Ab-Soul – Control System

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Hey, Ab-Soul? It’s pronounced pee-neal gland, not pie-neal gland (see: “Terrorist Threats”). Hey, Ab-Soul? “Plateau” is pronounced pla-toe not pla-too (see: “ILLuminate”).

That being said, both those tracks are good examples of Ab-Soul at his absolute best: he’s a man who loves homophones, “Babylon, babylon, out my window, all I see is Babylon / On the news all I see is Babylon, and all niggas do is just babble on” opens “Terrorist Threats” while “ILLuminate” contains goodies like, “I’m all about that real, about that reel, this ain’t no motion picture”; “Been killing this since Cam made ‘Oh Boy’, oh boy, I’m the man now”; and “This is a shift in paradigm, I remember when I couldn’t spare a dime / Now I step in with a pair of dimes.” This means, despite the fact that Danny Brown  uses a ton of internal rhymes to help accentuate his yelp or Kendrick Lamar growls “Bitch with the grip of my fingertip, I can hold this coast together,” Ab-Soul absolutely (I’m sure he’d love what I just did there) remains the focal point (whereas Kendrick Lamar overtook ScHoolboy Q onHabits & Contradictions). 

Speaking of, like Habits & ContradictionsControl System is too long and I find the album starts to wind down after “ILLuminate” (though I’m partial to the lovely duet of “A Rebellion,” “The Book of Soul,” which I’ll get to later, and the remix of “Black Lip Bastard” because Kendrick Lamar’s “Even falling off, I land on the ass of Nicki Minaj, so soft / Eat that pink pussy like it’s Friday / Bust one, Roman Reload […] / And somebody tell Rihanna too / I need that vagina too!”). The first half is remarkably great though: there’s Jhene Aiko reciting Janet Jackson’s “Control” verbatim and somehow changing it from Janet’s personal mission statement into the pervading theme of the album on “Soulo Ho3”; the jazzy electronic groove of “Bohemian Grove” that might be better than anything the same or similar producers cooked up for Section.80; Jhene Aiko taking the hook of Jay-Z’s “Nigga What, Nigga What” over the cloudy intro of “Terrorist Threats” before Ab-Soul takes over; the chanting beat that suggests an uprising of “SOPA” even if the lyrics don’t (more on this later) that seems designed to trip either rapper up but doesn’t (though the outro was superfluous). And I suppose I might as well write it here, but does anyone hear Deltron 3030’s “Madness” in “Double Standards?”

I’ve heard someone criticize Ab-Soul as pretentious because of some of the subject matter talked about on Control System. Yeah, he’s strictly anti-government (most notably on “Bohemian Groove” and “Terrorist Threat”), but doesn’t really offer any reasons on why or offering any solutions. Meanwhile, on “SOPA,” named after the (thus far unsuccessful) internet censorship bill and coming hot off the heels after it seemed like it was something to be genuinely worried about, the most he can muster is a “SOPA tryna censor internet, we tryna get this dough,” while ScHoolboy Q’s I-just-fucked-your-bitch verse seems completely misplaced. But that’s just a small percentage of the things Ab-Soul rhymes about. From this reviewer’s eyes, it seems like Ab-Soul just smokes a blunt and walks into the world with a notebook and jots down whatever he thinks is interesting at the time and works a rhyme out of it after, whether it’s internet censorship, his pancreas or pineal glands.

Then there’s “Book of Soul,” the most heavy-hitting hip-hop song of 2012, and maybe ever since a lot of hip-hop artists who vie for a similar catharsis often fail because of trying to stuff that emotion into rhythm and rhyme. Ab-Soul’s less concerned about those things here, keeping things ridiculously simple while giving us his firsthand experience of Stevie-Johnson Syndrome and the death of Alori Joh (who passed away earlier that year), from the hard sounds of “My money got funny, you wanted to go on dates / I had a Sounwave beat tape trying to beat Drake” and “2012 my world ended / You used to say that I could see the future / You was wrong, cause you was in it,” over crashing piano chords and a melodic soul sample.

B+

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3 responses to “Ab-Soul – Control System

  1. Pingback: ScHoolboy Q – Habits & Contradictions | Free City Sounds·

  2. Pingback: ScHoolboy Q – Blank Face | Free City Sounds·

  3. Pingback: Isaiah Rashad – The Sun’s Tirade | Free City Sounds·

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