ALBUM REVIEW: Ab-Soul - These Days...

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Ab-Soul - These Days...

West Coast MC Ab-Soul is in a difficult situation. Being part of the TDE has placed him the shadows of Kendrick Lamar and ScHoolboy Q in the past. Even though Ab-Soul has received less attention than his “Black Hippy” and TDE counterparts, he is arguably the most lyrical of them all.  These Days… sends the message that he is ready to step-up away from their shadows.

These Days… exhibits an impressive collection of collaborations. Not only does ScHoolboy Q, Lupe Fiasco, Rick Ross, Kendrick Lamar, Action Bronson, Jay Rock, and Danny Brown all lend a helping hand, the album also features some of the best producers in hip-hop right now. Kenny Beats, who also created the beat for “Trap Lords” featuring Bodega Bamz and A$AP Ferg last year, is responsible for the hard-hitting “Hunnid Stax”. TDE production team, Digi+Phonics, featuring David Free, Sounwave, Tae Beast, Willie, is also responsible for a large part of the album’s production.

The album opens up with “Gods Reign” (feat. SZA), the instrumentals of the track have a dream-pop vibe. It is the hook by SZA that helps create this feeling. In this song, I don’t think he is calling himself God (like some other rappers *cough* Kanye *cough*). I think it is a metaphor of him saying that through all his adversity he rose above it all.

In “Tree of Life” Ab-Soul raps “I wish I could live like the trees / Shoot the breeze, stay around some leaves, nah mean,” Ab-Soul raps overtop a Curtiss King-produced beat. Here, he is saying that he wants to live stress free. He then raps, “But this money got me on the run and they don’t grow on trees / I gotta get me some.” Here, he expresses that in order for him to live stress free, he needs money for the finer things.

A common theme of the album is love, in particularly lost-love due to the suicide of his long-term girlfriend, Alori Joh. “Closure” is the only track we hear him singing. The track doesn’t only discuss Alori Joh, but on twitter, he confirmed that the song also payed homage to a possible new love. He raps, “Cause' when Lori left me you was right there / Lord knows you had the right care”. 

Despite the emotional depth of the record, “Hunnid Stax” (ft. ScHoolboy Q) brings the fun back where he talks about money and spending big. The track has a 134 bpm beat and a hazy vibe that will have you bopping your head throughout. It also contains a reverbed sample of Lana Del Rey’s “National Anthem” in the intro the hook. Even though uncredited, Mac Miller’s voice is heard on the hook, “Woke up early, kissed this bad bitch / Rolled me up a blunt, then I took a piss / Can't remember what I did last night / I'm just tryin' to spend a hunnid stax everyday of my life”. In an interview with Life + Times, Ab-Soul mentions that he recorded majority of the album at Mac Miller’s house. Mac is also responsible for the production work of “Ride Slow” (feat Danny Brown and Delusional Thomas).

These Days… displays Soul’s struggle of battling through internal and external pressures. Even though this album is more commercial than his previous work on Control System, he didn’t fail himself and still created verses with meaning, particularly with philosophical and biblical undertones. He mentioned that he wanted the album to represent “balance, variation, a spice of life.” He is effective in doing this as he has represented all aspects of his life – success, love, and loss.

Rating: 8/10

Highlights: “Tree of Life”, “Hunnid Stax”,  “Kendrick Lamar Interlude”, and “Just Have Fun

(Written by Amy Smolcic)