There are two schools of hip-hop as things are right now: trap, and the rappers that aren't trap. A$AP Rocky separates himself from the norm in TESTING, his new album that takes on more risqué and experimental styles to make something fresh.
What's most notable immediately in TESTING are the beats. A$AP Rocky doesn't rely on simple trap kicks and minimal, bassy synths to keep it going. Things are actually very varied throughout TESTING, right from the start with the unique distortion of 'Distorted Records.' The entire song itself is something completely different from what most hip-hop artists are doing, almost avant garde in its execution. 'A$AP Forever REMIX' takes things to a dramatic place, the orchestrated beat adding dynamic to features from Moby, T.I., and Kid Cudi. 'OG Beeper' employs a bouncier, trap-like synth to keep it moving forward without sticking too close to any formulas, furthering A$AP Rocky's diversity in TESTING.
While lots can be said about the attempts to be different in TESTING (which definitely deserve appreciation), there's often times a disconnect, particularly towards the end of the record. As the beats start taking a more and more experimental turn which each passing song, the mood of the lyrics and delivery feel polarizing when the beat is right under them. It's a very conflicting experience to listen to, like in 'Kids Turned Out Fine' where A$AP Rocky's reverberating vocals and the trippy beat just feel like too much all at once while the sad alternative instrumental of 'Changes' just doesn't seem to fit. Closing track 'Purity' at least ties these things nicely together with a Frank Ocean feature, but otherwise many of the songs just feel very disconnected in their attempt to do something unique. The features often add quite a bit to the tracks, like Skepta's aggression in 'Praise Da Lord (Da Shine)' or FKA twigs' innocent textures in 'Fukk Sleep.' Some are, however, pretty awkward, like Kodak Black's spot in the XXXTentacion-esque 'CALLDROPS' (which is delivered through a prison phone) and Juicy J just being himself in 'Gunz N Butter.'
A$AP Rocky separates himself from the norm in TESTING, trying something respectfully different from many of his contemporaries in the current hip-hop stratosphere but failing to really synthesize his attempts. This has the potential to be a very polarizing record, as it does employ some pretty experimental techniques, but whether or not it really works out is up for debate. Regardless of that, though, it's important to see a notable artist not be afraid to do something so different. That's how change is made in a genre.
Favorite Track: A$AP Forever REMIX
Least Favorite Track: Gunz N Butter, CALLDROPS
Rating: 68 / 100
Stream or buy TESTING on Apple Music, and follow our 2018 Playlist on Spotify: