“Ab-Soul, abstract asshole, give the people what they need. Damn right let ‘em know.”
If you didn’t know by now, I consider myself somewhat of a big fan of Top Dawg Entertainment and the musical acts they have graced the scene for this past decade. It started off with ScHoolboy Q, drifted to Kendrick & Jay Rock, and then I got into Ab-Soul (if we’re just keeping it with Black Hippy, respectively). Him, I wasn’t so keen on in the beginning, because as much as I could respect the fact that he could rap his ass off, I think the production surrounding him was a bit ‘meh’ to my ears, until I heard him on older projects (Longterm: Mentality was the first project I heard of his). Until Control System came to be, the winner and personal favourite project of his was Longterm 2: Lifestyles of the Broke & Almost Famous because it helped me through a difficult patch of life. A lot of songs connected to me and I felt like there was room for Soul’s lyrics to resonate with me in broader detail (Be A Man, Drift Away, Can Anybody Hear Me, Turn Me Up being the notable few). Control System took that love of LT2 and heightened to a level I didn’t know Soul was capable of going to, but he did. The unbearable sadness that was losing Alori Joh was a catalyst for him pushing the emotion forward, whether on the political spectrum or personal, but to this date, it’s still his best work.
The ongoing battle that was to get this album released was frustrating to watch as a fan, so I couldn’t imagine what Ab was going through (him threatening to leak his own album was certainly a surprise). Because of the lack of success from the previous effort, my expectations were lowered the same way mine were for Lupe Fiasco after he dropped Lasers. But, the good thing is that he followed it up with Food & Liquor 2, which was a pretty solid effort, but not the absolute best (he went on to make Tetsuo & Youth and all was right in the world). I was hoping for Soulo to make his resurgence to the strength I knew and what the fans knew he had in him.
The initial listen had me on the fence because I didn’t know exactly what the whole concept was trying to grasp, but the thing about Ab-Soul (fuck it, for all music) is you can’t think that you can figure it out after the first listen. The initial listen is integral to catch a few bars and see how they blend with production, and it takes more listening to get a real perspective of what the project, as a whole, is all about. J. Cole said (technically tweeted) that “your 1 listen reviews are fucking up Hip Hop” and there is no word of a lie evident, because of the ‘click culture’ that online publications have driven over the past few years in which people just want everything at a moment’s notice like fast food, but in reality, it’s not the case. You have to treat music with a bit of respect with some integrity dashed in the sauce, for flavour’s sake.
That being said, as I got through more listens, I was grateful of the fact that I liked the majority of the songs on the album (Womanogamy & YMF I don’t care for), and that thematically, Soul was consistent as he extended his ‘Black Lip Pastor’ role started out in These Days… to allow him to preach more about the possibilities of God being a woman, and tying that to how the modern woman (in his eyes) operates. Having a fair amount of respect for women, as a male Hip Hop artist, is a trait not often expressed, because it is a misogynistic genre. The beauty of Hip Hop is that the opportunities for unlearning toxic behaviour are expressed uniquely in comparison to other forms of music, and have the ability to open up that conversation, even if there are stumbles along the way. Soul has always had his advocacy for fair & equal treatment of women and female empowerment, and those examples are layered throughout this album like nice lasagna.
The Law is Love, and “love is the only law” which is a positive reinforcement in Soul’s life given the fact that he’s done a pretty solid job getting through devastation with a seemingly successful relationship with Yaris Sanchez, whom he praised on the last album for being there during a rough time (Closure). Rapsody again lending her hand in a way to be that voice of women to reaffirm the strength that is not only needed but validated, is a move of class by TDE to continue to let her shine bright (just sign her already, damn). With limited features, it comes to be known that Soul’s pen is not to be dismissed when talking about the best MCs out in the game. Songs like INvocation, Lonely Soul (thank you Punch for another great verse), Huey Knew THEN, Now You Know, and Evil Genius are notable favourites of mine because of the lyrical aggressiveness that he always had, but really hadn’t heard the passion being rapped since Control System. He’ll always be one to throw around metaphors & rhyme schemes that sometimes won’t be picked up until much later listens, but that’s the beauty of a dope MC – they give you something to come back to and surprise when you least expect it. Production was solid all around, which added to the overall likeness of the effort, and we got another Soul & Q song; whenever those two come together, it’s never a bad thing.
There are many theories as to what God’s existence is, and for Soul to take the approach and dedicate the love of God as if God was a woman, it could be a case of sacrilege for many viewers, but it’s not a theory often discussed, it’s always what the colour of God is or what that presence of God truly is, which we’ll never know anyways until our time is called.
“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will.” – The law of Thelema
What I’ve admired about Ab-Soul is that through his music, he’s a mastermind of getting the listener to master their minds. He’s studious and certainly is open-minded enough to bring different theories, beliefs and ideas for people to look outside of what’s put in front of them. The encouragement to discover more than what’s inside of a perennial box of knowledge is essentially a foundation of Hip Hop in itself, and it’s appreciative for the fact that Ab-Soul continues to practice what he preaches.
“These are not 16s, these are verses from the bible” – Jay Z (Heaven)
The Soul I know is back, and God bless his. Find some spare time to take it in for your personal enjoyment and potential spiritual fulfillment. But for now, this is my opinion, this is my review
That’s My Word & It STiXX