For the first time in decades, I will confidently say that New York City does not have the rap game on lock right now. New York City is the birthplace of hip-hop and has never fallen off the map, but that was until the influence of trap and the internet provided a landscape where new guys are flooding and popping up out of nowhere, despite the quality. In a world where music seems misled, we look to those of higher quality such as a Kendrick or a Cole, but specifically for New York, one man could be the very option we look to as well: ASAP Rocky.
Those who claim to breathe authentic hip-hop are always pleased by someone dropping a project who has the respect in addition to the numbers. ASAP Rocky’s rise to respect has never been questionable since his music first hit the surface in 2011 with his debut mixtape Live. Love. A$AP, with a follow-up in 2015, his second official studio album, At. Long. Last. ASAP which was highly underrated, to say the least. Although the album’s longevity was unfairly nonexistent, the project alone stood and still stands as a validated testament to ASAP Rocky’s career.
Three years went by and in the meantime, we’ve seen ASAP Rocky elevate AWGE, a creative collective, dropping a collaborative ASAP Mob tape, and becoming best friends with Tyler, The Creator, and even dipping his hand further into the fashion world with a collab with Guess. It’s safe to say that in these long three years, he has done damn near everything but drop his own music. In the year 2018, Rocky came back out of the cut releasing “5ive Stars”, “Above” and “Money Bags Freestyle”, which were said to serve as unofficial promotional singles. After the official single, “ASAP Forever” was released on April 5th, just a couple more weeks would pass before the album finally came. Last Friday, ASAP Rocky dropped his third studio album, Testing.
People didn’t know what more to expect other than at least 10 new songs we could put in our summer rotations. The fan list of wishes served to be small, and seemingly simple, wanting to hear appearances from the ASAP Mob, at least one song featuring Tyler, The Creator, and lyrics that could exemplify the boss mentality of the summertime and real rap. Well, we got some of that but fans can’t seem to come to a general consensus on the album.
There are two polarizing sides that divide the pool; some will say the album wasn’t enough, while others will say, the album was everything. Regardless of the split, Testing was a true testament to Rocky’s character. Considering his originality, passion within the fashion world, and demographics, the album falls perfectly into the place of a solid album. His skill to rap can never be questioned, ever! Anyone who cannot seem to replay tracks mostly feel that way because of the production which does have, but mainly lacks the heavy bass and trap sounds of rap music right now. Testing features production from himself, Hector Delgado, Juicy J, and Boi-1da. With that list alone, you could only imagine the direction those beats would take you in. A few years from now, they may say that this album was ahead of its time. But for right now, the album’s ability to challenge typical rap will not go without credit. There are some songs on this album that are musical drugs. As time sets, allowing us to gain an opinion on the entire project as a collective, here are the best songs on Testing:
Praise the Lord (Da Shine) ft. Skepta
This sounds like summertime in 2014; that year arguably seemed to be the last year that lyricism and skill prevailed in rap music. The enhancement of production takes this song even further than the flows provided by both Skepta and Rocky. As simple as the chorus and musical make up of the song is, it’s inevitably one of the hottest tracks on the album. If you put your phone down and put the entire album on shuffle, this is the one track that will have you picking your phone back up to check the track name.
I’m not from Harlem, or New York City period, but damn this one had me feeling like I belonged on the corner flipping rocks in one of the boroughs. Back in August of 2017, ASAP Mob released Cozy Tapes Vol. 2. As listeners, we often overlook the earned credit artists deserve when they put together more than a few performers on one track without it lacking mesh or sounding like it’s way too much to take in; there was no sense of that in Cozy Tapes Vol. 2, and this song, gives those same vibes. Featuring his fellow AWGE brothers Playboi Carti & 15-year-old Bronx sensation Smooky Margielaa, “Buck Shots” sounds like mixtape Rocky. This song aggressively screams sunlight and destruction.
Brotha Man ft. French Montana
Now, this is the exact same type of music that fans slept on in At. Long. Last. A$AP. Very rarely do we see an artist execute the inclusion of soul without singing. Yeah, French tried to sing a little bit but the song is just as gritty as a rap cypher would be. The beat begins as if it’s something your parents would play on a Saturday morning before you and your siblings start cleaning, slowly before the bars begin as you and your siblings were the ones rapping on it. This song feels like cocaine in the 80s; that one thing everyone wanted but never knew they needed prior.
This probably should have been the single. This track gives “Pick It Up” vibes, a track Rocky absolutely murdered back in October of 2017. “OG Beeper” is the nucleus of the album, as in, if you were to put someone onto Testing, you should start with this one. The record speaks to the ideology of being trapped and unsatisfied with lower conditions and opportunities. But as Rocky would attest to, only the real prevail. This song is for looking back but in that same blink, being appreciative of the character that developed from those situations.
Those who were raised on hip-hop, fein for authenticity and regardless of some misses, Rocky included, authenticity is what was presented. Rocky’s ability to drop a project that didn’t sound like everything else, seems simple as if it should go uncredited but in this day, it’s simpleness is even more amplified. It would be a lie to say that the two-year hiatus of Rocky dropping an album was forgiven, but the potential to shift rap back into the right hands can be further seen through Testing.
We didn’t get a track with Tyler, although the two have been moving as if they were going to drop an album themselves. We didn’t get a skipless album. And we didn’t get “takeover” Rocky. What we did get was a nucleus of songs that let any doubters know that New York is still here to play and our OG’s who haven’t gone anywhere.
It’s possible that Testing is not completely for us. In fact, with that much expression, maybe it was just for Rocky & his character. But best believe that this album will be in rotation whether it’s one song or the other.
Check out Testing here.
By K. High