Ab-Soul - These Days... (Album Review)

Ab-Soul - These Days... (Essence of hip-hop)

"These Days..." is third studio album from TDE hip-hop artist Ab-Soul. The album features guest appearances from Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock, SZA , Lupe Fiasco and others as well as production from Purity Ring, Tae Beast, Sounwave, J. Cole and others. It was released on June 24, 2014 via Top Dawg Entertainment.


1) God’s Reign (featuring SZA) - The first song on the album features Ab-Soul spitting fire over a real atmospheric Purity Ring instrumental with a slowed down, reverberating sample and deep bass. The beat is banging and Ab-Soul just rips it, kicking rhymes full of religious imagery and themes coupled with street references while SZA provides the hook and some backing vocals during the verses. The way Soul skillfully blends street rhymes with the more esoteric references is readily apparent from the jump as he spits
"Your soul sits on your third eye
Soul sits on the throne
Told you I was the third wheel
That's three wheel motion on chrome"
This shit is fire. - 4.5/5

2) Tree of Life - Ab-Soul spits rhymes full of nature/tree references to speak about his come-up in the rap game and about how life in general has changed for him ever since TDE started to blow a few years back. The wordplay on this one is crazy and Soulo touches on a variety of topics (such as his love of money, women and weed), all while using the nature imagery. Luckily the beat is just as dope as the rhymes, with Curti$$ King delivering an ill instrumental with some energetic "Paid In Full" drums and ambient backing synthesizers. About four minutes into the song the beat switches up into a crazy DJ Dahi that is a bit darker than the first, causing Ab-Soul to also switch up the rhymes to use different variations of "soul" in every line. Very dope track. - 4/5

3) Hunnid Stax (featuring ScHoolboy Q) - This song features a hard ass Kenny Beats instrumental with an ominous Lana Del Ray sample over a rapid-fire hi-hats and deep bass. The beat is nice and both Soul and fellow TDE hip-hop artist Schoolboy Q sound good over it, rapping about getting that dough while using every synonym for "money" that is currently available in a thesaurus. The beat and rhymes on this joint are good enough, but the chorus by Mac Miller drags the song down a bit for me. - 3/5

4) Dub Sac - Dave Free provides yet another darker beat for Ab-Soul to do his thing over, this time with a kind of murky sample layered over a hard hitting snare. The beat is real nice and Soul comes correct over it, rapping in a distorted voice about how he came from nothing while using a ton of weed metaphors. Just over three and a half minutes into the song the beat switches up to a spacey Tommy Black instrumental that is much lighter in tone than the first. Lyrically the song stays basically the same, but with Punch (who is the president of TDE) spitting a quick verse instead of Soul. - 4/5

5) World Runners (featuring Lupe Fiasco and Nikki Jean) - This song was released about a week back and I had mixed feelings upon hearing it back then. With that being said, the song sounds much better when sequenced into the album and I find myself kinda feelin' it now. The beat, by Tae Beast, is somewhat minimalistic and is mainly centered around a muted sample with some trap hi-hats and deep bass. The beat has a spacey feel to it and Ab-Soul sounds good enough over it while Lupe kinda disappoints with his verse. While it's not my favorite song on here, it's not terrible. - 3/5

6) Nevermind That (featuring Rick Ross) - Soulo teams with Rick Ross (of all people) and delivers a song that turns out better than I was expecting. The beat, by The Kathy, is pretty dark and is mainly comprised of a foreboding sample and layers of guitars over the trunk-rattling bass. Lyrically the song isn't quite as good, however, with Ab-Soul and Ross just spitting some "real nigga shit" over the beat. Ab-Soul has the standout verses, as expected, but this one is just ok for me. - 3/5

7) TWACT (featuring Jinx and Short Dawg) - This is another song that I'm not feelin' quite as much as the others, with Ab-Soul, Jinx and Short Dawg just spitting some party/drug rhymes over a synth heavy DNYC3 instrumental. It's got a nice West Coast vibe to it, but this one is just meh to me. - 2.5/5

8) Just Have Fun - Now this is much better. Ab-Soul is back to spitting fire over a energetic instrumental by Like, with a chopped up sample that has a sort of airy feel to it. After a short skit we are treated to a track that was released in promotion of the album a few months back. The song was toted as the title track back then, but now it's just kind of an outro to this song. The instrumental, by Blended Babies, has a sort of bluesy feel to it and Ab-Soul actually sounds really good over it. Dope track. - 4/5

9) Kendrick Lamar’s Interlude (featuring Kendrick Lamar) - Kendrick Lamar bodies a jazzy Terrace Martin instrumental with some playful horns and keyboards over live drums. The beat reminds me of something straight off of "Section 80" and Kendrick sounds real hungry over it, spitting an intense verse before Ab-Soul comes in with some spoken word at the end. I believe this is supposed to be a continuation of "Ab-Soul’s Outro" off of "Section 80", which is cool. Nice track. - 4/5

10) Closure - Ab-Soul kicks some emotional rhymes about a past lover over a murky Sounwave instrumental with a slowed down sample and hard ass drums. At first I thought Soul was rapping about finally getting over the death of Alori Joh on here, but then he says "when Alori left me you was right there" so it seems like this might be about another woman. Either way, this shit is dope and Soul really gives us a glimpse into his pain - especially on the hook that he sings along with Jhene Aiko. - 3.5/5

11) Sapiosexual - Ab-Soul totally changes pace after the emotionally raw previous track and comes with a playful song about trying to get in a woman's pants via his intelligence. The beat, by J. Cole, features a sped up vocal loop and interesting percussion that just isn't clicking with me despite Soul sounding good enough over it. This one's just ok for me though. - 2.5/5

12) Stigmata (featuring Action Bronson and Asaad) - I believe this was one of the first songs released from the album and it's pretty dope. The beat, by Rahki, brings back the darker feel of the first half of the project and Ab-Soul is on point over it, kicking more rhymes teeming with religious imagery  while Asaad does the same. I'm not really feelin' Action Bronson's verse on here as much as the others, but it's not terrible. - 4/5



13) Feelin’ Us (featuring Jay Rock and RaVaughn) - Ab-Soul links up with Jay Rock over a breezy Skhye Hutch instrumental with some hi-pitched, West Coast hip-hop inspired synths, strings and head nodding drums. I'm really diggin' the beat on this track and Soul and Rock are just having fun over it. Very dope track. - 4/5

14) Ride Slow (featuring Danny Brown and Delusional Thomas) - This song features a really dark instrumental, provided by Larry Fisherman (aka Mac Miller), that is actually one of my favorites on the album so far. The production on this joint is banging and Soul rips it while Danny Brown is....well....Danny Brown. He doesn't ruin the track, but he has never been my favorite emcee. The beat changes up after Danny spits and Ab-Soul comes in for another ill verse filled with some nice wordplay and that "Hail Mary" part is just crazy. Very dope track.  - 4.5/5

15) W.R.O.H. (featuring JMSN) - The final song on the album features another one of my favorite beats on the entire project, this time courtesy of Tae Beast. The instrumental has a real spacey feel to it and uses a sample that I know I've heard before, but can't place for some reason. I think it may be used on one of AraabMuzik's instrumental albums, but I could be way off on that. Anyways, the beat sounds tailor made for Ab-Soul's boastful bars on this one and he rips it. The song ends with an almost 20 long battle rap between Soulo and Daylyt, which is kinda cool. - 4.5/5

I'm going to rate the album

3.75 / 5

because there are some really great songs on here, but there are a few mediocre ones as well. The album starts off and ends really strong, with Ab-Soul just spitting fire over a variety of dope beats. Its in the middle where the album starts to lose focus, with some weaker tracks interspersed throughout songs that don't quite reach the heights of the albums start and finish. Due to this the album just ends up being all over the place, with some conceptual tracks working ("Tree of Life") and others having a great concept but poor execution ("Sapiosexual"). Combine that with a few other tracks that just don't come together ("TWACT", I'm looking at you) and you end up with an album that seems like it is trying to do too much in some places. With that out of the way, the majority of the album is real good and Ab-Soul simply rhymes his ass off on some of the tracks. The beats on the songs where he is really spitting compliment the lyrics perfectly and become some of the albums best tracks ("God's Reign", "Ride Slow", "W.R.O.H", etc). If some of the weaker tracks were left off of the project or replaced with others, the album would have gotten a higher score. Still, the LP is quite good and there are a handful of tracks on here that definitely should not be missed.


3 comments:

  1. Thank you I really appreciate this review I've been reading so many reviews praising this album in all its entirety and I've been wondering if we heard the same album because to me it was rather disappointing in comparison to control system

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    1. It's a good album, but I too prefer Control System. It just seems a little too inconsistent when compared to that album. Still, there are some really good tracks on here as well.

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  2. Great review I'm not too fond of this album especially in comparison to control system

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