2014 has been quite the year for debut albums thus far. Already, we’ve seen debut studio LPs from Cali artists Kid Ink, ScHoolboy Q, and YG. Now, about a year after he first splashed into mainstream Hip-hop/R&B, New Orleans singer August Alsina delivers his Def Jam debut album, Testimony. In 2013, Alsina released the radio-buzzing single “I Luv This Shit” featuring labelmate Trinidad James, and the club-friendly “Numb” with B.o.B. and Yo Gotti. Despite their popularity, both of these jams fail to appear on the standard edition of the album. Instead, Alsina aims for a less mainstream, more soulful approach to Testimony. And it undoubtedly works.

The date of the the album’s release, April 15th, holds special meaning to Alsina because his brother was shot and killed on that same day a few years ago. On the album’s intro, “Testify,” he sings about how his brother’s death has inspired him to keep grinding. “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 the struggle, and Alsina’s past days on the corner selling dope. It hasn’t always been easy sailing for the singer, as he describes on the following track, “Make It Home”.

“See I done dodged a couple shots, served a couple blocks/ hit a couple corners tryna shake a couple cops/ I broke a couple rules, didn’t graduate from school/ ‘Cause I was busy hustlin’ when I thought that shit was cool.”

For R&B artists, August Alsina is probably harder than anyone in the genre. Although his voice is easing, don’t get it twisted- he’s about as gangster as singers come. His authentic storytelling can be heard throughout the album, as he puts his blood, sweat, and tears into every word he songs. If Testimony is one thing, it’s honest. Alsina pours his heart out for songs that both trappers and hustlers can relate to.

Of course, Testimony has its fair share of songs devoted to the ladies, as all R&B albums do. Perhaps the most outstanding of them all is “Porn Star,” a passionate ballad with an extraterrestrial beat made by DJ Spinz. Alsina’s silky voice bleeds with emotion as he screams over the song’s wavy production. Another can’t-miss highlight is his collaboration with Fabolous, “Get Ya Money”. The Dun-Deal produced anthem features an irresistible hook sung by Alsina, and a niiice Loso verse to top it off. Not much to complain about there.

If Testimony has one set back, it’s that the album lacks a sense of thrill. A few songs on the album seem to drag on at times, and even begin to sound repetitious. This is good and bad. As a whole, Testimony is a well sequenced project that has little to no air pockets. There aren’t any tracks that sound out of place, which is nice, but the boundaries aren’t necessarily pushed. The most exciting songs on the LP are arguably the three previously-released bonus singles: “Numb,” “I Luv This Shit,” and its respective remix. Had August Alsina included more club-popping songs, the album would have truly shattered expectations. Yet, at its core, Testimony is an honest, genuine, southern R&B album. Certainly no flop for the Def Jam signee.

The album comes to a close with the Mastermind-assisted “Benediction”. 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.

“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.”

August Alsina made it out the trap alive, and now he is at the forefront of R&B. 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, there’s no looking back. Testimony cemented Alsina as a household name for years to come; definitely a dope debut.