Since his emergence on the music scene in 2011, A$AP Rocky has always colored outside of the lines and pushed the limits of who and what a rapper (specifically a New York rapper) should be. His allegiance to avant-garde fashion tells you that his world is bigger than Harlem, and Hip-Hop itself. Testing is without a doubt, A$AP Rocky’s most exploratory project to date, and a clear indicator that this rapper fits into no box.
After losing his friend and business partner, A$AP Yams, in 2015, Rocky was left to navigate through the fickle hip-hop industry on his own. In this project, we hear Rocky bear his soul in a new way while staying true to his classic touchstones such as his charming sense of invincibility, fashion references, and dark yet mysterious production as heard on one of my personal favorites, “F**k Sleep” featuring FKA twigs.
The 15 track project includes many other A-list guests such as Kid Cudi, T.I., Frank Ocean, and French Montana, just to name a few. In addition to superstar features, Rocky uses a lot of samples in his production. For the album’s striking finale, “Purity,” a slowed sample of Lauryn Hill’s “I Gotta Find Peace of Mind” serves as an airy undertone for Frank Ocean’s bars. Rocky is the third mainstream artist to sample Lauryn Hill on a new album this year, following Drake and Cardi B – yet another testament to her timelessness.
Testing also shows us a new side of A$AP Rocky. In addition to his usual cockiness, he briefly shows that he’s capable of real vulnerability and contemplation. On “Changes,” Rocky narrates the story of a girl who left him for someone else and uses it as a point to address the anxiety and self-doubt caused by social media. He raps, “I wonder how the world would be if they didn’t have me/Wake up to my explore page/See my exes engaged, or either getting married/I wonder if they really happy or just getting at me.” In spite of the heartbreak, Rocky leaves us with an overall message of hopefulness. On the track “Kids Turned Out Fine,” he is reassured by the fact that the younger generation will be alright, despite their seemingly absurd mistakes. This represents a newfound reflectiveness from the now 29-year-old, as well as maturity which proves to us that although Rocky feels he’s being tested, he’s doing pretty well.
Have you listened to Testing yet? Let us know which track is your favorite below!