In terms of promising debuts, August Alsina came out the gate swinging with Testimony. The album is, on the whole, an intensely personal look into what shaped Alsina into who he is today. Clearly, he is not just another pretty face forced onto the radio by Def Jam. Instead, he does an excellent job and stands out from the rest with his thuggish lane of R&B.
1. August isn’t afraid to get personal.
From the beginning of the album, we’re hit with the title track “Testimony.” An intensely detailed look into August’s early life, he lays it all bare for the listener. “I remember cuttin’ class, bein’ bad, / cuz I ain’t have what them other kids had / I remember wishin’ that I knew my dad” are just a couple lines that illustrate the early events that shaped August into who he is today.
2. Besides giving us an honest look into himself, he also has his love songs like a true R&B singer.
He isn’t corny about it, though. “Now I ain’t ever been the jealous type of guy / But I want you to myself, I can’t lie” is the beginning of “Kissin On My Tattoos.” Though the title sounds like it could be a little freakier than it is, it is another earnest, honest approach that he also adopts in the love songs. There is nothing overly saccharine about his crooning to women or how he tries to appeal to lady listeners.
3. He’s setting himself up to be the next it-guy for the hooks.
There are plenty of OG rappers throughout Testimony who deliver fairly standard verses. Young Jeezy, Fabolous, Yo Gotti, Rick Ross, and Pusha T all help out the young OG. “FML,” featuring Pusha T, is one of the highlights. While the album up until this point has sounded fairly homogeneous, it is one of the few spots where August really shows us what he is capable of by singing and switching up his cadences, while the song itself is pretty dark.
4. But he’s just as good on his own without a rapper being featured.
Most of the songs are just August, and that isn’t a complaint by any means. Between his willingness to be open to his listeners about his past triumphs and past problems on songs like “Testimony” or “FML,” he keeps it interesting enough as to where we aren’t wanting more guest spots to break it up. In this day and age, it’s practically shocking to hear almost an entire album that isn’t littered with rap guest verses, and even rarer to hear a singer carry an album on his own.
5. August is carving out a niche R&B lane for himself
Throughout the entire album, August is always dropping little hints to us that he’s a G. Aside from the actual name of the song “Grind and Pray,” which is served up as a two-for-one with “Get Ya Money,” he croons that he might “come through your ‘hood, in all black / if you real, you’d recognize.” In “Make It Home,” too, he sings that “I done dodged a couple shots / Served a couple blocks / Hit a couple corners tryna shake a couple cops,” and obviously isn’t shy about his past. Between his crooning and open-book look into his life, he’s really creating a special lane for himself.