A$AP Rocky’s newest album “Testing” was his chance to solidify himself as one of the leading MC’s of his generation. Rocky’s best project is considered by many to be his debut mixtape ”Live.Love.A$AP.” This mixtape was the first time we had seen a New York artist who loved the Houston screwed up sound come to light on the mainstage of hip hop. His Houston/New York crossover was very successful and was a refreshing new style to the rap game. Rocky excited many with this mixtape because it was his first project and his fans waited on the edge of their seats for his next projects. Although his next two albums were accomplishments and successful in their own right, they did not live up to the hype that many had built to parallel his electrifying personality and artistic ability. Rocky has not just made waves in music, he is the creative director of MTV Labs and is a fashion icon who has had several fashion deals and collaborations with big names such as Raf Simons and Guess. There’s no doubt that he is an incredibly talented artist who was the face of clout in the early 2010’s. Even on his first mixtape he was rapping about gold chains, cars, women and living the lavish lifestyle that he currently lives. He has been able to diversify his discography in terms of sound since his first tape but it may not be in the direction many people were hoping as he still raps about many of the same subjects.
“Testing” shines in its production which is crisp and diverse throughout the 15 song tape. The opening track, “Distorted Records,” is explosively raw and fast paced, best described by its line “Big bass make the world shake / Flacko out here causin’ earthquakes.” The next song, “A$AP Forever” takes on an atmospheric arena vibe that is much more mellow than its predecessor but keeps the listener enthralled with the classic Rocky triplet flow and booming drums. We also get a Kid Cudi feature which is more nostalgic than groundbreaking as it revives thoughts of Cudi from “Man on the Moon” but pulls away from the epic vibe Rocky creates on the song. The album then moves onto “Tony Tone” which sounds like a simplified “Holy Ghost” off of his sophomore album, “At.Long.Last.A$AP.” The rest of the album features only a few more bangers with “Praise the Lord (Da Shine),” “OG Beeper,” “Fukk Sleep,” ”Gunz N Butter,” and “Buck Shots.”
The other 7 songs are slow melodic songs that Rocky has rarely exceled on in the past. Unfortunately this remains true for this album as well. The production is still masterfully done and Rocky has chosen great beats and producers to work with but it does not mesh with his style well. Out of this stylistically second half of the album, the final two tracks on the album stand out the most: “Black Tux, White Collar” and “Purity.” On the former, Rocky connects with producer Clams Casino (who produced much of his debut mixtape) to bring back a style that many of Rocky’s fans love but have not heard in a long time. On the final track, Rocky spits one of his most introspective verses. Rocky raps about his disconnect with his family and how he tries to solve his problems by coming “Face to face with [his] demons at a barstool.” Rocky then mentions one of the main reasons he is coming undone: “Lose someone every release, it / feels like the curse is in me / Percy is gone and I grief / I share with you my piece.” Here Rocky is talking about his supposed “curse” of loosing someone close to him every time he drops an album. After his debut album, “Long.Live.A$AP,” dropped his father died just months later and after his second album dropped he lost his best friend and A$AP Mob founder, A$AP Yams. Frank Ocean opens the song with an extensive feature and is able to let his own style shine through making it seem as if it is a Frank Ocean song with an A$AP Rocky feature. Ocean’s contributions help end the album off on a peacefully solid note.
You have to give props to Rocky for always trying to push his limits and encompass new styles in his music. However, this style change comes only in sound and not in substance. With an extensive list of features including Frank Ocean, T.I., Kid Cudi, Skepta, Kodak Black, Juicy J, French Montana, and Moby there were many opportunities for the listener to be pulled away from the lack of depth but many of the features are lackluster. He is plagued by constantly living in the shadow of his first project and living up to a style that he created and perfected in one try. Overall the album has several impressive songs that will be a staple to many hip-hop playlists but the album could have been improved by removing some of the slower melodic songs that Rocky has not mastered stylistically.
Stream the album below.