Album

What Went Right With… Testing by A$AP Rocky?

A crash test logo accompanying a review of A$AP Rocky's album Testing

As someone who has been critical of A$AP Rocky’s previous albums, not to mention his complicity with casual racism, I have to give respect when it’s deserved. With his third studio album Testing, Rocky has finally made an LP that flows well from beginning to end, taking the listener on a pleasant ride as he showcases his maturity as an artist. With his previous two studio albums containing sometimes half or even two-thirds lacklustre material, I can say that finally A$AP Rocky has released something that is a pleasure to listen to and more importantly, is coherent.

I read in an interview that Rocky thinks of himself as somewhere between mumble rappers and old-school heads, and since he was born in the tail end of the 1980s, he fits in somewhere between the young and the old. Stylistically therefore, he is ideally placed to please both ends of the Hip-Hop spectrum and with Testing, I think he walks the fine line of street-credibility and radio-friendly material very well. For example, unlike his previous attempts at cross-over Hip-Pop with the likes of Rod Stewart, this time, his Moby sample in “A$AP Forever” feels much more authentic and adherent to Hip-Hop culture…

With this album, the thing that stands-out is the fact that the production is consistent, and whether it’s Hector Delgado, A$AP Rocky himself, Skepta, or FnZ responsible for the beats, sonically, there is a common thread tying the tracklist together. The echoing drum hits and the laid-back melodies not only compliment the raps but they give this album a sense of coherence. I will add however that the “Testing” theme doesn’t necessarily follow-through, and thematically there is little consistency. If you take “testing” to mean “experimental” in terms of music or simply to borrow the aesthetics of laboratory tests, the title is somewhat unconnected with the content if not out-and-out unnecessary. And with the album cover somewhere between Pro Era’s PEEP: The aPROcalypse and Smif-N-Wessun’s Dah Shinin’, the artwork doesn’t match or tie-up with the title either.

The stand-out tracks on Testing are “Distorted Records” (although it could have been a little longer), “A$AP Forever”, “Tony Tone”, “Fukk Sleep” (especially the chorus), and “Praise The Lord” (especially the production)…

…You’ll notice that these are the first five songs on the album, from that point onward, although the LP is listenable as a whole, the tracks begin to feel like less like individual songs and more like an elongated track punctuated by gaps. That being the case, this album isn’t without its flaws; weaker tracks like “Calldrops” and “Brotha Man” could have been removed altogether and sometimes you wish the pigeon coos and “woo” sounds (the usual, overused Trap contrivances) were left off this LP, especially considering the innovation-alluding title. And speaking of pioneering new-sounds, I’ll say that although there’s quick blips of personal content here and there (in “Changes” for instance) the majority of the lyrics offer nothing game-changing or anything in the way of variety. But with Rocky’s flow going from simplistic in “OG Beeper” to more complex in “A$AP Forever”, not to mention the singing in “Fukk Sleep”, this LP at least shows his versatility as a rapper.

Overall, this is undoubtedly A$AP Rocky’s best release since his 2011 mixtape LIVE.LOVE.A$AP. Testing is not without it’s problems but it flows well from beginning to end, you don’t really want to skip past any songs, and the sometimes ethnic, slightly acoustic, and blunted soundscape keeps you in a mellowed-out state throughout, making this a possible summer classic.

Changes.

Beats: 9/10

Rhymes: 7/10

Overall: 8/10

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22 replies »

  1. There are so many better recent albums than this one by A$AP Rocky . I get it . I get it . He has money and fame and women can dance to his stuff .

    My problem with him is that he is unoriginal . This is evident from looking at his stage name , even . He had to have come across the music of Aesop Rock at one point . A$AP Rocky claims to be a big fan of underground , alternative and independent hip hop . I’m sure he’s also heard of Aesop of the underground Calfornian group Living Legends , as well
    . Aesop Rock and Aesop have worked together in the past and their stage names originated organically with one guy starting out in New York and the other in California .

    Even if he used “A$AP” in reference to his crew’s nicknames he could have called himself something other than “Rocky” . Like all the other crew members .

    My other problem with him is that he claims to give dap to the underground . And then says Frank Ocean , Skepta , Juicy J and Kid Cudi are underground artists . I think his ego is out of control .

    Could he not have got Esham on a track ? Esham would have fit in perfectly on this album . There are so many legends and underground artists that could have worked out well on an album like this . Even Earl Sweatshirt , Jarren Benton , Fashawn , Dom Sicily , King Los , Page Kennedy or Jay Rock . Or Futuristic , Merkules or Chris Webby . What about Chipmunk from Edmonton , London . Or Kryple from Edmonton , Alberta (a local guy who is multi-talented and has a few million views on his YouTube channel now) .

    It sure seems like Rocky loves fame and money . He surely sees those artists I’ve mentioned as nobodies or as washed up . Even Drake was willing to put Dave on a track with him .

    • Whatever your thoughts about A$AP Rocky as a person, some of which I agree with, this album was an above average LP.

      And by the way, what’s with the generalisation? “Women can dance to his stuff”? Don’t men dance, or are they sissies for moving to music?

  2. I do give A$AP props for being willing to work with Moby . An artist / musician who has continually shown respect for real hip hop for the last thirty years .

  3. Personally , I don’t like hip hop music that people dance to at clubs in general . Doesn’t matter what gender or gender identity they have . Hip Hop has betrayed it’s own . You don’t see the LGBTQIA+ community glorify the hip hop work of Deep Dick Collective or Queen Pen or Mykki Blanco , Syd Tha Kyd , Kaytranada or Angel Haze , for that matter .

    I have to say fuck A$AP Rocky . When you think about it . Artists like Esham , Ganksta N-I-P , E-40 , Mastamind , TNT , Dice , MC Breed , Bun B , White Dawg , Haystak , Organzied Noize , Tech N9ne , Jelly Roll , Paul Wall , Chamillionaire , King Gordy , Kool Keith , Guilty Simpson , Phat Kat , Mad Child , ICP , Twisted Insane , Twiztid , Lil Wyte , Bushwick Bill , Richie Rich , Dru Down , Spice 1 , Goretex , Fat Jon , Luther Campbell and Del The Funky Homosapien broke their backs to pave the way for A$AP . They were the ones who innovated and hit the streets and built a rep .

    The traitor A$AP is lucky it’s 2018 . As Diabolic said on The Murder Master Music Show ” … the internet is a pussy’s paradise …” . If this was the 90’s he would get checked for being a bitch by a real cat .

    A$AP says he reps the culture and shows love for the underground . I think he is a liar . He is established enough now that he should give back to the culture . Why does he always kowtow to the big business executives !? I mean if Drake can work with Santan Dave can’t A$AP do a track with Hopsin , A-F-R-O , Dizzy Wright or Fashawn ?

    This shows how corrupt the mainstream is . Do you expect Hip Hop DX , Genius or Complex to disapprove of A$AP’s antics ? No because they are corrupt .

    I can name three local Edmonton , Alberta hip hop artists who have a trap sound – Mitchell Lawler , Philip Solo and Deezy Tha Don – who are better emcees than A$AP ! Where I live in Canada there is no hip hop culture embedded in the community . Fucking Rocky is from NYC . That shows you how fucked up the game is . Also his real name is Rakim . That is truly fucked .

  4. * “… the internet is a pussy’s paradise …”
    And by that he also meant that it’s used to over promote dumbed down emcees like A$AP .

    ** Rest in Paradise to MC Breed . A real legend who gave back to the culture .

  5. Also I appreciate that A$AP has shown love to Raider Klan , Pro Era , Bun B , Danny Brown and Raekwon in the past .

    Still it seems he won’t go any further than that . It’s like he has no curiosity about the culture or those that have paved the way for him . I mean Chance The Rapper and Danny Brown gave love to Esham
    . Why can’t A$AP ?

  6. A$AP also gave love to The Diplomats and Main Attraktionz . To me he is a great disappointment . The money and fame changed him for the worse .

    Sorry for the rant . If see a mainstream emcee faking hustle I’ll call them out on it . You’ve been doing that since you started this blog .

  7. I should add that Nast and Ferg also brought in the Flatbush Zombies . His crew’s members aren’t all industry bitches or fake fucks . I’ll give them props . But not to Rocky . God Bless and Rest in Paradise to A$AP Yams .

  8. His real name is Rakim . How is that sexist ? He was named after Rakim Allah . It’s kind of ironic because he was named after one of the most real and lyrical emcees to ever pick up a mic . A guy who didn’t kowtow to corporate execs to increase his money and fame . Would Rakim have a white teenage girl saying racial slurs in his music video ? And I stand by the fact that Rocky knew of Aesop Rock before he made current his stage name . Still he had to be unoriginal and go with “Rocky” . I don’t see how any of this is sexist , misogynistic , homophobic or transphobic .

    I even mentioned the LGBTQ hip hop pioneers Deep Dick Collective and Queen Pen . Think of all the hatred that they had to deal with twenty plus years ago . I mean if you think I’m sexist then I’d like to hear what you think of Sadat X , Ras Kass , Scar Face or K-Rino . I seem to recall listening to some material of theirs – mostly older material , granted – that is chock full of sexism .

    It was real in the late 70’s and 80’s when people would dance to anything from The Fat Back Band to Mantronix to Beastie Boys to Big Daddy Kane .

    Newer hip hop music that is meant for the dance floor crowd lacks the lyrical depth , warmth and originality that old school hip hop had . Diddy , Dre , Timbaland , Russell Simmons , Chad Hugo , Shay Hayley , Jay Z and Pharrell are largely responsible for this . I believe you’ve even wrote a few past articles about it .

    • For fucks sake, my two sentences were separated for a reason:

      1. The sexist comment was “women can dance to his stuff”, not dancing itself but specifically women dancing

      2. You already clarified that sentence when I replied to you earlier, my last reply was replying to the reply you left after your original reply confirming what I asked you in my first reply… phew

      3. I know his real name is Rakim, I thought the quote was funny hence the emoticon

  9. Listen here’s some real shit . I live in the poor part of my city . I have mentioned that I am on disability welfare / benefits . Every day in the hood I see men abuse women , people abuse animals , people use drugs , people sleeping outside – and I live in the coldest major city on the planet – and people beg for money . The people most affected by poverty where I live are people with disabilities , people with mental illness , First Nations or Native Canadians and new immigrants from Africa and Asia .

    The thing with A$AP Rocky is that he had potential once . You can see some of it on this album . Here and there . The motherfucker wants to talk spiritual on his track with Skepta . All I hear is bragging about money , drugs , liquor and loose women . A$AP Rocky might say its all just a metaphor for life . But , fuck him . He’s a smart dude . He knows what he’s promoting . Hypothetically if I ever met him maybe we could chop it up and talk about hip hop’s Golden Era . But , he would need to change his artistic direction and use his God Given talent to make something lyrical and meaningful . If Hip Hop DX , Noisey / Vice Media or Complex offered me 5K American for me to say he is one of the greatest rappers of his generation — I wouldn’t do it . I sure could use the money . Still in good conscience I couldn’t do it . I would become a betrayer if I did . I’m not faulting you for liking his album . We all have different tastes . I just don’t like the type of shit he’s been about for the past near decade . That’s my final thought A$AP Rocky and his crew .

  10. * “… my final thought on …”

    I’m praying for A$AP Rocky , still . I hope he can still become a blessing and a positive influence to the art form . I’ve seen my former childhood heroes like Afrika Bambataa , Common , Eminem , Xzibit , Outkast , The Roots , Method Man , RZA and Busta Rhymes all fail me . So I’m not getting my hopes up about a mainstream artist ever again .

  11. To elaborate more Outkast reminds me of a 90’s version of A$AP Mob . Of course Outkast were lyrically and thematically superior to A$AP Mob in every way as they originated in 1989 or 1990 – in hip hop’s Golden Era .

    Eventually the group went for mainstream crossover appeal . Look at how Andre moved towards a pop rap / pop music sound almost entirely by 2000 . He also started acting in Hollywood movies just like Ludacris did .

    • You don’t think it was ‘Kast trying to explore a new sound?

      I’ve read in articles that Andre always liked experimenting in things outside rap i.e fashion, acting etc

  12. And most of Andre Benjamin’s movie and television roles were performances of low caliber . Same with Ludacris and DMX .

  13. Yeah and when Andre did that stuff and got caught up in the Hollywood lifestyle I lost interest in Outkast . A$AP Rocky was a sell out from the get go . Within the last year he was on the cover of GQ or Esquire . The cover said “ASAP Rocky – the world’s flyest human being” . Seems like something that Andre also did ten plus years ago . If you want to support a real Southern hip hop artist (not the sell outs like Outkast) you should go on iTunes , Spotify or to the South Park Coalition’s website and buy some of K-Rino’s albums .

  14. A$AP Rocky was on the cover of GQ Style last Fall – to be precise . He looked like a big sell out and a materialistic clown in that magazine .

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