26 June 2014

REVIEW: Ab-Soul - These Days...

After sitting on the sidelines for the past couple years, we finally get a new album from Ab-Soul in the form of 'These Days...' From 2009 until 2012 we were able to enjoy stellar efforts from him every single year until it all came to screeching halt when his two projects were shelved in 2013. The lofty expectations for his follow-up to Control System almost aren't fair, as that album still remains as one of, if not TDE's strongest album to date. So after four albums of ambitious, thought provoking, and near-masterfully produced music, which direction would he take his latest project in?

'These Days...' starts off in typical Soulo fashion with 'God's Reign.' Along with 'Tree of Life,' these songs fit everything we have come to expect from Ab-Soul, but it's a shaky ride from then on depending on your particular tastes. Other than the Lupe-assisted 'World Runners' and the slaughterfest led by none other than K.Dot on 'Kendrick Lamar's Interlude,' (which really doesn't count) most of the meat of this album severely falls flat. With obvious west coast "club bangers" like 'Twact,' it is obvious that Soul aimed to make this project more accessible to a wider audience who are simply not on the level to grasp the concepts found on an album like 'Longterm Mentality.' This trend continues with no shortage of ignorance with tracks like 'Hunnid Stax,' and 'Nevermind That' with a feature from Rick Ross for absolutely no reason at all. It's questionable features, production, and subject matter like the ones found on these tracks that may make a long time Ab-Soul fan feel a bit alienated.

It's a shame that the heart of this LP almost abandons everything Soul is known for, because it starts off fairly strong, and picks back up during the last four to five tracks, saving the mind-rattling lyricism fans are used to for the very end. The final track spends the first five minutes warming us up on the JMSN-produced 'W.R.O.H.,' and then transitions, in pure bonus track fashion, into eighteen minutes of nonstop BARS between Ab-Soul and battle rap veteran Daylyt that is sure to make your mind spin in circles with every line each of them spit. It's almost like an in-case-you-forgot-who-the-fuck-I-am moment where Ab puts out a clear reminder of why he is one of the best things going on in Hip-hop today. The battle does not come close to atoning for the sins committed throughout the bulk of this album though, but it at least lets fans know that the Black Lip Bastard they've grown to love has not gone anywhere.

This was never meant to be Control System 2; a fact that you should come to grips with sooner than later. But as a fan who has been waiting for two years for a new project from Ab-Soul, it's difficult to not want to compare 'These Days...' to his previous albums. If you are able to judge this album on its own, you will no doubt enjoy it more than someone who was expecting him to stay in the same lane as the 'Long Term' saga or 'Control System.' That's not to say that it is a terrible album, it's just that fans have been spoiled by the quality of Ab-Soul's music. The best way to sum this project up is, one half of the Hip-hop world is sure to love all of the exact same tracks that true Ab-Soul fans will hate on 'These Days...' and vice-versa.


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