Reviewed by Thomas Herron
A$AP’s third studio album, TESTING, was much anticipated. That usually doesn’t bode well for rap albums.
It has been three years since Rocky dropped a solo album, and other than the Cozy Tape releases in October 2016 and August 2017, there hasn’t been really any new Rocky.
1. DISTORTED RECORDS
“Distorted Records” is a promising introduction. It’s short, unorthodox and seems to be off the aesthetic Rocky has been building with his production on his last album, At. Long. Last. A$AP. Rocky also spits some signature bars and sets the tone for a hard album.
2. A$AP FOREVER
“A$AP Forever” combines Rocky’s impregnable confidence and his own melodic ability with Cudi’s. The Harlem native did a good job of adding in more singing to his album as a whole, and the last minute of the song is a good example.
3. TONY TONE
Then the listener is given what they expected. Rocky’s glaring confidence combined with his own carelessness but placed within the context of today’s issue; “I would say suck my d*ck, but that’s sexual harassment”. It’s refreshing to hear an artist with the influence of Rocky to make a statement in saying he “could give a fuck” about what else is going on in the game on “Tony Tone,” considering everybody loses their mind looking for possible subliminals and talking about other artists’ careers.
4. FUKK SLEEP
Rocky continues on songs like “Fukk Sleep,” building off of the sound he began establishing on his earliest works to make a sort of cross between techy new school beats and classic New York production.
5. PRAISE THE LORD
“Praise the Lord” features a great hook and combines Rocky’s ability to make hits with his newfound melody. It feels like a Skepta song with him dominating the majority of the track and the listener is left wondering what else Rocky could do with the beat.
“Calldrops” soothing melody and soft vocals are reminiscent of “L$D.” Rocky successfully draws attraction by putting a collect call with Kodak on track. It’s not expected when one sees “featuring Kodak Black” and it was both clever and exciting.
7. BUCK SHOTS
“Buck Shots” is a bit of a throwaway, simply because the production drowns out the vocals and takes away from Rocky’s attempt at a banger.
8. GUNZ N BUTTER
“Gunz n Butter,” is a Rocky attempt to expose his own social consciousness with Juicy’s hook, and again we’re given one of the more rare cases on the album where Rocky truly spits.
9. BROTHA MAN
Rocky then does a good job of combining with French Montana to give us a melodic side of both of the artists on “Brotha Man,” who both are far from known for their singing ability, and the production combines a soothing, musical sound with his monotone flow to give the album some sort of emotional depth.
10. OG BEEPER
“OG Beeper” is another throwaway, in which we’re given little new content from the Mob leader over trendy production with little staying power.
11. KIDS TURNED OUT FINE
“Kids turned out fine” is another example of Rocky combining a singy chorus with his signature sound, but it misses on the relevance the song title implies, despite it being one of his best tries at melody on the album.
Nothing good or bad.
Rocky continues to evolve to “Changes” and there is significant growth in regards to depth on a love song. The shift at about two minutes also showcases Rocky’s versatility in starting a song with a soft tone and finishing with a sort of acapella melody.
14. BLACK TUX, WHITE COLLAR
“Black Tux, White Collar” is the culmination of what it seems Rocky wanted to do on the entire album. Mixing his own ability to make a hard beat melodic through his own versatile flow, with a sort of detached emotion, where a lot of his appeal comes from.
The Frank Ocean feature fits well into Rocky’s attempt to branch out and harness the sound the album tries to capture. It’s pleasing that Rocky was able to bring back the Frank Ocean from the early days of Odd Future, who combined his voice with lyrics to create a unique and appealing flow. Rocky expresses deep emotion and grief in what feels like an open letter to close the album, and it works well as he uses his voice to speak over the track in what feels like one of the more genuine songs on the album.
Rocky had the right idea in trying to expand his artistry and conquer a new realm of music, but it didn’t work out because the first 5 songs is what we’ve come to expect from Rocky then the shift later in the album doesn’t give it the feel of a cohesive piece. The production on the majority of the album also sounded too manufactured and even though Rocky has been a king at making a beat his own, he failed to consistently do so here.
Hopefully, Rocky can capitalize on the genuine emotion and openness he finds on the album’s last verse to find a way to melodize without trying too hard.
All in all, Rocky had a rare miss here and save for a few great songs (namely, “Tony Tone” and “Purity”) and it didn’t have the feel of an A$AP album.
It makes sense that Rocky called his album TESTING because that is truly what he was doing. Look for Rocky to take a step back on his next work and minimize his attempt to master melodies. The album also seemed to lack a whole lot of structure, giving it the feel of uncut recordings.