Probably the hippy-est of Black Hippy, Ab-Soul’s long hair, shades and dark lips instantly distinguish him from the other TDE’s other personalities. After patiently waiting while Kendrick, Q, and Jay Rock each gained critical acclaim, it’s finally his turn to step up into the limelight and take the shot at bat today with the release of Control System. Soulo’s offering reflects his unique, philosophical perspective on his surroundings and upbringing while showing listeners just what they were missing by passing over his earlier trio of LongTerm releases. So please, before I ruin it for you, let Ab-Soul say a few words about his latest record and everything that went into its creation.
TSS: You’re touring with ScHoolboy Q right now. How’s the rap life on the road treating you?
Ab-Soul: Man, they showed us love everywhere, bro. They showing nothing but love everywhere we go. Sold out a few of these things, it’s a blessing man.
TSS: I imagine it’s been a real hectic schedule. How did you manage to find time to finish the project in between all the stops?
Ab-Soul: I’d been working on this album since LongTerm Mentality came out. I’d been working on it for a year and some change. About a year actually, I dropped April 5th last year. So I had a little less than a year to put it together. I really took my time with it and molded it together.
TSS: Last year around this time, most people were putting you at #4 in Black Hippy and you addressed it on “Top Dawg Under Dawg” from LongTerm Mentality. You treated it like a chip on your shoulder and you came out swinging harder because of it. Do you still feel that way, or have things changed since then?
Ab-Soul: I never felt bad about it, I was the most recent artist. The youngest one, per se. I came before Q actually. I wasn’t in the booth, but I was at TDE before Q. I had the opportunity to go on the road with Murs last year, while Q got to go out with Kendrick. So while Kendrick was getting his exposure, he was able to garnish that exposure too and take advantage. So it gave Q an extra nudge ahead of me because of the hype and excitement of the situation and everything that was going with Kendrick.
“Top Dawg Under Dawg” was kind of a letter to people who’ve been following me forever. I don’t think I’m getting left behind or anything like that just because everyone else got a few more followers than me on Twitter. Don’t think I’m discouraged about that. I’m still working. I’ve had the opportunity to work on records with Dr. Dre and that’s great. Not a lot of people will be able to get that opportunity.
TSS: [Laughs] Understatement there. That’s a good look, but what’s it like working with Dre? Is it everything it’s cracked up to be?
Ab-Soul: He’s definitely everything you’ve probably heard. He’s a real stern perfectionist. He doesn’t settle at all. He makes sure everything reaches a certain frequency for him to really ride with it. I respect that so much.
TSS: Yeah, (Mixed By) Ali was telling me he’ll make you take an ad-lib back if he hears something off. But can that level of perfectionism be frustrating or tedious?
Ab-Soul: Not at all, not at all. I really enjoy doing music because it’s a challenge to try to reach that frequency and connect with people and get them tuned to what you’re talking about. I definitely respect and enjoy that challenge.
TSS: Where do you want this project to take you in the near future?
Ab-Soul: Wherever it’s gonna take me, bro. Right now, I’m having the time of my life out here on tour. I don’t think I’m going anywhere but up. Hopefully I can get my own place or something, get me out my mom’s house. That’ll be tight. I’m a pretty regular dude, I don’t really do too much. You feel me? It’ll be nice to get up out of there, but other than that she’s cool.
TSS: Out of a group that already makes pretty unorthodox music, what do you do that makes you stand out from the rest of the pack?
Ab-Soul: We’re all different people. I got long hair. I always wear shades. My lips are dark. We all have different fingerprints. We all don’t have 20/20 vision. We’re all different and I respect my difference. I just try to be myself at all times. As long as I do that my music is always going to be different.
My message is also different. I’ve listened to their music, of course, and I want to talk about different things from them. It’s plenty to talk about. It’s nothing in particular, but I want to talk about something definitely different than what you’ve heard from us already. That’s what I shoot to do. I’m not trying to start a cult or nothing like that, I just want to make dope music.
TSS: You call yourself a “Black Lip Bastard.” Can you break that down for the uninitiated?
Ab-Soul: Well, first of all it’s just a catchy name. I actually have dark lips and it’s something that people know me. I had caught a virus when I was ten years old, called Stevens-Johnson’s Syndrome and it was like high fevers and I lost a lot of my lip skin and it grew back dark as it healed.
TSS: Your family used to own a record store when you were growing up, so you were literally surrounded by music. How’d that impact you and your creation of music?
Ab-Soul: It was definitely a good way to check and research things from back in the day or be up on the current material. I’m really numb to music, like I can stomach all kinds of music. At home we could only play gospel, we could only play jazz. During Christmas-time, we could only play Christmas music. It developed a universal understand of what’s appeasing to the ear.
And I was working in music retail, so seeing that side of the business I feel I have a good understand of how it works, like the marketing and all that. I don’t really like how people be going on radio and all that. Just keep a surprise, man. We giving out good music. It’s all about the music and I’m crafty fasho. That’s all you need to know.
TSS: You’ve been referred to as the smartest one of the bunch. Q even calls you the Einstein of the group. Why’s that?
Ab-Soul: Just because I know a lot more trivial bullshit than them. I’m the most grammatically correct, probably have the most extensive vocabulary, but I think everybody’s smart. I don’t even really understand that concept of someone being ‘smart’ or someone else being ‘smarter.’ I think that except for the obvious special cases, we’re all equal.
TSS: Any last words you want to say to the readers?
Ab-Soul: Yeah, be sure to pick up that Sound Control, coming out on Cinco de Mayo and BottomCat Entertainment. Blessed energy. We here.