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'Testimony' is Hip-Hop/R&B's happy medium

By Emily Herbst
On April 16, 2014

"Testimony" takes off like a lot of entry-level R&B albums: a soft, Drake-y intro littered with piano and girly appeal, making its first impression as your typical "slow-jam" set list. What follows, to our surprise, is a lot deeper. R&B and occasional hip-hop artist August Alsina opens his adolescent wounds in "Testify," giving way to a painful reflection on absent fatherhood, poverty, dropping out of high school, and even becoming suicidal. He claims this as his opportunity to "testify," thus setting the frank and sensitive mood for the rest of his thoughtful tracks, much like stories, to come.
The singer frequently switches musical lanes, yet always returns to his uniquely R&B comfort zone, scattering in the occasional riffs and runs that makes us love all that is August Alsina. Just 21, the hip-hop/R&B artist has turned heads in the last six months, most frequently with the release of "I Luv This Sh*t (Feat. Trinidad James)" from his mixtape "The Product 2" from this summer, which was later remixed with Chris Brown and Trey Songz following its massive acclaim. Maintaining a low-key mood with most tracks on the slower side, and a couple bangers in between to prevent us from napping ("Ghetto," "Numb"), "Testimony" proves itself an above-average first studio album.
"Testimony"'s collaborations run the genre gamut, from Fabolous to Pusha to Rick Ross. Jeezy makes an appearance on the second track, "Make It Home," an unusually innocent spot for his famously harsh, rougher flow in rap. The track follows the trend with the telling of Alsina's "street stories," with both regret and hope. The conclusion is fairly depressing, but real; the singer prepares for a life potentially cut short: "but if I don't make it home tonight, tell my mama that I love her/leave some flowers for my brother, girl I love ya."
If there's one thing the young R&B crooner preaches, it's to stay on your grind; his message is evident in tracks like "Grind & Pray/Get Ya Money (Feat. Fabolous)." Alsina follows both of these laws and urges his girl to do the same, while Loso lays down some bars about power couples and paying the bills. The substance, while valuable, gets a tad redundant on the EP-the one major--but still forgivable--weakness. "You Deserve" and "No Love" are two of the other sleepers. "Kissin' On My Tattoos" gets a little closer to mastery of the R&B ballad, but slightly underwhelming production seems to curb its finalization.
"Ghetto" makes a quick return to club-worthiness, but the buzz soon fades and doesn't quite pick up again until six tracks later, on "Numb" (Feat. B.O.B. and Yo Gotti) and of course-"I Luv This Sh*t," the one with most listeners have been familiarized. The most "hip-hop" of all the songs on the album, these three are likely to win over both the laidback R&B lovers and head-bumping hip-hop fans alike.

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