A$AP Ferg charges into Still Striving like a boxer in the ring. His movements are precise, calculated and — most importantly — ruthless, packing a powerful punch with every verse.
Ferg is A$AP Mob’s second most famous member, but with Still Striving, he makes the case that he’s the group’s most skillful MC. His vocal dexterity and lyrical chops are the qualities the older rap fans yearn for when they say that the new generation no longer cares about the craft of rapping. Throughout the mixtape, Ferg is amped up, firing off bars at impressive rate over booming 808s, gothic church bells and suspenseful synths and strings. The influence of Three 6 Mafia is audible all over the project, and not just in its dark sound: “Mad Man” samples the horrorcore club anthem “Tear the Club Up” and “Plain Jane” borrows the structure and some of the lyrics of “Slob on my Knob.”
Like a marathon runner — hence the Usain Bolt reference on “Rubber Band Man” — Ferg’s stamina is impressive throughout the tape’s 14 tracks and his energy never falters. Tracks like “Rubber Band Man,” “Aww Yeah” and “East Coast Remix” have the same fired-up tempo of earlier Ferg hits like “Shabba” and “New Level.” They’re songs that make you feel invincible; the kind that instantly make everyone in the club start a mosh pit. But Ferg hardly strays from the formula throughout Still Striving, and the repetitive hooks on some of the tracks — like “Coach Cartier” and “Olympian” — end up sounding rote rather than anthemic.
Ferg is a talented MC, but he sold himself short by essentially making the same song over and over instead of pushing himself to work with new types of cadences or beats. The copious features on the mixtape — which include A$AP Rocky, legends like Cam’ron and Busta Rhymes and upstarts Lil Yachty and MadeinTYO — are the main source of variety, not Ferg himself.
It does say a lot about Ferg’s magnetism as a rapper, however, that many of the featured artists, like Migos, A$AP Rocky and Playboi Carti, emulate his aggressive flow rather than delivering verses in their signature styles. Ferg is the type of rapper who challenges others to keep up, and his collaborators’ respect for his skills are apparent. In a way, 28-year-old Ferg is a sort of equalizer between the new and old generations of hip-hop artists. Cam’ron sounds just as contemporary on the mixtape as Lil Yachty, and Lil Yachty sounds as natural rapping alongside Ferg as Busta Rhymes.
Still Striving isn’t groundbreaking, but it’s a solid record. Ferg has the chops to be considered one of his generation’s greats, but in terms of creative vision and originality, he’s still not quite there.