A$AP Rocky- Testing Album Review
(By: Thomas Rodriguez)
New York rapper A$AP Rocky releases a long awaited, although average, hip hop album.
Much can be said about New York rapper, model, and pretty boy A$AP Rocky. His influence in modern day culture has only gotten bigger and bigger as the years have gone on, an influence kicked off with the release of his 2011 mixtape Live. Love. ASAP. Rocky’s solo albums, most agree, are usually pretty solid; whether they be the bombastic Long. Live. ASAP or psychedelic At. Long. Last. ASAP, Flacko has always succeeded with his amazing flow and charisma, as well as solid instrumentals. Combine his consistent musical track record with his success in fashion and wonderful smile, and Rocky is someone girls want and guys want to be; his fanbase is massive. The Harlem superstar is aware of his huge fan base, and has confidently taken advantage of it with the sudden (though not unexpected) announcement and release of his latest album, Testing. As soon as it dropped, everyone went crazy. I had lots of fears going into this project (as much of Rocky’s recent material has been pretty low grade), but I was interested nonetheless because he did say the album would be more experimental than his past efforts. Testing, however, was unfortunately the mixed bag I was scared it was going to be.
Testing is a bit of a rollercoaster ride, in almost every single way. You can tell Rocky is shooting for different sounds than he’s rapped on before, especially from his past work, but Testing’s sounds tend to run through different genres throughout its fifteen tracks. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as experimenting was the main point of the album, but Testing doesn’t really “test” out a whole lot of new sounds, just gives little bits and pieces of new ideas over Rocky’s typically glamorous, artsy rap production. I actually got pretty excited when I heard “Distorted Records”, as Rocky’s rapping over a glitched out bass and thick drums sounded completely unlike anything he’d ever recorded.
It was an experiment that worked…but wasn’t capitalized on through the rest of the album.
Much of Testing sounds like same ol’ Rocky, just with a new sheen of paint, while many of the other “experiments” sort of fall flat on their face. “Buck Shots” sounds like a total ripoff of rapper Playboi Carti’s style, but the beat doesn’t really hit all that hard, and the “buck shot” ad libs just force the flow of the track to a halt. “Kids Turn Out Fine” and “Changes” sound fine, but the instrumentals are just too sleepy and slow to make up for Rocky’s equally slow and boring performance. Even a song that has a somewhat interesting beat, like “Gunz N Butter” falters because the mixing is so off; I can’t even hear Rocky rap on this song without Juicy J interrupting him every five seconds! The only exception to this rule is “Purity”; with its pretty guitar strumming and skeletal vocal work, it’s one of the only true “tests” on the album that actually passes. As a whole, the instrumentals don’t sound awful, but they’re mostly okay here, especially when compared to Rocky’s previous albums.
So if Testing isn’t much of a successful experiment sonically, then the album should hold up with its performers, right? It sucks to say, but Rocky’s performance is mostly plain and unexciting throughout the album. More so than ever, Rocky sounds like a model who picked up rapping, rather than a rapper that picked up modeling. “F**k Sleep” is easily one of Rocky’s most sleepy songs to date, and without the FKA twigs feature, would be completely lifeless. The Cocky Rocky we know and love is all over this album, but his raps aren’t a spectacular firework display of dazzling hooks and flows, but a mostly dull showcase with a few sparks of great quality. “A$AP Forever” actually has one of Flacko’s most exciting verses yet, and “Tony Tone” is probably the best song on here just because there’s actual life on the bars here. For every one of these great tracks, however, there’s a dud. “Calldrops” was a real waste of time (with a completely pointless Kodak Black monologue), and “Black Tux, White Collar” have no real identity on the project because of how vanilla they are. If it weren’t for the awesome “OG Beeper”, the middle of the album would be one big skip. The features, for the most part, don’t really save the songs here either; Skepta completely phoned in his verse and hook on “Praise the Lord”, and French Montana on “Brotha Man” is equally mediocre. If it weren’t for Frank Ocean’s verse on “Purity”, almost every single feature could be called mediocre at best.
When I listened to Testing over and over again, I felt that the project wasn’t really testing a whole lot of quality ideas, but testing my patience. I wanted to like this album, especially because it had a good setup by a great rapper with a great discography. It’s sad to say, but Testing is just middle of the road.
Tracks to Save: “Distorted Records”, “A$AP Forever”, “Tony Tone”, “OG Beeper”, “Purity”
Tracks to Skip: “F**k Sleep”, “Praise the Lord”, “Calldrops”, “Buck Shots”
What did you think about this album? Any comments or criticism? Comment down below and let me know; I’d love to hear what you think!
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