TDE member and legit Black Hippy Ab-Soul hit us on May 11 with Control System, his follow-up effort to 2011's Longterm Mentality. As with any project by TDE, I had high expectations for this particular album. Hit the jump for my review.
Ab-Soul is quickly developing into a lyrical force to be reckoned with; it isn't Kendrick's show anymore (which is an awesome thing). I copped the project via iTunes, and have been listening to it on the daily. I'd like to walk you through the album and offer my opinion of each track: __________________________________________________________
1. Soulo Ho3 (prod. Sounwave & Dave Free) The album's intro track didn't overly impress...on the first listen. Despite the beautiful Jhene Aiko's singing on the hook, I still thought it sounded corny. I'll admit I tend to pay much more attention to a track's music rather than lyrics. But the saving grace of this track is Soul's display of abilities during the second verse.
2. Track Two (prod. Tae Beast) Track Two features a beat that might knock the casual listener upside the head. Soul continues to show off different flows than we're used to - a sign of a talented artist. This track didn't make it into my iPod - only because I prefer a slower tempo.
3. Bohemian Grove (prod. Tae Beast & Dave Free) Digi+Phonics, TDE's in-house producers, impressed the hell out of me with this beat. Never heard anything like it before. Soul describes the life of "an artist living and acting free of conventional rules and practices." That hook is awesome too.
4. Terrorist Threats (prod. Dave Free) Ahhh, there's that certified dopeness that we've grown to expect out of any TDE project. Where to start...the beat is a banger; eerie and unique. Jhene Aiko is gorgeous, physically and vocally. Soul comes correct on his verses, attacking politics and expressing his views on society. Danny Brown hit me with the best verse I've ever heard him spit. Here's the (rather disappointing) music video:
5. Pineal Gland (prod. Tae Beast) Not a huge fan of this one. The beat is repetitive and the lyrics are all about how awesome the hallucinogen DMT is. Can't really relate to this one.
6. Double Standards (prod. Sounwave) Soul wasn't about to let two disappointing tracks go back to back. If you liked Kendrick Lamar's Keisha's Song this one is similar...dare I say with a better beat? Gotta respect this song's message. Definitely worth many listens.
7. Mixed Emotions (prod. King Blue) An energetic, likable beat coupled with the same old content; "purple weed, purple drink, purple swag." Not saying it's wack in any way, it just might not shine like other tracks from Soul can.
8. SOPA (prod. Nez & Rio) This may be my least favorite track off of Control System, which is a shame because it's produced by the guys that brought us "Druggys wit Hoes 1 & 2" and featuring Schoolboy Q. I was waiting for the beat to drop...still waiting. The beat is insanely repetitive and it sounds a bit dark, but not Nightmare on Figg St. status. Not even close.
9. Lust Demons (prod. Tae Beast) This track is just all over the place. The beat is weird, BJ the Chicago Kid's vocals seem out of place, and Jay Rock does his thing (anyone feel like he's mad underrated?).
10. ILLuminate (prod. Skyhe Hutch) There's that Kendrick Lamar feature. This track makes me very curious as to who the hell Skyhe Hutch is. Love the beat. Loved Soul's approach to the verses. As usual, Kendrick BODIES the entire song with his 16. No surprise there. One of my favorites from the album.
11. A Rebellion (prod. Curtiss King) Listening to this one, anybody could see where Soul gets his name from. Very intimate track featuring the late Alori Joh. Very easy on the ears. If the phrase "might be all alone on this one" wasn't repeated about 700 times, I'd like this a lot more than I already do.
12. Showin' Love (prod. Willie B) Willie B always comes through with the bangers. This track didn't really stand out to me though, nothing special here.
13. Empathy (prod. Skyhe Hutch) FAVORITE SONG IN THE
ENTIRE ALBUM LAST COUPLE OF MONTHS. Man, do Soul, JaVonte, & Alori Joh shine on this one. Soul shows us that he can indeed sing, and then switches back to a rapid-fire delivery to remind us that he can rap too. When Joh comes in during the hook, I get goosebumps. This song is dedicated to her, RIP.
14. Nothing's Something (prod. Aahyasis) Soul reflects on the allure of material things in this world. He has a thing for coming through on second verses. A decent track, but this one doesn't pop out either.
15. Beautiful Death (prod. Skhye Hutch) Seriously, who is this Skyhe Hutch guy? His work is amazing. It's no coincidence that all three of the songs he produced on Control System are my three favorites. Ashtro Bot is always fun to listen to on the hooks. And ever since I heard Project Window, I've been on the lookout for more from TDE's Punch. Very likable song that I must hear live. The outro is the best part of the song, oddly enough.
16. The Book of Soul Soul opens up to his fans and talks about his childhood & late significant other, Alori Joh. The song explains why Soul is always wearing shades. The beat is amazing, it reminds me of the 1920's; very nostalgic. The background vocals do a lot for the track. haven't heard anything like it before. A brilliant and touching way to conclude an album. __________________________________________________________
If you haven't caught on by now, Ab-Soul is an emerging force in the hip hop scene. He's able to rap about love, swag, and drugs within the same album and not come off as corny or fabricated. Watching the growth of Kendrick, Soul, & Q over the past 2 years has been a gratifying experience. I give Control System a 8/10 and label it as better than Longterm Mentality. Definitely check it out, if you haven't done so already!