On May 25th, A$AP Rocky returned from the 3 year hiatus he had taken from his career just like Bruce Wayne in the Dark Knight Returns, releasing his third studio album TESTING. Rocky definitely had been gassing this album up claiming it was bringing new sounds and experimentation with it. I don’t believe it was as sonically experimental as it was made to bed, but instead a deep project showcasing the maturity and growth of A$AP as a rapper.
Let’s start with the production on this album. It is absolutely phenomenal, definitely some of the best we have heard from Rocky with a sort of newfound professionalism tied to it. If anything is experimental, it is for sure the production and beats, with tracks like “Fukk Sleep” with it’s vibey beat making you feel like you are a lonely soul wandering through space on a journey to success, possibly because of the electronic vocals provided by FKA twigs. The intro track, “Distorted Records” is definitely the craziest production on the project, most likely in an attempt to set the tone for the album. This concept of random screeching and glitching sounds were dope, but I am partially glad its occurrence was minimized in later tracks, as it would easily get annoying and overdone.
“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”
It’s more important to analyze what the album actually contains rather than being upset that it isn’t as different as described prior to its release. This album is exceptional at identifying the growth of Rocky as a human, an artist, and a man. Tracks like “Changes” and “Purity” clearly show that his mind is beginning to think differently as he approaches his 30’s, with Rocky touching base on his thoughts rather than ignoring them. He addresses his entire internal spectrum, ranging from death of loved ones to lost relationships, which definitely aren’t easy topics to bring into light. He also begins to look at society as a whole, a subject that really isn’t too original anymore, but it is certainty interesting to hear his point of view. On the track “Kids Turned Out Fine”, he addresses how kids are growing up entirely different than how everyone else grew up, but it will all work out because they are smart…his self-proclaimed favorite track on the project.
We have to acknowledge that this project wouldn’t be what it was without the assistance from outsider’s like his features, producers, and team. The influence from Rocky’s closest friends like Tyler the Creator, Playboi Carti, and Frank Ocean are clear, and definitely help this project shine. You gotta admire Rocky’s ability to retrieve legends like Kid Cudi and Frank Ocean from their hidden caves too. However, Rocky was the one spitting the bars, despite how lackluster they can be at times, and directing the entirety of the project, so it is absolutely unfair to discredit him for the creation of the majority.
After my initial excitement from the first listen through, I have had time to sit and let it soak. I really don’t understand a lot of people’s dislike for this project, except for maybe it’s inability to be super different and exploratory as well as the absence of outstanding verses from Rocky. As far as looking into his artistry, I believe this is A$AP Rocky’s best project to date, with a great mix of staying true to his roots while also showing obvious growth as a person and expressing it through his music. Unfortunately, this project was kind of tossed to the side of the spotlight despite it’s anticipation because of the whole Pusha T and Drake beef, but I will definitely be listening to this project all summer. Make an effort to go bump this shit.