Tag-lined as a 21-year old R&B crooner “groomed” by Grammy Award-winning The-Dream, Def Jam’s August Alsina has a lot to live up to. Starting his career in 2011, the New Orleans artist made a move to Atlanta that not only changed his career for the better, but also injected a new sound and era into his music.
With a heavy heart, August Alsina opens up the album with “Testify.” Over a piano-driven melody, August tells the tale of his childhood; one that includes parental abandonment, teen angst and disobedience, drug abuse, hustling and overall the truth behind the struggles of many young adults who grew up in the hood. The very honest declaration leads the way for the rest of the album to talk within raw emotions and everyday accounts of life’s joys and hurdles.
Following up “Testify,” the Jeezy-assisted “Make It Home” romanticizes drug dealing over a very smooth instrumental produced by The Featherstones; however, it also projects the reality that it’s still possible to come home in a body bag. Alsina delivers a modern-day version of Monica and 112′s “Right Here Waiting” with “Right There,” equipped with the notable piano bridge that slickly binds the two songs together. On the other side of the love/lust coin, the sultry “Porn Star” divulges in desires and sex, backed by a chopped and screwed bridge, electric guitar riffs and a high-powered falsetto from Alsina that speaks to his mentor’s own vocal range. The R&B crooner drafts “Ah Yeah” with the same blueprint, which noticeably takes a page out of Usher’s catalog, simplifying all production and focusing on his vocals.
Over the course of the album, Alsina joins forces with several rappers, including the singles “Ghetto” (Yo Gotti), “Numb” (B.o.B), and the gold-certified “I Luv This Shit” (Trinidad Jame$). The latter two of the trio both marvel in club-banger concepts, but feature vastly different production. “Numb” gets hold of signature DJ Mustard slaps and “I Luv This Shit” features production from ATL’s Knucklehead, who offers an array of horns and heavy bass creating a robust anthem. While Pusha T’s appearance on “FML” doesn’t quite save the flat effort, “Grind & Pray / Get Ya Money”, which features Fabolous is a standout collaborative cut. Before diving into “Get Ya Money”, the track is introduced by “Grind & Pray” (which is extended in full as a bonus cut) that vocalizes the Christian bedtime prayer “Evening Prayer.” Loosely relating the prayer to grinding for money, “Grind & Pray” sets up the reigns for Alsina and Fabolous to speak to/for exotic dancers over a DJ Spinz and Dun Deal produced beat.
The gospel-inspired “Benediction” brings Alsina back to the album concept of testimonials, speaking to the notion spiritual and mental freedom. Bringing the album full-circle, Rick Ross adds his own depth to the single, offering a balance and heart to the hustle and heat of Testimony.
In comparison to several R&B records released this year, August Alsina offers an honesty in his music related directly to his life. He’s neither afraid to rejoice in his accomplishments nor is he scared to speak on his mistakes. Finding the balance between sex, love, and ratchet, Testimony is truly a testament to a new era in R&B that shifts safe lyrics to smooth street tales.—Erin Lowers