15 May 2014

RANTS: The Secret Weapon

It's been a long time coming for Herbert Stevens IV, better known as Ab-Soul of TDE. While the masses have spent the past couple years enjoying the radio-friendly sides of Kendrick Lamar and more recently ScHoolboy Q, many fans of that ilk couldn't name a single song penned by the Black Lip Bastard. As nice as it would be to assume all Hip-hop fans seek out great music on their own or follow artists and movements before they "blow up," the fact is that's simply not the case...despite how incredibly easy it is to visit sites like allhiphop.com, hiphopdx.com, and even bestinthemix.net to get a taste of new or lesser known talent on the urban music scene. The radio is still everything to these types of fans, and if it doesn't sound like Future, Rich Homie Quan, Kid Ink, or isn't produced by DJ Mustard, they're simply not checkin for it.

It's unfortunate, but it's also a welcome challenge for Top Dawg Entertainment. Falling in line with the status-quo has never been their M.O. The CEO, Anthony "Top Dawg" Tiffith has been successful with strategically setting all of his artists up for success on both playing fields without following the cookie-cut blueprint laid out by current chart toppers. The label as a whole prides themselves on this accomplishment, but the hold up of the release of Ab-Soul's major label debut album has raised more than a few eyebrows.

Fans of Ab's 2012 independent LP "Control System" have been eagerly awaiting a follow-up, but have only been treated to a few tracks and collabs here and there over the past two years. Soul has made it known that he has at least two, possibly three full projects completed, but they are sitting on the shelf as Top Dawg has yet to reveal a release date for any of them. At the beginning of the month Soulo, growing as restless as his fans, took to twitter threatening to leak the album himself, which was quickly met with backlash from Top Dawg himself making it seem like there was turmoil within the crew.

Since then, Top allowed Soul to release the title of the album which is called "These Days..." and last night Top Dawg tweeted ""YALL BEEN ON MY HEAD ABOUT @abdashsoul RELEASE DAY…. SINCE YALL ACT LIKE YALL RUN #TDE... IM LETN YALL PICK THE DAY... JUNE 3, 10 ,17 OR 24." The problem with this is, if this is indeed Ab-Soul's major label debut album, where is the music so far? Both Q and Kendrick had a couple songs in rotation well before their albums dropped. Top Dawg said every member of TDE will drop an album in 2014, but why are they taking such a different approach for Ab-Soul?

It would be a shame to mishandle the major label release of one of the most talented cats on the TDE roster. We are in the middle of witnessing Black Hippy rise above underground success one by one, but I always saw Ab-Soul as potentially the biggest challenge for the label. His subject matter goes over the heads of typical radio listeners, so you would think Top Dawg would spend a little time easing him into the mainstream limelight. That is, of course, if "These Days..." is indeed his debut studio album as opposed to another indie release. Either way, Soul's self-promotion has been more than enough for hardcore fans to be on board. And whenever the project ends up being released, best believe the BITM crew will be all over it.

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