A$AP Rocky has stayed relevant by maneuvering deftly through rap’s underground and swiping just enough flair to call it his own. That’s not to say Rocky’s carved out his niche by jacking any one particular style or sound, but he’s rarely ventured too far from Clams Casino’s woozy, lo-fi traps of 2010.
Whether Rocky’s attempting to push the sonic boundaries of his Houston by way of Harlem sound, mugging for Dior, or ushering models down red carpets, he always manages to circle back to the mic in time to drop projects that are as uncharacteristically New York as they could be. That love/hate relationship with his city continues on Testing, his newest fifteen song offering.
Before we debate the merit of this album (or any charting album today), let’s be totally honest. Does anyone take this shit seriously? Rocky’s passion for expensive clothes and cars rivals most of today’s goofy rap giants, and that recurring posturing plagues the entirety of Testing in the very best way. The record slaps when it slaps and snoozes when it runs out of steam; a perfectly characteristic ailment of today’s rap scene.
Some of Testing’s more adventurous moments work beautifully like the Skepta assisted “Praise The Lord” which feels more like an post-Football English parking lot call to arms than a rap anthem, and “Gunz N Butter” featuring the always hilarious Juicy J. “Changes” gives us five minutes of Rocky in top-form, musing on what it means to lose something near and dear, while “Tony Tone” is the sort of A$AP banger we associate with the Mob’s winning Harlem pedigree.
“Brotha Man” is an oddball duet of sorts between Rocky and French Montana showcasing a few of the albums most poignant bars. Here Rocky raps, “Bicycle tires/ icicle diamonds/ popsicle stripes/ Pop (sicles) pop (sicles) for the Klondikes/ Pop-pop wheelies on the dirty bikes/ 15 sellin’ China white/ Cops stoppin’ if you opposite of white/Pop, pop like you opposite of right”, evidence of Rocky’s introspective inner backpacker- even if that backpack is Gucci and it’s stuffed with more cash than any kid being harassed by New York City cops might ever see.
Truth be told, the record isn’t as polarizing has the title suggests. The test fails miserably on somber tracks like the Kodak Black jail-phone assisted “Calldrops”. The song rings with insensitivity by the time it wraps with a phone operator muttering “free Kodak”. Supporting Kodak Black reinforces the mistreatment of women. Rocky openly condemned A$AP Bari for sexual assault, so it’s contradictory and confusing at best to hear this blatant support.
Like most of the A$AP catalog, Testing has its share of missteps. The beauty in this release is its shiny face value. When experiencing the album for what it is- spoon fed Hip-Pop curated simultaneously for social media and the streets- Testing is a blast. It’s a snapshot of Rocky’s current mind state which lies somewhere between comfortable rap star and an inner desire to be like Hov; a rapper who is embraced by both street kids and museum curators alike.