The candidates for #NoRules this year, as part of REVOLT’s annual year-end review, have been stacking up quite nicely. Chicago’s own, and Rick Rubin protege, Towkio dropped an album out of the air (literally). Rae Sremmurd and Mike WiLL Made-It tucked in everyone’s gameplan with not one, not two, but three albums for the price of one. One album that could give the aforementioned some clear competition, though, is A$AP Rocky’s upcoming third solo, Testing.

Ever since Beyoncé Beyoncé’d the game almost five years ago, there’s been almost a constant one-upmanship to how artists can rollout albums. Sometimes it’ll be abrupt announcements, while other occasions may include hours-long livestreams, “living” experiments, and a million dollar’s worth of game for $9.99. What a time to be in the music business. For Rocky, though, this is all equates to an open playing field, or in his recent case, a science lab of litty proportions.

In a year where his contemporaries are either making announcements or surprise drops, Flacko stood at bay, testing the waters. Last year, he kicked things off by posting a series of crash test dummy photos, along with related merch. From there, he spent the remaining months sharing snippets on IG while sticking to the crash test aesthetic.In January, he randomly dropped the lo-fi dummies “☆☆☆☆☆ 5IVE $TAR$,” “Above,” and “Money Bags.” Despite drawing mixed reactions, the records added a little clarity to Rocky’s vision, which, as he told GQ last year, “is really about testing new sounds.”

As a result, Rocky’s direction for the new album, which he continues to keep mum on, speaks through these unconventional practices.

For most of his career, the rapper has stayed true to the following mission: out with the norm, in with the new. So in his way of trying out new tricks (and sounds), the rapper ends up with a clean slate that’s resistant to expectations beyond weird or unorthodox. After all, when you do off-the-wall shit, you end up with off-the-wall results, which ultimately makes it even harder for critics to critique (Case in point: Kanye West’s Yeezus). That right there is as close to #NoRules as you can get.

Rolling Loud Miami 2018 | A$AP Rocky surprises during Playboi Carti’s set with “New Choppa”

By stepping out of the norm for most of his career, Rocky’s been able to carve out his position as one of rap’s most avant-garde (and often underrated) emcees. By sprinkling his social media timeline with images of crash test dummies, performing as a lab rat on late night shows like The Tonight Show and surprise live art pieces like at Sotheby’s over the weekend, these elements only add another dimension to his ever-evolving sonic journey. And to think, with all of the aforementioned details, the only “single” he’s officially released are “A$AP Forever” and “Bad Company,” which feature Moby and BlocBoy JB, respectively.

Testing, Rocky’s first since AT.LONG.LAST.A$AP in 2015, is officially “done,” and due “525.” Whether the latter signals a May 25th date, a 5:25 AM/PM release on May 25, or, what the hell, a 525-day timeframe adds to the eccentrics behind A$AP Rocky’s next phase of sonic expansion.