If you missed any of the new reviews this past week including A$AP Ferg's "Still Striving" then do yourself a favor and check out this week's edition of the (W)rap Up!
A$AP Ferg :: Still Striving
A$AP Worldwide/Polo Grounds/RCA Records
Author: Steve 'Flash' Juon
"Darold D. Brown Ferguson Jr. didn't necessarily plan to become a rap (or as he might prefer to say trap) superstar. He had a father who ran a successful t-shirt shop in Harlem and attended art school in hopes of fulfilling his own ambitions as a fashion designer. As fate would have it though Ferguson was high school best friends withA$AP Rocky. You can't find it too surprising that when Rakim Myers blew up that Darold Ferguson would decide "I want my melodies to be heard by the masses too." Ferg bided his time while Ra got the A$AP Mob off the ground, and eventually got his chance to shine solo with his first solo album "Trap Lord" in 2013. Why would Ferg associate with trap though, traditionally understood to be a Southern rap style, when he hails from NYC? Ferg explains: "Trapping means hustling. I went from painting to making clothes to rapping. I always put myself into everything I do one hundred percent. It doesn't matter what I'm working on." Fair enough Ferg. To be honest though there's always been a little bit of Southern swag to the A$AP movement though, right down to the syrupy slowed down sound of Rocky's first crossover hit "Purple Swag." Those same influences can be heard on "Mad Man" featuring Playboi Carti and that's not just because Carti hails from Atlanta. The Honorable C.N.O.T.E. produced tracks samples the song "Tear Da Club Up" by Three 6 Mafia and in particular the song's signature/titular chant. Even the way Ferg spits sounds influenced by Memphis style rapping, the "front-and-you-can-get-done-up, whoever-want-it-can-come-run-up" flow pattern. It's a complete role reversal as Carti sounds more like a Harlem emcee than Ferguson. Generally speaking A$AP rappers sound like they're paying homage to the South as opposed to parodying or mocking the sound, and Ferg in particular doesn't spend his entire album doing it Southern stylee. In fact Kirk Knight's track for the lead single "Plain Jane" sounds more like Chicago's drill style, even though Knight is a Brooklynite from the Pro Era crew. It just shows how widely these influences have spread throughout hip-hop beyond their regional points of origin. As for the topic matter, Ferg pays tribute to the late A$AP Yams, then starts bragging about how he learned his hustle from a young age and overcame the roughness of his "Hungry Ham" neighborhood by being even hungrier - or at the very least thirsty... for sex and success."
J. Stalin :: My Dark Passenger :: Livewire Records/Empire Records
as reviewed by Matt Jost
"As chatty as he can come across, J. Stalin can also be brutally precise. Not many rappers can effectively articulate themselves through raw emotions and bare facts at the same time - at least not anymore. The late Prodigy was not only one of the champions of poetic rap realism but also one of the last ones standing. Active since 2005, the West Oakland representative tries to fill these shoes in his own effusive way. Typically, his candid confessions come with sugary to bittersweet beats, a trademark that only furthers his singularity. If rap insiders or industry executives were to listen to J. Stalin acapellas to figure out what producers he should work with, they'd very likely go for something darker and heavier than the music he is ever so often drawn to. With "My Dark Passenger" the opportunity has come to experience him in a more noir setting. That's not to say that the J. Stalin catalog didn't generate some truly chilling moments so far, often precisely because of the juxtaposition of smooth grooves and harsh raps. But relative unknown LT Beats turns the thermostat down on the melodies, strips the rhythm section of excess baggage, and just generally pursues the more somber strain of Bay Area street hop. Framed by a quote from modern-day Jeckyll and Hyde Dexter Morgan trying to define the dark force that drives him, "My Dark Passenger" also maintains its focus by abstaining from a staple of Stalin's catalog - songs speaking to the fair sex. Instead he circles the familiar either-or options (friend/foe, loyalty/betrayal, starving/balling, do/die...) with matter-of-fact lines that are not oblivious to the delicate balance between dialectic things."
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