Album Review: Ab-Soul: ‘These Days…’

In Hip Hop by Nick Russell

Album Review: Ab-Soul: ‘These Days…’

Ab-Soul: these days, lyrical prowess by itself doesn’t cut it. These days, ‘twerking’ is in the Oxford English Dictionary. And yes, Soulo’s most recent album ‘These Days…’ touches upon these contemporary phenomenons; even Miley’s ridiculous new trademark.

It is certainly evident that ‘These Days…’ takes a different approach to past projects, notably that of ‘Control System’ which was appraised for its introspective lyrics. Instead, Soulo is intending to appeal to a wider audience, with varied styles to accommodate a multitude of tastes. Of course, with such a transition in approach, there comes oscillations in lyrical quality within the album. That is not to say lyricism has been discarded entirely; examples of lyrical ingenuity can be found especially in the opener ‘God’s Reign’, touching upon several topics from the divine to monetary struggles.

Take this line for example: ‘ABC everythang, every M you end up with is owed’

Using the power of deduction and admittedly a little help from Rap Genius, you realise Ab-Soul illustrates his financial predicaments simultaneously with tremendous wordplay. Here, one may interpret the line by ‘Ab-Soul (AB) see’s (C) that every million (M) you end (N) up with is owed (O)’.

The combination of such wordplay, alongside the juxtaposition of alphabetical simplicity compared to his difficult situation is simply sensational. Soulo’s lyrical competence continues with ‘Tree of Life’, which uses numerous instances of vivid natural imagery to add creativity to his story. The rapper’s crucial role in the formation of ‘Black Hippy’ seems rather fitting.

Another impressive aspect of ‘These Days…’is the production. Resonating the diverse nature of the project, one can experience all kinds of different sounds. This is not surprising given the fact that thirteen of the fifteen tracks incorporated different producers, ranging from the likes of J. Cole on ‘Sapiosexual’ to Terrace Martin on ‘Kendrick Lamar’s Interlude’.

Speaking of which, that jazzy beat should be accompanied with a cup of coffee (or whiskey) and a sunny day; it is heavenly just like its counterpart on ‘Section.80’. On the other hand there are more aggressive sounding tracks such as ‘Hunnid Stacks’ and more emotional, ballad like sounds such as ‘Closure’. Although varied, the production illustrates a consistent standard of high quality throughout, providing a sturdy spine for the album.

I can’t help but feel some of this production has been let down by instances of weak lyricism however. This is epitomised by ‘Feelin’ Us’, which features a wonderful mellow beat but is accompanied by a distinctly average hook, and the verses are unimpressive. ‘Twact’ was even worse, had my heads in my hands during that one. Meanwhile, ‘Stigmata’ was the centre of some heated discussion due to its blasphemous nature. Although controversial, I personally found that the clear lack of boundaries added significant spice to the lyrical content, and the risqué approach is appealing.

All in all, ‘These Days…’ encompasses Soulo’s approach to survive in the ever changing game. He wanted to cross boundaries, and he has certainly done that. Although the lyrical rigour has diminished compared to his previous works, exemplary production and bits of lyrical ingenuity make it well worth a listen. It is fair to say that there is a time and a place for every single song, from the dance floor, to a beachside, to a recent break up. I’m sure everyone will find a song they feel in there.

Best Beat: Feelin’ Us

Kendrick Lamar’s Interlude

Best Lyrics: God’s Reign

Best Overall: Just Have Fun