Ab-Soul – ‘Control System’ | Album Review

With Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q and Jay Rock all releasing solid projects in the last 12 months, it feels like the West Coast Hip Hop collective known as Black Hippy have found the formula for making creative and abstract material to appeal to both the hipsters and hood folk. With new project Control System, Ab Soul aka the ‘black lipped bastard’ aims to maintain the high standards already set by his peers.

Known as the more conscious member of the quartet Ab-Soul’s blend of weed-influenced, paranoid social commentary has gained a cult following, with Control System bringing to life more of his smoky musings – which hopefully should make it four for four of successful releases from TDE.

With rough undertones, Ab-Soul’s verses are a mixture of dark humour and street narrations which bounce all over the often mellow productions. Soul’s sporadic tales of drug consumption, late night liaisons and more are held together by the rapper’s off-the-wall deliverance and laid back vocals.

One of the first songs to emerge publicly from Control System was the atmopsheric, trippy “Terrorist Threats” featuring Jhene Aiko and Detroit rapper Danny Brown; its floaty backdrop perfect for Aiko’s breathless chorus and the disenchanted rhymes of Brown and Soul.

Those fascinated by all things illuminati and masonry would be led to believe that the excellent “Bohemian Grove” would delve into the subterranean world of the elite, but instead is used as a metaphor for Soul’s arousal of a female.

The soulful, R Kelly sampling “Lust Demons” bounces with much swagger whilst “The Book of Soul” smoothly samples Bobby McFerrin‘s “Moondance” with Ab-Soul intricatelyt schooling listeners of his life’s trials (even comparing his life to that of Job in the Bible).

There is a definite eerie feel to Ab Soul’s independent album; from “Pineal Gland” and “Mixed Emotions” exploring the world of prescription drugs and hookers to the bleak chorus wails of Astrobot on “Beautiful Death,” the darkened walls which make up the album are a somewhat gloomy surrounding.

Keeping with the tradition of other T.D.E/Black Hippy releases, collaborations and production credits are few and mainly in house. The likes of King Blue, the Digi-Phonics and Nez and Rio help to construct the score for Control System whilst long term contributors Jay Rock, BJ the Chicago Kid, Alori Joh, Kendrick Lamar (on the exceptional “ILLuminate”) are among those to support the impressive Soul project on the mic.

An enchanting audio experience, Control System is sonically impressive with its array of mind bending beats and Ab-Soul playing the conductor of the madness. His distorted rhyme patterns and lyrical dalliance with depression, drugs and conspiracy create an engulfing, dystopian setting which is haunting yet is executed remarkably well. Although not the most lyrically skilled member of the Black Hippy collective, Ab-Soul’s 17-track album is an exceptional experience, and again highlights the musical depth of the West Coast outfit. Packed with enough mazy, labyrinth productions and trippy rhymes to have listeners going back for more, Ab-Soul’s cloudy life is exceptionally captured on Control System for all to consume.

Ab-Soul – Control System
Released: May 11, 2012
Label: Top Dawg Ent
Buy: iTunes US / Amazon.com / iTunes GB / Amazon.co.uk

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