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A$AP Rocky “Testing” In-depth Review

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A$AP Rocky re-introduced himself to the rap world friday, releasing his third studio album and first in the last three years. After a prolonged hiatus from rapping, Rocky has returned with his most polarizing project yet, “Testing.” “Testing” stays true to its name, serving as a platform for Rocky to experiment with new sounds, new features, and new themes, some of which were previously absent from his music.
“I’ve discovered sounds that I’ve never heard before, so I’m trying to manifest all of that into my new stuff. Do you ever hear people when they describe that LSD experience and they tell you about colors that they never seen before? That’s what I’m trying to describe. It’s like the manifestation of drugs…without being so vocal about it,” Rocky said in an interview with High Snobiety.
Where “Testing” really shines is in the production. Hector Delgado, one of Rocky’s more frequent collaborators, handles a large portion of it, with contributions from a variety of artists and producers including Skepta, Clams Casino, Dean Blunt and Dev Hynes. They excellently use a wide variety of samples, new and old, to artfully construct songs, making every track unique in its own ways and giving Rocky a playground to test on. The small nuances make almost every song worth listening to multiple times.
“Testing” is projected to sell between 80,000 and 100,000 units in the first week.

1. Distorted Records

Speaking of new sounds, “Testing” starts out with a bang. An aggressive, bass-heavy beat immediately fills your ears. After a brief hook, Rocky begins to rap over an eerie synth lead, reminding us that he believes he’s the best in the game, “First things first, I done heard the worst things. Like if I’m in your top 10, mine’s better be the first name.” He continues his harsh up-tempo rapping throughout the track as the beat spirals into chaos. It’s a solid song, but one you’ll need to be in the mood for.

2. A$AP Forever REMIX (Ft. Kid Cudi, Moby, T.I.)

“Testing” soon takes a drastic turn as the distorted sound morphs into a sample of Moby’s 1999 hit “Porcelain”. T.I. appears on the track and begins to talk about the meaning of A$AP (always strive and prosper) before the song reverts to the original opening verse from A$AP Forever in which Rocky raps about his ice (jewelry), his gang (A$AP Mob) and his city (Harlem). A familiar voice follows Rocky’s verse as Kid Cudi begins his classic humming before delivering a one minute verse in which he addresses mental health using bird-related analogies, like he has in the past. “I’m free as a bird, I wanted this shit my whole life,
but had all this stress on my mind, until I realized, things pan out when it’s right.” Kid Cudi’s verse is a nice addition to an already outstanding track. At times though, it seems like his intonation fails to fit with the flow of the track.

3. Tony Tone

Roger Webb’s “Man Inside” provides the backbone for a twisted, dark beat. This, combined with some inspired, gritty, and quite honestly mean rapping, produces an old-school Rocky sound, and one of the album’s stronger tracks. “I changed the game like I’m Kurt Warner (yeah, keep going) I run the game like I’m Time Warner (yeah) This ain’t no Teen Choice Awards slime slide on ya (keep goin’, yeah)”

4. Fukk Sleep (Ft. FKA twigs)

In a laid back and slightly somber flow, Rocky discusses his initial come up and how far he has progressed since his childhood in poverty. The track also brings one of the catchiest choruses of the album “Fuck home, fuck sleep, come clean, zonin’. Can’t forget that I’m golden, can’t forget where I’m going. Fuck popo, police, enemies, fake homies. Can’t forget that I’m a OG, better act like you know it.” FKA twigs’ brief verse brings a lot to the song, helping mold the track around the constantly evolving beat.

5. Praise the Lord (Da Shine) (Ft. Skepta)

“Praise the Lord” has quickly become the album’s hottest track and it’s not hard to see why. Just like Future’s “Mask Off” and Kodak Black’s “Tunnel Vision”, “Praise the Lord” is carried by an up-tempo pan flute lead with a heavy bass undertone which just makes you want to get up and move. Unlike the songs before it, the beat stays constant throughout the track as Rocky and frequent A$AP Mob collaborator and British grime rapper, Skepta, take turns dropping rhyme-heavy verses. Unlike some past tracks, Skepta’s accent and flow are a perfect match for the beat.

6. CALLDROPS (Ft. Kodak Black)

“CALLDROPS” is the only real interlude of the project. Here though, Rocky gives Kodak the spotlight, allowing him to use the platform to discuss his current legal situation. Several samples including “Money and the Power”, “Infinity”, “Morning Sun” and “Lookin 4 Da Chewin” combine with a muted phone call between Rocky and Kodak to form a low-fi beat. Its lack of lyricism make it somewhat forgettable however.

7. Buck Shots (Ft. Playboi Carti & Smooky MarGielaa)

The main selling point here is the chance to experience Rocky rapping with his proteges, the two rappers he has signed. The song opens with the sound of sirens in a rainy city, but a energetic techno beat soon consumes the track as Rocky hastily begins spitting bars in a slightly muffled voice. Later, Carti enters the track with a wavy, autotuned flow. Neither Rocky nor Carti’s verses bring especially tantalizing lyrics but both fit well with the beat. Smooky’s verse is out of place and honestly not needed here. Another Carti verse would have been preferable.

8. Gunz N Butter (Ft. Juicy J)

“Gunz N Butter” is a head nodder. Rocky starts out slow and quiet, slowly picking up speed and intensity as the song goes on. He is backed by Juicy J ad-libs and groovy remixed samples. “Prada on me, choppers on me, crock on Maury kicks-kicks (word). God was for me, locks was on me. Blew up ever since then (okay, okay). Grew up ever since then. Screwed up ever since then. Two cups ever since then.” This is new-age Rocky, exciting stuff. The album needs more of this.

9. Brotha Man (Ft. French Montana & Frank Ocean)

Ten seconds in, you’re immediately thrown into a vastly different world than that of “Gunz N Butter”. The beat almost has the feel of a latin dance hall. Off the bat, it’s clear this is unlike anything we’ve previously seen from Rocky. Quite honestly, French Montana and Rocky’s verses lack substance, but the soulful beat carries your mind and in a weird way… it works? Snoop Dogg and Frank Ocean appear quite briefly in somewhat forgettable fashion. French Montana is often much maligned for his simple flow and uninspiring lyrics, but if your going to put him on a track, this is an excellent example of how to make it work. His voice and style just fit.

10. OG Beeper (Ft. BlocBoy JB)

Rocky knew from a young age that he wanted to be a rapper. “Uh, posted on the corner like a trapper, uh. Why he move his hands all around like a rapper? Uh. Why he move his pants up and down like a scrapper?” In “OG Beeper”, Rocky delves into his early years, when he was just beginning to get a grasp on what he wanted to do and to be. “I realized my whole life I just wanted to be a rapper like everybody else, and this is my story,” said Rocky in a recent interview with Complex Magazine. The funky sound of Tommy Wright’s “Shoot to Kill” sample gains a trap feel when BlocBoy’s recognizable ad-libs begin rolling in.

11. Kids Turned Out Fine

In this track, Rocky’s message is loud and clear. Don’t worry about the kids, don’t worry about the illegal drugs, because you guessed it… the kids will turn out fine. “Adderall and alcohol (yeah). The teachers called, the doctor called. The block too hot, the marshal called. See ’em grow and watch ’em crawl.” The sound and pace of the beat alone are extremely comforting. Just listening to the song gives you a feeling that everything will turn out okay. We get a little bit of everything from Rocky here as well. He sings, he raps, he tells a story. It serves as a personal anecdote as well as a sort of PSA to the listeners.

12. Hun43rd (Ft. Devonte Hynes)

A familiar sound. It’s very reminiscent of something you would find on “At. Long. Last. A$AP” (Rocky’s second album). “Hun43rd” is a reference to 143rd Street in Manhattan, Rocky’s childhood neighborhood. “Kept a pre-paid on my hip them days, 143rd in front on Minisink. Cam’ron had us wearing pink, from the cradle to the grave.” Again, like many other tracks on the album, the song starts out with a sample. In this case it’s “Cradle to the Grave” by Thug Life, which is rapped and chanted throughout, intermingled with bars about Rocky’s experiences as a young kid.

13. Changes

“Changes” jumps all over the place, it’s as diverse a song as they come. Rocky raps and sings about ebbs and flows of life, where the topic of love is a heavy focus. “Look, I got a text from this girl I used to see. Sayin’ that she chose this other guy with whom she wanna be with. Look, I apologize, but this message fucked me up. Then I would skeet-skeet every girl after replying, “Best of luck to ya.” The beat tells a story of its own as it mirrors the song’s title, unexpectedly and drastically switching over and over again to the point where you’ll think you’ve heard at least two or three different songs over the course of the five minute track. The track grows on you over time and presents an array of emotions to a listener.

14. Black Tux, White Collar

On “Black Tux, White Collar”, Rocky addresses police brutality and racism. He raps over a quiet and at times generic beat: about how his fame has made him lonely, and changed aspects of his life including making it harder for him to trust those he is close with. It’s not a bad song whatsoever, but at times it feels lacking.

15. Purity (Ft. Frank Ocean)

Alongside “Brotha Man”, “Purity” is the second song to feature Frank Ocean. Unlike “Brotha Man” however, “Purity” carries a sound much more comparable to that of Frank Ocean’s music. Lauryn Hill’s “I Gotta Find Peace of Mind” plays a prominent role in the song’s beat. Rocky and Frank Ocean both have extended verses in which they discuss a variety of topics. Rocky reflects on his fame and more importantly, how it has impacted his social life and time with his family. “Apologies to the fam, we thought we ducked ’em. Said I was in a rush but I was busy rushin’. It’s busy shit, busy that, busy this. And I need a minute (hold on)”

Conclusion

Don’t take Rocky too seriously here, or you may risk disappointment. “Testing” lacks a overarching sound and focus which “At. Long. Last. A$AP.” and “Live. Love. A$AP” had, which was due in big part to the guidance of the late A$AP Yams, Rocky’s friend and mentor. This was Rocky’s first full album without Yams who passed away early in 2015. The inconsistency is but makes up for it with a wider variety of sounds and finely-tuned production. It’s nice to see him branch out, but the album left me wanting just a little more and at times was dreadfully inconsistent. Perhaps a case of too many ideas?
It would have been nice to see some of the A$AP Mob members featured on the album as well, especially A$AP Ferg, as he has proven to be formidable partner to Rocky in the studio, creating bangers such as “Mattress REMIX” from his latest album “Still Striving”. By no means is “Testing” rap’s next transcendent album, but Rocky’s newest project could foreshadow industry trends in the coming years, similar to the affect of his last two albums.

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