It’s weird how, of all the ’90s ephemera that has returned to the mass consciousness of the SoundCloud/YouTube generation, no one really seems to appreciate the oddity that was the crash dummies — no one that is, except ASAP Rocky. The irony that his unique sensibility allowed him alone to connect so spiritually to a goofball set of commercial characters wasn’t lost on me as I watched him tear down his Injured Generation Tour set at the world famous Forum last Thursday night.
The other thing I noticed during the electrifying set was that the missing component from Testing wasn’t anything that could be quantified, held, or even contained on the album in whatever medium it was consumed. It was Rocky himself, his infectious energy, his cocksure demeanor, and the visual components of his live performance, which ranged from inventive to outright absurd. Watching him perform the songs live, the intent of Testing became clear. Rocky complained in a recent interview that the album received a lukewarm response from both fans and critics, that it was too experimental, drawing its sonic direction from its title. However, I’d argue the opposite, that ultimately the problem with Testing may not have been that it was too experimental. Rather, it wasn’t experimental enough.
For instance, during the show, Rocky made his entrance dressed as a Crash Dummy himself, putting himself in the shoes of a test subject as a computerized AI voice put both him and the crowd through their paces with a series of instructions issued both by the AI and by Rocky’s lab-coated assistants, who were also dressed as Crash Dummies. The iconography that was plastered all over his album packaging and promotion suddenly made perfect sense to me — in the old commercials, some of the Dummies naturally played the scientists, putting the others through a series of dangerous exams behind the wheels of a range of cars.