The Aura of Ab-Soul
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because this guy is Kendrick Lamar’s and Schoolboy Q’s label-mate — and he’s up and coming and here to stay.
By Jasmina Cuevas
Ab-Soul has an aura that is just indescribable. He’s like that strange guy that you’re too nervous to talk to but you’re still so damn intrigued by. But he’s got some cool friends — including Schoolboy Q, Kendrick Lamar and Jhené Aiko — making him one of the hottest hip-hop artists out there right now.
His new album These Days, out today, is just one more feather in his cap. He keeps the intrigue going and keeps his skin thick to anything harsh you have to say.
Ab-Soul doesn’t yield ground to his well-known guest stars. He holds your focus the whole time …
Growing up on German military bases and then in the tough neighborhood of Carson, California, Soul learned early how to tough things out. A sufferer of Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a rare and visually unsettling skin disorder, Soul (aka Herbert Anthony Stevens IV), couldn’t allow others to come before his talents. He taught himself his own sound in response to the teasing he faced at school, discovering rap not by actually rapping it but by typing out rhymes in online chat rooms.
Years later, he shares a label with Kendrick and School Boy Q — giving him a lot to live up to. But we think that Soul has kept up his end of the bargain. These Days, Soul’s third album, is a 15-track LP featuring a well-rounded and seasoned sound from the 27-year-old. Think philosophical. The track Tree of Life is a perfect example, mixing lines about breathing easy with the tough truth that this career doesn’t come easy.
Standout tracks Gods Reign and World Runners both feature Soul’s out of the ordinary flows. But Soul made sure to include singles that were a bit more laid back and not so heavy on the mind. Hunnid Stax features fellow hip-hop collective group Black Hippy member School Boy Q and Soul rapping together about stacking their money. If you want a party song, try Dub Sac, produced by Tae Beast and Dave Free — an upbeat number. And there’s romance, too: Closure features vocals from the sweet, soft Jhené Aiko.
Overall, These Days is an interesting listen but every good album has its flaws. Kendrick Lamar’s Interlude features Kendrick and Soul rapping over a jazz beat but it just doesn’t flow properly. The single feels out of place and a track that many might expect since it is well known that TDE sticks together. But it in this case, the album would have probably been better off without it.
Though the album has appearances from Kendrick and Jhené Aiko — and Rick Ross, no joke — plus production from J. Cole & Mac Miller, Soul doesn’t yield ground to his well-known guest stars. He holds your focus the whole time, the way he does on Black Lip Bastard (from his previous album Control System), a track with a flow that will open up your mind but can also be the soundtrack to a damn good time. As Ab-Soul told Billboard Magazine, “The universe bends toward a still mind.” Ours can’t stop moving.
- Jasmina Cuevas, OZY Author Contact Jasmina Cuevas