A$AP Ferg is kind of a dork. Plenty of evidence supports this claim, but none of it is more persuasive than “Bonnoroo,” the track where Ferg enthuses about the weekend he just spent at a festival while also hilariously misspelling that festival’s name. On “Bonnoroo,” Ferg rhymes “Diplo” with “they taking off they shit slow,” expresses absolute disbelief that Lauryn Hill watched him perform, and confesses to fucking up the lyrics of the Biggie song he was covering. “Bonnoroo” is a bad song, maybe the worst on Ferg’s new Ferg Forever tape. And it’s vaguely embarrassing, too; Ferg should’ve probably saved all that whoa, I can’t believe that really happened stuff for his Christmas card or whatever. But it still somehow makes me like Ferg more than I already did. Ferg was never really supposed to get famous, and he in incapable of acting like he’s been there before. He can’t help but do the lyrical equivalent of running around like an excited kid. It’s endearing.
A$AP Rocky, Ferg’s chief benefactor and the main reason anyone knows who Ferg is, does not act like this. Even when he was just a YouTube rapper, he was carrying himself like a star. When Rocky’s career took off, he took it all visibly in stride. It was part of his charm: Duh, obviously I’m popular, look at me. Rocky’s aristocratic comportment would never allow him to make a song like “Weaves.” “Weaves” is a song about how Ferg fucked five women in one night in Greensboro, North Carolina. That’s it. This experience made Ferg happy enough that he spent an entire song being like, “I can’t believe I’m about to fuck five women.” It’s barely a song, especially when you consider that he steals the chorus from Juvenile’s “Back That Azz Up” wholesale, word-for-word. “Weaves,” like “Bonnoroo,” is a bad song. But without the particular dork streak that led Ferg to write songs like these, we also don’t get Ferg’s good ones. And Ferg has a lot of good ones.
Ferg’s 2013 album Trap Lord was an absolute mess of paranoiac high-pitched yammering and gothic head-smack beats. It worked because it seemed ready to explode at any second. There was no steady hand at the wheel. Ferg originally planned the album as a mixtape, and it had the hit-the-floor-running intensity of a mixtape, not the composed strategic box-checking of a major-label rap album, even if that’s what it was. Ferg’s not a straight-up celebrity now, but he’s become a weirdly constant presence, showing up on songs with Juicy J and Ariana Grande and HAIM and whoever else wants a Ferg verse. Ferg Forever, then, is Ferg’s first solo mixtape, and he’s in the weird position of putting it together when he’s already a rap mainstay. He could settle down into his incipient-star role, but that’s not what he does on the tape. Instead, he’s brought that same sense of unstable urgency, and sometimes it yields magic.
Consider, for example, “Reloaded Let It Go 2,” in which M.I.A. threatens to shoot a motherfucker and the tough-as-fuck female Harlem rapper Crystal Caines gives a slickly scene-stealing verse. Caines also raps about fucking women on “Weaves”; it’s great. During her “Reloaded” verse, an out-of-nowhere sample from Disney’s Frozen briefly interrupts everything, ripping the track open until M.I.A. clears her throat. “Reloaded Let It Go 2″ is a banger, and it’s one that makes no sense. You could say the same about the hammering, berserk “Fergsomnia,” which is built from what sounds like a sample of a car horn blowing “La Cucuracha” and which has the most jaw-dropping Twista guest verse in years. “Fergsomnia” is a monster of a song, to the point where it doesn’t matter that the chorus is just Ferg repeating the (bad) title in a Frankenstein voice a bunch of times. “Now” has Ferg calling himself “the Ferginator” while doing an incredible impersonation of an early-’90s Southern party rapper. It’s got a Big K.R.I.T. verse that sounds like a robot punching you neck because it doesn’t like your face, and the chorus is just a lightly altered version of T.I.’s “24s” chorus. Ferg has a really bad habit of just using late-’90s or early-’00s rap-hit choruses when he can’t think of his own, and it doesn’t make a lick of difference on “Now” because the song is too good. Ferg is, as ever, happy to risk humiliation at every turn. That somehow gives us a good song more often than not.
Ferg Forever is, if anything, even messier than Trap Lord. It could stand to be half as long, and Ferg might be in a better position if he paid someone to just say “no” every time he recorded a song like “Bonnoroo.” But the tape’s highs are dizzy, and its lows are at least bad in interesting ways. Ferg has his name on a lot of great songs, but his willingness to suck in interesting ways might be the thing that sets him apart the most. Ferg Forever is half a great tape, and the not-great half still gives you plenty to think about. That makes me like it a whole lot more than someone else’s pretty-good tape.
Download Ferg Forever for free at DatPiff.