When A$AP Rocky released his debut studio album Long.Live.A$AP in January, the expectations for the project were so high that it was almost impossible the final product would suppress the amount of hype it had accumulated since the release of his universally acclaimed 2011 mixtape Live.Love.A$AP.
While Long.Live.A$AP wasn’t a failure by any stretch of the imagination, it certainly didn’t match the creative standard set by his mixtape and the result was a solid album with a big commercial push that made it feel less organic than his earlier work.
Mostly overshadowed by Rocky’s run of solo success was the 2012 summer mixtape Lords Never Worry by the A$AP Mob as a collective which displayed the skills of many different group members including A$AP Ty Beats, A$AP Nast, A$AP Twelvyy and of course A$AP Ferg.
Ferg’s grimy lyrical vision on the song “Persian Wine” caught the attention of many A$AP loyalists but it was the head-banging bassline of “Work” that catapulted him into Rocky’s stratosphere — albeit to a lesser extent.
With the release of Ferg’s debut album Trap Lord, the 24-year-old Harlem native might not have a mainstream following to the level of Rocky but the album’s unique vision far surpasses the level of artistic originality present on his ASAP comrade’s debut.
From the instrumentals to the lyrics to the album cover, everything about Trap Lord seems to be meticulously calculated with an unbelievable eye for detail. Ferg is a rapper who is up on his hip-hop knowledge and puts it all on display for his fans with almost every song on the album.
Perhaps the most ingenious thing about Trap Lord, despite how simple it sounds, is Ferg’s ability to create a unified sound that never steers off-path throughout the entire album. It’s dark, murky and sounds like you’re in a basement listening to tracks surrounded by a bunch of guys with hoods on, but it’s such a refreshing experience to hear an artist stick to one clear narrative that never wavers even for a second.
The album begins on the ethereal “Let It Go” with a background sound that brings to mind some Haitian voodoo ritual but leaves the listener bouncing their head and makes Ferg sound like the east coast version of the Dungeon Family’s Witchdoctor who was also known for his unconventional, otherworldly flow.
Ferg balances Trap Lord with tracks that pay homage to hip-hop pioneers while creating a new lane for him to shine as a more modern lyrical practitioner. Songs like “Lord” featuring Bone Thugs-N-Harmony and “Fuck Out My Face” boasting an impressive tandem of guest appearances from B-Real, Onyx and Aston Matthews are fitting nods to early ‘90s hip-hop.
One of Trap Lord’s many standout tracks, “Didn’t Wanna Do That,” finds Ferg half-rapping, half-singing over a bassline that has a definite funk influence and fits brilliantly with his harmonic verses. “Cocaine Castle” presents an airy vision of a crack house partially inspired by Spike Lee’s 1991 film Jungle Fever, the song effortlessly breezes through some of the most disturbing lyrical imagery that not only shocks but also informs.
On Trap Lord, Ferg attempts to lure his listeners into his vibrantly twisted world and it succeeds on almost every single level. While it might be difficult for him to gain an audience to the level of Rocky, the project itself is the most impressive offering from the ASAP Mob yet that solidifies Ferg as the definite creative spearhead of the crew on one of the best hip-hop albums of the year so far.
Sometimes it pays to be second.
Get at me on Twitter @PatCwiklinski.