Since A$AP Ferg burst into the Internet’s consciousness via his Big Moe-ripping carpet ride through Rocky’s “Kissin’ Pink”, he’s built his reputation as a guy with a staunch refusal to stay in tune, stay in one flow, or to not bark his last word in damn near ever bar. The odds of him being able to rein his overarching weirdness into an LP seemed long until a remix of his 2012 song “Work”, with guest verses from a who’s who of Internet rap, blew up, and he became the next guy in the A$AP Empire to get earmarked for a solo turn. Trap Lord is Ferg’s debut, a well-curated LP that snatches and repurposes scraps from cloud rap, distinct ‘90s personalities (Bone Thugs, Master P, DJ Screw), and any number of regional rap styles. It goes without saying that it’s the most fun release from the A$AP Mob to date.
While his A$AP honcho maintains an aura of a suave downtown superstar, despite being willing to wear shredded Ewoks in public, Ferg is the manic, rampaging id of the Mob, a guy who will howl and do multiple bar “OOOOOOH OOOOHHHH” ad-libs over every negative space. Ferg’s unhinged choices continue on Trap Lord; he hardly sounds the same on two tracks here. He sings like a giant disembodied, off-key Isley Brother on “Hood Pope”, and honks and squawks and outshines everyone on “Work (Remix)”. He rides behind the ambling, hazy beat on “Let It Go”, while his flow on “Shabba” hardly ever lines up with any part of the beat. He’s getting a lot of misguided comparisons to ODB, and that’s the only part that carries water; he’s got ODB’s willingness to come off as a totally unhinged weirdo on songs featuring rappers doing regular rapper things (particularly his verse on “Work,” which makes Trinidad Jame$ seem as anodyne as J. Cole).
The knock on A$AP Rocky—which is more prevalent in Ferg—is that their projects often sound like some kind of widescale carpetswagging of older stuff by the likes of Onyx, Bone Thugs, Cypress Hill or trap kings like Waka Flocka Flame. Ferg cuts off that criticism by featuring that exact list on guest features on some of Trap Lord’s best tracks. Ferg doesn’t just pay homage to Onyx and Cypress Hill on “Fuck Out My Face”; he gets B-Real and Onyx to show up and murder their verses (and wash Ferg in the process). Onyx are so great here that it cements them as an unduly-ignored influence across trap music. Fergie could have just sounded like Bone Thugs on “Lord”; instead he paid the remaining four members to pile in on two relentlessly entertaining verses. And he and Waka open up the idea of a A$AP-Brick Squad crossover album on “Murda Something”. The hiring of these guys to do guest spots on an album where he raps like them might be shrewd—it cuts off charges of co-opting—but it reads more like Ferg taking the opportunity to populate his album with whoever he felt like. Where Joey Bada$$ feels like sounding like he stepped out of the skit at the beginning of Illmatic gives him automatic assumed greatness, A$AP filter their influences into their perfectly curated aesthetic sensibilities. This is where Yams’ history as the runner of the (former) best rap Tumblr comes into play.
Thanks to Trap Lord being the blast that it is, the chorus of “Ferg is better than Rocky” is going to get louder. As someone who’s been sure he’s the most entertaining guy in A$AP since his verse on “Kissin’ Pink”, let’s have some perspective here: Ferg gets to make albums with Onyx guest verses and call himself the Hood Pope only because he has none of the expectations that Rocky deals with. He’s playing on an entirely different field than Rocky is at this juncture; all Trap Lord really needed to do was package the “Work” remix alongside 10 tracks and it would have satisfied the criteria for “killing it.” He never has to carry the whole posse on his back, and really, what would that even look like? Ferg will always work better as the endlessly entertaining lieutenant, and in the meantime, gets to make albums as left-field and luxuriant as Trap Lord.
3.5 out of 5
You can purchase Trap Lord on Amazon.