After one of the most hyped and convoluted album rollouts in recent memory, A$AP Rocky turns in a messy yet meticulous follow up to his spectacular At.Long.Last.A$AP project.
What felt like years of silence was put to an end once a track titled “Five Stars” surfaced on a mysterious Soundcloud account. Extremely rough and sounding like a demo, many fans were disappointed with this return from Rocky. It was a stripped back, low-key banger that had more producers than one could imagine, which indicated how careful Rocky is with his new music. Releasing two more minimalistic tracks on Soundcloud that featured Dean Blunt and Lil Yachty and a single with BlocBoy JB, fans and critics still were curious as to what this new direction meant for the A$AP Mob frontman.
Then, “A$AP Forever” premiered on Jimmy Fallon. Sporting a Moby sample and feature, the song was instantly hailed by critics and played to death by every fan. It was the grand return we waited for, and the version on the record itself is even better, with TI and Kid Cudi features. Now, with a great lead single, Rocky had the world’s attention.
Flash forward almost two months, TESTING has arrived.
The concept of the record is to “test new sounds” but in a more focused and condensed way, rather than a sloppy record that takes too many risks to the point where it becomes bloated.
Starting off with “Distorted Records”, the album is introduced with low-frequency noises and features an industrial beat that calls back to some of the experimentation on Kanye West’s opus, Yeezus. Rocky flows really nicely on the track, discussing his time off from the rap world, which also comes up on “Tony Tone”. Both of these tracks embody the type of vibe Rocky is trying to reach with this project. They’re both warped and tinkered with to an extent where it feels refreshing while also feeling familiar. I would like to praise “Tony Tone” specifically for it’s smooth yet bombastic beat that Rocky perfectly fits into.
While the album lacks a strong narrative or straightforward concept, but I think it’s Rocky’s most aesthetically cohesive project since Live.Love.A$AP. The songs bleed into each other and there was obvious thought put into the layout of the record. The album is comprised of off-kilter bangers that go equally great as party tracks as they do as a serious work of art.
Take a song like “OG Bepper” with BlocBoy JB. The beat and the flow indicates a normal trap banger, but the fast pace of the track combined with many sample-heavy detours make the song an abstract piece of rap while also being ridiculously fun and catchy.
The only flaw I have are some lackluster tracks that still haven’t grown on me like “Kids Turned Out Fine” which features some of Rocky’s worst singing in a while and a great idea poorly executed. “CALLDROPS” is another track that was extremely difficult to get into, but I can see how people can enjoy the ethereal and druggy vibe to the guitar-based track.
Overall, there are too many highlights on this thing not to love it. “Gunz N Butter” is a match made in heaven, combining the best parts of Rocky and Juicy J’s sound to make an absolute banger. “Praise The Lord” is a strong contender for song of the summer, featuring captivating verses from both Rocky and Skepta, the latter having a standout hook. “Buck Shots” features one of the best beats on the record, feeling like a representation of the life of the Mob in Harlem. Both Playboi Carti and Smooky Margielaa’s verses are perfect, with Smooky’s being enough to send his popularity through the stratosphere. “Hun43rd” is my favorite on the entire thing, with an other worldly vibe that is only exemplified by Dev Hynes’ amazing chorus.