‘Still Striving’ survives but does not thrive

Photo courtesy of RCA Records

A$AP Ferg dropped his “Still Striving” project this week as part of a release campaign by the entire A$AP Mob called AWGEST (a portmanteau of AWGE and August) and brought an army of features to support it. Seemingly dropping a new song every other week, Ferg has not been absent by any means in the last year, and it does not look like that will change. With his latest effort, the Trap Lord sticks to his tried and true method.

From the onset, it was difficult to categorize “Still Striving.” While it was called an album, its 48 minute length and lack of cohesion make it feel more like a mixtape. Of course, in the modern era, this classification does not really matter to the large majority of fans. No one is buying the physical album, so the difference to them is simply semantics.

Whether it is an EP or a “playlist,” at the end of the day, it is still a collection of songs. Indeed, that is the weakness of “Still Striving”: it is a bunch of songs with hard hitting production that features a bunch of famous rappers rather than any sort of statement or view into the world of the artist.

The A$AP Mob has always had to deal with the perception that all they care about is style, and that depth does not factor into their music. Anyone who listens to the first half of “Still Striving” would be justified in thinking so. While the first track “Trap And A Dream” cleverly features the king of intros himself, Meek Mill, the rest of the tracks feel
incredibly shallow.

The first half of “Still Striving” simply feels bland for the most part. Forgettable beats and banal lyrics make 20 minutes feel like an hour. To make matters worse, Ferg enlisted Famous Dex, an alleged documented domestic abuser, for “Coach Cartier,” leaving a sour taste in the mouth of anyone who has seen the disturbing footage of Dex allegedly beating his girlfriend just last year.

Considering that the A$AP Mob’s “Wrong” video from just a month ago showcased Rocky wearing a shirt saying “We Should All Be Feminists” on it, Ferg’s ability to look the other way takes this to a new level of disrespectful. Even Killa Cam could not save the first seven songs.

The project recovers with “Plain Jane,” the single released in June. Ferg starts to sound like himself again, and from this track onwards “Still Striving” continues to improve. The best moment of the album comes in a shared verse from Ferg and the leader of the Mob, A$AP Rocky, on “Mattress REMIX.”

Even someone completely uninformed of the two would be able to tell how good of friends they are, as they both drip with that patented effortlessness that embodies their crew. Their collaboration is almost enough to make one forget that Famous Dex and Rich the Kid follow right afterwards in the same track.

The obvious hit of the album is the “East Coast” remix. With seemingly infinite internal rhymes, the song, which was released a few days before the album, will stand the test of time as a rap classic. Reminiscent of the “Work” remix, the song makes it clear that the Hood Pope has a knack for inspiring the best in some of the most revered rappers.

Although the tape started weak, how much Ferg has inserted himself into the different branches of hip hop remains impressive. Few people will try to combat with Busta Rhymes or Cam’Ron a couple of minutes after a Lil Yachty verse.

As much as the features are varied, the most unexpected moments come from the last two tracks, which do not feature a rapper. “Nandos” sounds like it belongs on Metroid Prime (the single greatest videogame soundtrack, for the unacquainted), and when Ferg hops on this beat he proves his place within the ranks of the “weirdos” of hip hop: Andre 3000, Danny Brown and the like. Similar to “Nandos,” “Tango” offers a braggadocious but personal viewpoint for a strong finish after a shaky start.

Though not the strongest work by A$AP Ferg, when a talent who has a unique style puts out even slightly under par work, it still provides something for everyone’s “favorites” playlist on
Spotify. Hopefully future releases will contain more of the anthem-making typical of Ferg and some more of the vulnerable sound featured on this mixtape.