A$AP Rocky Makes His Return With “Testing”
by Ben Morris
On May 25, A$AP Rocky (Rakim Mayers) dropped his third studio album entitled “Testing.” The album is the first since 2015’s “At. Long. Last. ASAP.” and the three year wait seemed like an eternity to fans. Although Rocky still occasionally appeared as a feature on other artists’ tracks and collaborated with other ASAP Mob members to put out two group albums, “Testing” comes as gift to those who were dying for another solo album. The three year gap confused many because, although Rocky is still very prominent, he seemed to stop putting out music when he was on top. While he did begin to get into the fashion and design industry, Rocky, who actually produced many of the songs on “Testing” himself, addressed this criticism and said “I don't just rap—I actually make music. That's why it takes time. These sonics represent me.” With “Testing,” Rocky proved that he did not stop making music at his peak, and re-established that he is still one of the top rappers today.
In early 2018, Rocky began to release songs to get people excited about the new album. Of the five singles he put out before the release of “Testing,” only one--“ASAP Forever”--was an actual album song. However, even the album version of “ASAP Forever” had its twist. The song, which is the second on the tracklist, is considered the highlight of the album. While the original version featured only Moby, the album version also included Kid Cudi and T.I. The additional verses definitely improved the song, which was already regarded as very good. The first three minutes of the song are very upbeat, while the final two minutes are completely different. To finish the song, Khloe Anna sings over a very slow and melodious beat. While the song may have two parts to it, throughout it all, Rocky shows his appreciation and admiration for ASAP Mob and the journey he and other members have been on since forming the group.
The fifth song on the album, “Praise The Lord (Da Shine),” has an interesting, flute-sounding beat. The record was actually produced by Skepta, who is also featured on the song. From the start of the song, listeners are hooked by the interesting sound. The song, as with many others on the album, embodies the purpose of “Testing,” which Rocky said was to experiment with new sounds--something other artists are too afraid to do. Throughout the song, Rocky and Skepta take turns rapping about themselves and their accomplishments. They are able to alternate lines without skipping a beat, which makes the song even more fun to listen to.
The sixth song on the album, “Drop$”/“CALLDROPS,” is probably the most talked about song to come out of “Testing.” Upon seeing that Kodak Black was a featured artist on the song, many fans were eager, but also confused, as Black has been in prison in Florida since January. Throughout 2017, after being released from prison for various arrests, Black had several songs reach the top of the charts. He was able to establish himself as a mainstream celebrity before being arrested once again earlier this year. The song itself is not a banger as many people expected, but is instead a unique piece in which Rocky records a phone conversation he had with Black from jail. Black, who had only one minute to deliver his “verse,” sung about his current state and his imprisonment before the call ends and a teleprompter voice asks for more credits in order to continue the call. The song concludes with the words “Free Kodak,” which advocates for Black’s release from prison.
Another multidimensional track off of the album which showcases Rocky’s maturity as a musician is “Changes.” “Changes” is a three part song that alternates between singing, rapping, and singing again. In the first part of the song, Rocky talks about two different changes. The first change he experiences is change in himself and in the music he makes. The second change that Rocky addresses is change in his love life. Rocky describes falling in love with a girl, only to be devastated later when he found out that she only wanted his money, and not his love. The second part of the song represents a change in music as a whole. In this part, Rocky chooses to honor rap legends Biggie Smalls and Tupac, as well as return to his original style of rapping, by rapping over a 90s sounding beat. In the third and final part, which once again slows the beat to a simple guitar strum that Rocky sings over, he addresses moving forward after life-altering events. The two events referenced are the death of his friend A$AP Yams and the marriage of his ex-girlfriend, Chanel Iman, to New York Giants wide receiver, Sterling Shepard. Despite struggling with the events for a long time, he is finally ready to move on.
Despite a bit of criticism, “Testing,” has received a majority of relatively positive reviews. While the sound may not be what a Rocky fan is used to, his lyricism, message, and style shine through to make the album a solid one. While no tour has been announced as of yet, fans should learn to love the album because it could be another three years before he releases another one.