The borderline genius that is Ab-Soul begins at the core foundation of simply…his name. It’s a portmanteau of an abstract approach in being allergic to the rudimentary and a spiritual disposition that would make a shaman kneel in reverence -not to be easily duplicated. Even as the most overlooked member of the burgeoning TDE enterprise, his sophomore set, Control System reveals that he may have the best handle on what he wants to accomplish in the booth as it’s a crash course in all the synonymic wordplay and rhyming mastery contained in his arsenal. All over a dark and moody soundtrack, largely commanded by in-house crew, Dave Free, Tae Beast and Sounwave.
Ab’s roots as a Golden Statesman shine through without a doubt on joints like the casually-titled “Track Two,” a forewarning missile aimed at nameless slouch rappers and “Lust Demons” (featuring Jay Rock and BJ The Chicago Kid), where the trio prove they can cold rock a house party. Yet, Control System earns its stripes with several outstanding records that go the extra mile by peeling through the layers of your typical subject matter. On “Double Standards,” the Soul child explores the gender imbalance of open sexuality by namedropping Amber Cole and allowing Sounwave’s provocative instrumental to heighten the emotion of the track. Masking itself as a standard banger, the engaging “Terrorist Threats” is an anarchist anthem in sheep’s clothing and if for nothing else but shits and giggles, trusted partner-in-rhyme, ScHoolBoy Q shows up on the bassy “SOPA” to help rapping about absolutely nothing sound like audio gold.
In a strange chain of events, the zany portions of Ab-Soul’s craft keep the long-player gelled while a handful of the soulful tracks cause to album to slip a bit in momentum. Even as an alleged rookie, swiping Kanye’s “Addiction” hook (“Nothing’s Something”) or recanting quotable clichés like, “I wake up in the morning and I ask myself, is life worth living/should I blast myself?” (“Beautiful Death”) seems beneath him. Control System’s most riveting moment comes when Ab has a particular topic to tackle. “The Book of Soul” is musical poetry in motion as it doubles as a tribute to TDE-affiliate, Alori Joh and chronicles Ab’s own biological hardships as a youth, tying it all together in classic fashion. While much of the album’s latter half finds the system controller a little too eager to make progressive art, the aforementioned record nails it just by counting down the facts.
Such over-ambition only speaks eons for the potential Ab-Soul will likely live up to as an artist, however. As heard on “ILLuminate,” another shining gem buried in the thick of the tracklist, he laments: “I use to wanna rap like Jay-Z/now I feel like I’ll run laps ’round Jay-Z…” In 2012? He has a valid claim.
Label: Top Dawg Entertainment | Producers: Dave Free, Tae Beast, Sounwave, Willie B., Nez & Rio, Skhye Hutch, King Blue, Aahyasis, Tommy Black, Curtiss King