On A$AP Rocky’s third studio album we are given staggering highs and crushing lows, both in terms of emotional content and quality of music. There are song of the year candidates and complete throwaways all mixed into the same pot, creating a bizarrely lukewarm project.
A$AP Rocky needs no introduction at this point of his career, the New York rapper has seemingly been at the top of the mainstream genre since his arrival on the scene in 2011 with breakout mixtape Live. Love. A$AP, a marvellous influx of psychedelic hip-hop and street lifestyle. Since then Rocky’s name and brand has only grown bigger and bigger, releasing two hugely successful albums and being the flagbearer and frontrunner of rap group the A$AP Mob.
After three years, Lord Flacko is finally back with his third solo album, titled Testing and it must be said, on first listen it really was testing for all involved. The tracklist promised great things with an immense feature list and intriguing song titles, promising yet more experimentation from Rocky and star-studded anthems. In that sense, this album well and truly delivered.
Distorted Records has some hugely distorted bassline (funny that) and Rocky’s vocals bleed into this seamlessly, creating a very solid opener, which leads into by far and away the best song on the album in A$AP Forever featuring T.I, Kid Cudi and Moby. The Moby sample is a timeless classic and the beat that comes as a result is nothing short of genius; Cudi delivers big time on his verse and the hook from Rocky is top notch.
There are plenty of other huge feature hits on this album, including Fukk Sleep with all-round genius FKA Twigs, who’s vocal harmonies are angelic to the core. As well as this we get an ice cold performance from Skepta on Praise The Lord (Da Shine) as he offers a catchy hook and some great back-and-forths with Rocky over a woodwind styled trap beat. Frank Ocean absolutely kills it on the album’s finale Purity but we all knew that would be the case anyway, seeing as this is Frank goddamn Ocean we are talking about.
The album is very courageous and daring, opting for a progression on what Rocky has tried before and pushing for more psych sounding tracks and plenty of low-fi production. At times it works an absolute treat and you cannot help but admire the audacity of Rocky to attempt these sounds, but there are also times it falls flat on its face.
CALLDROPS is straight trash from start to finish, the beat seems almost as lethargic as Rocky does and that Kodak Black voice message? What the hell was that? As for OG Beeper, well that was just a mess, the beat sounded like it was made on Garage Band, the stupid telephone rings in there were annoying and his choppy flow sounded like a 6IX9INE rip off, the literal last person on earth you’d want to rip off (because he sucks).
The production varies from majestic to appalling but in that regard the good outweighs the bad, as do the vocals because despite there being some far from inspired lyrical content at times from A$AP, he still has one of the best flows in the game when he brings his best and there are moments of real sincerity and legitimacy to his lyrics; particularly on songs like Purity and Brotha Man, which is a rarity in itself because there’s a actually tolerable French Montana feature.
All in all, this album promised so much, it was something I was so excited for and it truly could have been Rocky’s opportunity to announce himself as one of the truly greatest rappers on the planet. While I have no doubts that he is one of the more forward thinking artists of his time, this album had slight inconsistency to me, with certain songs being merely passable rather than grabbing my attention. The standouts are immense and easily some of Rocky’s best work to date, but as a whole project I would have to call this his weakest effort, which says a lot about just how talented he is. Testing certainly isn’t bad, it is actually rather good, but you expect just a little bit more from someone of his calibre.