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ALBUM REVIEW: Ab-Soul “These Days…”

Those familiar with Ab dash Soul may consider him the elusive and otherworldly member of TDE. Always donning sunglasses and frequently a fitted cap crown, Ad-Soul can fade into the background for those unfamiliar. His past projects have included themes uncommon in mainstream rap – outer space, conspiracies and the like. But with the spotlight on TDE (arguably because of Kendrick‘s stellar debut album and guest verses), everyone is paying attention to Ab-Soul like never before. ScHoolBoy Q released an amazing album in Oxymoron. The newest signees, SZA & Isiah Rashad both released impressive projects, See.SZA.Run & Cilvia Demo, respectively. After a little public angst over his project not being released (see: Twitter), Top Dawg of Top Dawg Entertainment pulled the trigger on the promotion for Ab-Soul‘s latest release. Check my review for These Days… below.

Before I talk my shit, let me start with being honest. I never really liked Ab-Soul‘s brand of hip-hop. Not that I thought he wasn’t a talented rapper, I just couldn’t totally get jiggy with his previous releases – Long Term Mentality, Control System. But, I have a new appreciation for him after listening to These Days…, perhaps even for the obvious reasons. I could relate to the material more. The production is more familiar to TDE and the left coast sound. Additionally, his content is more accessible. I was impressed by this album and I plan to revisit previous releases.

The album features a seemingly random menage of features: Rick Ross, Lupe Fiasco, Action Bronson, Danny Brown, Ravaughn, most of TDE, and more. J.Cole even makes an uncredited ad-lib appearance courtesy of a track he produced. But Herbert Stevens IV makes them all work. In an interview with Life+Times, Ab-Soul shares that he wanted this album to have something for everyone, and he achieves this perhaps getting slightly lost in the struggle to appeal to various listeners. The album opens with “Gods Reign” featuring the airy vocals of SZA, clearly the reference point for the album artwork and the stand-in for a title track for the album. Ab-Soul gives us a peek into where his head is at now after the death of a girlfriend and a binge of various drugs. However, it doesn’t sound tortured or particularly sad mentioned with enlightening baby mamas and booking tour dates. Check it below.

The first half of the album features production and content familiar to original Ab-Soul fans including “Dub Sac,” a soulful two-part track detailing personal drug use and the effects of the drug game on his family and upbringing. SZA makes an uncredited airy appearance that reminds me of a different time in west coast rap music. Lupe Fiasco and Rick Ross both make appearances in the first half of the album, with the latter’s appearance much more impressive. But then again, when is the last time Lupe Fiasco impressed anyone.

The weakness in the album comes with the odd inclusion of an alter-ego Jimmy (aka The White Ab-Soul) and the overused “Migos-flow.” Like, why? Right as you start to side-eye the project, Kendrick Lamar shows up for a jazzy mid-point interlude prime to make you salivate for Kendrick‘s sophomore album. “Sapiosexual” includes a credited SZA appearance but it seems juvenile and outdated. I was under the impression we were done with the fuck-your-mind analogies in the early 90s (see: dead prez “Mind Sex”). The second half of the album continues to be lyrical, yet slightly uninteresting until “Ride Slow” featuring the always entertaining Danny Brown. Definitely not a fan of Danny Brown, but I’m always intrigued by his inclusion on “traditional” rap beats. And then the album closes with Ab-Soul rapping acapella in a battle with another rapper (battle rapper, Daylyt) showcasing his play on words, overall lyrical dexterity, and what appears to be the camaraderie within TDE.

Perhaps Ab-Soul‘s album suffers from sequencing issues. The overall flow of the album is sporadic with the most interesting tracks occurring before the Kendrick interlude. Is this an instant classic? Nah. But it’s a decent rap album and I’m impressed by Ab-Soul‘s latest project. I expected accessible music, but I still prefer the cerebral mood of Control System. Ab-Soul‘s need to please so many different listeners has me wondering what type of artist he would be if he only made the music he wanted. There are lyrical gems reminding me that Ab-Soul is a lyricist first, but tracks like “Sapiosexual” and “Twact” leave me wondering what’s on the cutting room floor.

Standout Tracks: Gods Reign, Hunnid Stax, Nevermind

Skippable Tracks: Twact, Sapiosexual

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MUSIC WORLD: TDE Playlist + ScHoolboy Q Video

Another Music Monday playlist for your headphones. This week, I’ve decided to share my TDE playlist. TDE is =/= to Black Hippy. Black Hippy consists of Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, and Jay Rock. But TDE has recently expanded it’s roster signing rapper Isaiah Rashad and singer SZA – neither of which have a profile on Spotify. So this playlist will unfortunately include none of their music. But enjoy nonetheless. 9 hours of TDE, features and solo tracks, still sounds like a good Monday to me.

Also, as ScHoolboy Q preps for his third album Oxymoron, he’s released a visual to “Banger (MOSHPIT).” Still don’t know when the album is dropping, but he’s turned it in to the label. Check the video below.

MUSIC WORLD: Pusha T x Kendrick Lamar “Nosetalgia”

Pusha T has released the next single from his debut solo album My Name is My Name. This song features the “King of New York” Kendrick Lamar. It’s titled “Nosetalgia.” Excuse the tags for now (they premiered it on Funkmaster Flex. Ugh). Check it below.

Shit. This just ain’t fair. Great to drop this amazing track after Drake’s album leaks. My Name is My Name drops October 8th. You copping?

MUSIC WORLD: A$AP Ferg Responds to Kendrick + A$AP Rocky Voices His Opinion

After the verse heard round the world dropped, Kendrick had every veteran and freshman rapper pondering whether a response was necessary. For the record, none of the artists he actually named as a challenge to him have issued a lyrical response. Until now. Well, kinda. Kendrick mentioned A$AP Rocky. And since the A$AP Mob moves as a unit most of the time, Ferg took some album promo time to spit his shit. Check the verse. It’s actually good.

A$AP Mob and TDE are homies, so I appreciated the lyrical response that didn’t feel too nice or too personal. This is the culmination to A$AP Mob invading Hot 97. Check A$AP Rocky‘s interview response to the Kendrick verse below. I’m so over Funkmaster Flex, but I loved this interview.

VIDEO WORLD: ScHoolboy Q x Kendrick Lamar “Collard Greens”

It’s time to party. ScHoolboy Q decided to release a visual to his Kendrick Lamar assisted single “Collard Creens.” Hablas espanol? Check it below.

TDE sticks together. ScHoolboy Q‘s anticipated album, Oxymoron is coming soon… we think.

MUSIC WORLD: Solange x Kendrick Lamar “Looks Good With Trouble”

It’s something like a remix. Solange has released her airy track “Looks Good With Trouble” extended with tiny revamped sounds and a verse from Kendrick. Check it below.

I could see them performing this at all the festivals they will both be hitting this summer. The track is rumored to be the first single from a future full-length album this year. Thoughts?

VIDEO WORLD: Kendrick Lamar “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe”

For some reason, I didn’t expect to see a video for this track. Maybe it was because of the remix. Or maybe because somewhere in the back of my mind, I thought we already had a video for this. Either way, Kendrick has released a visual for “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe.” Check it below.

I always enjoy Kendrick videos. And this is no different. LOL at the ending saying “Death to Molly.” If you’re under a rock, his album good kid, m.A.A.d city is amazing.