I’ve been waiting on TESTING, the latest full album release from A$AP Rocky, for a long time and having it finally in my ears is a bit overwhelming. It starts off loud and powerful, it eases you into nothing as it goes in raw, not much musical foreplay here. My cats pretty much hate me by now because of how much I’ve played the opening track Distorted Records, which is penned solely to Rakim himself and is a myriad of noise and well, distortion that leads into an energetic few verses about typical rap-ego blah blah. He doesn’t break much from tradition, perhaps getting a little political than he’s usually doing on certain lines in this track. ("My newest president a asshole/I guess that's why I'm leavin' turd stains") Honestly, after his impressive verse on the cringy Black Eyed Peas rehash of their hit Where Is The Love?, I’m not surprised.
As you go through TESTING, he’s really growing as a witty lyricist which I always loved about his music above some of his contemporaries and it’s not lacking a lot of these tracks. A lot of the themes are redundant to his past releases and they’re not straying too far from typical rap cliches. Purity (feat. Frank Ocean) stands out lyrically, he’s very introspective in his verses to the point of almost making me emotional while I listen to it.
Fukk Sleep, which features avant-garde R&B artist FKA Twigs, is gorgeous and I love her ethereal vocal addition here. But then you go straight into that to Praise the Lord (Da Shine) [feat. Skepta], which is a little too in the same vein of that southern crunk music that dominated late last decade that I know Rocky loves and he cites a lot of it as his main influence, I really can’t stand it personally, but if you like any of that kind of Three 6 Mafia type of rap music, then I guess you won’t be too bothered by this particular track.
Rocky is playing more on The Doors/psychedelic rock thing he brought up on 2015’s AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP. Calldrops (feat. Kodak Black) is a standout in this area, reminiscent of L$D from the aforementioned album, and it does what that song wasn’t able to pull through. It speaks on something devastating while being entirely dreamy, yet still sad. It’s haunting, to put it lightly. It’s a definite standout, right alongside the album’s best work Purity (feat. Frank Ocean). This is really the culmination of what you expect from Rocky, knowing anything about what influences him and about where his strengths lie. Its quintessential A$AP work, and there’s enough Frank Ocean on this track to please fans of both. It’s a good way to end this album as it causes the listener to want more of what they just offered, I’ll end up putting this song on repeat by the end of the summer.