on "Plain Jane," mentioning growing up around his drug dealer uncle and talking about his late grandmother's arthritis. These are the moments Ferg's voice really sticks out, and he comes across as more than another Harlem street rapper.
Those personal moments are the ones where the excess of guest appearances comes off as a problem the most. Just when it seems Ferg might be getting in a groove on a track, it's off to another guest feature. It makes Still Striving feel like more of a holdover for fans until the real studio follow-up to Always Strive and Prosper comes. The mixtape can be fun, but fans looking for more of Ferg's growth that he's shown on past projects may come up disappointed.