August Alsina “Testimony” Album Review

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“If you’re not familiar with August Alsina’s music, or just see girls talking about him on twitter, then take my word for it, he’s definitely worth a listen to”

 It’s only April and already 2014 has produced debut studio albums from Kid Ink, ScHoolboy Q, and YG. Now, after entering into mainstream Hip-hop/R&B in 2013 with his radio-buzzing single “I Luv This Shit ft Trinidad James“, and the club-friendly “Numb ft B.o.B. & Yo Gotti” New Orleans singer August Alsina delivers his Def Jam debut album, Testimony.

If you’re not familiar with August Alsina’s music, or just see girls talking about him on twitter, then take my word for it, he’s definitely worth a listen to. I first listened to him when I heard his mixtape “The Product 2” (which I highly recommend) in 2013, before later releasing his first EP “Downtown: Life Under the Gun” in anticipation for his album. Alsina, unlike what a lot of rappers and even singers preach, actually used to trap. He’s been homeless, lived on the streets, which has only made him more humble with the mainstream success he’s quickly gaining.

The album’s release date, April 15th, holds special meaning to Alsina as his brother was shot and killed on that same day a few years ago. He openly regards this album as a testimony to his brother and as a result you can hear the soulful, almost church-like feel he brings on the album. On the album’s intro, “Testify,” he sings about how his brother’s death has inspired him to make a better life for himself and the daughters his brother left behind. “Heard my brother got gunned down, and it hurt me to my heart/ So I kept grinding’, kept pushin’, he told me to go far.” In fact, a large portion of the album’s subject matter is about his struggle, and Alsina’s past days on the corner selling dope, which is best shown in his single “Make It Home ft Jeezy”.

While many from that background would probably aspire to be rappers, for August, it has always been singing since the age of 15. His authentic storytelling can be heard throughout the album, as he puts his blood, sweat, and tears into every word he sings. If Testimony is one thing, it’s honest. “The truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth” is a phrase he often uses in interviews, and believe me, Alsina pours his heart out for songs that both trappers and hustlers can relate to.

But of course, August Alsina could not release an album without devoting songs to what make up the majority of any R&B artists fanbase: Girls. And Testimony has its fair share of songs devoted to the ladies. I’ve noticed that many love “Porn Star,” a passionate ballad with the beat made by DJ Spinz, with production that fits Alsina’s silky voice perfectly as he sings with the emotion you’d expect from a song of this nature. Another can’t-miss highlight is “Kissin’ On My Tattoos”. I’ll leave you to have a listen.

By now it is probably obvious that I am a big fan, but if I had to pick out a negative point of the album,  it could be that a few songs on the album seem to drag on at times. Another could be that many of the features were needless, as August could have easily carried the album on his own, with maybe the exceptions of: “Fml ft Pusha T”, “Ghetto ft Yo Gotti” and “Benediction ft Rick Ross”. And if you listen to the deluxe edition, I personally prefer the “I Luv This Shit Remix ft Chris Brown and Trey Songz” over the original.

The album comes to a close with the Mastermind-assisted “Benediction” and the outro track picks up where “Testify” left off, as Alsina sings about the tragic loss of his brother, and how the struggle has changed him, with the soulful, church feel returning, bringing the album full circle.

As a whole, Testimony is a well sequenced project and there aren’t any tracks that sound out of place. At its core, Testimony is an honest, genuine, R&B album, and a solid debut for the Def Jam signee. In my opinion, if you’ve never heard of August Alsina before and you listen to this album, you will almost certainly be impressed. However, if you’re already a fan, this is simply more of the same. And that’s definitely a good thing!

“So many nights I tried/ To hide how I felt, I would cry inside/ And I ran through the streets till my feet got tired/ Cause I ain’t wanna have my shoes on them power lines.”

 

Testimony vividly paints a picture of the singer’s rough past, and what he’s overcome to reach the top . Now that he’s here though, there’s no looking back. Testimony is gritty and honest, but mixed with smooth vocals, August Alsina brings something fresh to the music scene in that he doesn’t try to be anything he’s not. He doesn’t try to tick a box or fit into a category. He is just himself, and love him, hate him, or feel indifferent towards him, I think we all can respect that.

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