One of the biggest weaknesses of up and coming MCs is their one dimensional talent, which often leaves the listener bored after just a few listens. Members of Top Dawg Entertainment’s Black Hippy, on the other hand, do not have this problem whatsoever. Anyone who has been following the California crew knows they have been making big moves as of late, namely, signing with Aftermath/Interscope. Now following the release of his fellow MCs critically acclaimed albums (Kendrick Lamar’s Section.80, Jay Rocks’ Follow Me Home and ScHoolboy Q’s Habits & Contradictions), Ab-Soul attempts to follow suit with Control System.
Long time Top Dawg collaborators digi+phonics (Soundwave, Tae Beast and Willie B) should receive just as much recognition as the MC’s they produce for. A major contribution to the success of the Top Dawg albums have been the outstanding production and mixing (courtesy of MixedbyAli), providing the young rappers with a signature sound, not conforming with the Lex Luger and JUSTICE League beats flooding the industry. This is sound is one that is not easy to describe. It’s backpack meets gangsta rap, even though Soul doesn’t really fit into either category. Everything from piano to 808s, classical instruments and some of the best samples I’ve heard from anyone not named Kanye.
Standout Tracks: “Track Two” (prod. Tae Beast), “Showin Love” (prod. Willie B), “Pineal Gland” (prod. Tae Beast), “SOPA” (ft. ScHoolboy Q) (prod Nez & Rio)
If you listen to Ab-Souls older tapes such as Longterm, and then listen to Control System, you can tell Soulo has grown by leaps and bounds lyrically (that is not to say he was ever not lyrical). There are very few MCs that can compete with TDE lyrically. Even when Soul is telling a story or spitting about some subject or another, he finds a way to do so without compromising his bars. “Track Two” sees Soulo straight spazzing out while the Black Hippy assisted “Black Lip Bastard (Remix)” is almost 6 minutes of hard hitting lines.
Standout Tracks: “Track Two,” ” Black Lip Bastard (Black Hippy Remix),” “Beautiful Death” (ft. Punch & Ashtrobot), “ILLuminate” (ft. Kendrick Lamar), “Empathy” (ft. Alori Joh & Ja Vonte’)
What separates Black Hippy from other super groups is there ability to simultaneously spit real shit and some ill shit. The biggest strength of Control System is the multiple and well thought out subjects visited by Ab-Soul. “Terrorist Threats” uses an ironic title to talk about rebelling against a corrupt American government. Similarly, “SOPA” confronts the continued efforts to censor the internet and begins with the excellent line “Oh you the kid? Im Joseph Koney”. On the other hand, “The Book of Soul” is a very personal and introspective song (Soul even describes surviving a deadly disease as a child). And even when he gets a little ignorant with a track dedicated to lean aka codeine-promethezine cough syrup, “Mixed Emotions,” Soul keeps it fresh although asking “I hope it aint cliche to shoot Pimp C a R-I-P, as well as DJ Screw, since I made up this tune about lean.” And “Pineal Gland,” a spacey drug ballad, explores the interworkings of the Third Eye. Sidenote- Alori Joh, who does a terrific job on many of this and other TDE albums hooks, passed away recently and it sounds as though “The Book of Soul” is partially a dedication to the late singer. RIP.
Standout Tracks: “The Book of Soul,” “Mixed Emotions,” “Nothings Something,” “Terrorist Threats” (ft. Danny Brown & Jhene Aiko), “Double Standards”
Ask as member of Black Hippy and they will tell you Ab-Soul is like a mascot for the group, an embodiment of what the crew represents; a mixture of where the Hip Hop culture has been and where they’d like to see it go, namely to a place where lyrics and content are once again at center stage. There is no denying the talent and versatility of Ab-Soul (and his Black Hippy brethren) and there is no telling what they’ll be able to do with the backing of a powerhouse label like Interscope. Control System is spectacular from beginning to end, once again a TDE album provides a breath of fresh air in an industry full of small minded smog.