Unless you’ve been sleeping under a rock for the last two years, there’s no way you could ignore Top Dawg Entertainment’s transition from underground to mainstream. After earning a distribution deal through Interscope/Aftermath, the future is bright for them.
The members are Jay Rock and Schoolboy Q, who serve as the street presence. Kendrick Lamar is the glue that holds the “Black Hippy” collective together. And last, Ab-Soul…basically the anomaly. Unlike the other 3 members of this posse, he is from Carson, California, not LA. And if you asked anyone about his music prior to this, they would surely tell you “yea, he’s cool” . That’s it.
After previously checking out two mixtapes and an album, I still felt like I didn’t know the guy. Well after pressing play on controlsystem, this soon change. Not only is this album a realization of self, but it is also a formal introduction to the listener of who Ab-Soul REALLY is. And that’s what we’ve been waiting for.
From the introduction, you can tell that this is going to be a totally different project. His abstract rhymes on “Soulo Ho3” sound more focused and precise. Track Two sounds harder than what Ab typically raps on, and the rhymes are harder to: “which one of you niggas wanna call my bluff?/Wish granted, call his ass granite, not he mopped up”.
“Bohemian Grove” contrasts the previous “Track Two” and the following track “Terrorist Threats” (featuring Danny Brown, perfect collaboration), but doesn’t throw the album off one bit. The most important song on the entire album, is “Pineal Gland”.
For those of you up aren’t up on the contents of your brain, the Pineal Gland is located near the cerebellum and is often called the “third eye”. In this song, Ab-Soul breaks down the HiiiPower philosophy that he and Kendrick Lamar mentions so often. No hook, just bars.
Throughout this entire album, Ab-Soul expands the limits of his artistry. “Double Standards” sounds like a song that you would have expected from Kendrick Lamar on Section.80. “Mixed Emotions” is a party song, which you would expect from Schoolboy Q. On songs like “ILLuminate”, you can tell that Ab has finally come into his own as an artist.In the first verse, Ab says: “They wanna see me wearing Polo drawers/Put 2 chains on and that ain’t wrong/But that ain’t me, I go too damn hard/I don’t need clothes or jewelry to stand out/Black lip nigga with his hair wild/Too damn proud”. Ab continues to push his artistic limits with “A Rebellion” which is likely to surprise everyone. Because he’s singing. And…it doesn’t sound bad. At all.
While this song will likely be your favorite, it takes on an eerie tone at the album’s conclusion “Book of Soul”. This song serves as a eulogy of sorts to TDE contributor, Alori Joh, who passed during Ab’s making of this album.
While certainly devastating, that is what makes this album so beautiful. Ab-Soul takes all the triumphs and tragedies alike and etches them into an album that serves as an audio journal. No song is to be skipped. Every verse serves a purpose. Not one bar is wasted. Every word is powerful.
To answer the question previously asked, who is Ab-Soul? TDE’s thinker, revolutionary, and “abstract poet”.
FINAL GRADE: 4.5-5.
(Also my album of the year, until it is dethroned. Highly unlikely)