Abe Beame does not tread lightly.
With Trap Lord, Darold Ferguson Jr. introduces some much needed chaos to the A$AP universe. It’s bizarre, ugly and fascinating at every turn, fronted by an emotive wild card with a wildly malleable flow. The first member of the A$AP Mob to drop a solo record is able to easily ape musical Southern cadences and the rapid-fire flows practiced in the Midwest. Yet his real talent is a fusion of the two.
Rapping in a a rapid, punchy bark that he adjusts at will, Ferg is perfectly suited to the rigid metronomic bounce of turn-up/trap culture. His true ace in the hole is that he delivers his words with a smirking humor that has been largely absent from his fellow New York trap practitioners — yet so vital to their Southern counterparts.
It’s a style that proves infectious. On “Shabba Ranks” Ferg’s partner Rocky, no slouch in the style department, largely follows Ferg’s cadences note for note. The real shock comes on “Lord,” the album’s best song. Major A$AP mob influences, Bone Thugs-n-Harmony sit in and incredibly, practice their best Ferg impression — setting up a classic Young Chris scenario in which the mentor takes his cues from the mentee. The intensely melodic trademark Thug flow is tempered, with the smooth edges roughed, syllables punched just a little harder and a little closer to plain speaking voices, very much in the style of Ferg. The crew seemingly hasn’t missed a beat and absolutely destroy the track, potentially improving on Ferg’s interpretation of their classic shit and making it a contender for a top 10 song of the year.
Throughout Trap Lord, Ferg masterfully adjusts pace and pitch with improvisation more reminiscent of Gillespie than Ross. The result is a feeling of excitement and unpredictability. At what point will he drop into patois? When will he drop a gear into double time? Regardless of when or how, he comes correct, Ferg is an instinctual rapper and gleefully bounces around each beat like a show-off brilliant child.
His assurance and polish reminds you of Rocky on Live.Love.A$AP. On both projects, rappers with only a handful of previously released tracks, delivered accomplished and fully realized efforts with few missteps. They both fit the completist old school definition of a full album experience with a new school mood and aesthetic.
With its repetitive hooks, monotonously violent, misogynistic subject matter and woozy yet technically proficient raps, this is pure trap — living up to its billing and veering sharply from the gorgeous ambient beats Rocky glides all over. It’s also aggressively and intentionally ugly. Ferg selects thundering, tinny bounce tracks — many courtesy of Frankie P — whose contributions suggest a mainstream grab in light of his beautiful, jazz influenced instrumental album Hazy Nights in the Heights.
But the star here remains A$AP Ferg who has made a style-driven, modern New York rap album that doesn’t mire itself in the muck of how cold is it in Queensbridge in February. It’s fun and endlessly listenable. Recommended for those who like it raw.