Ab-Soul, one quarter of the unstoppable Black Hippy collective, dropped his album Control System on May 11th. It took me a minute to listen to it, but I’m glad I waited until I had a spare moment to give the album my undivided attention. It is slow to build, but eventually hits the listener hard enough to leave a lasting impression. Overall, this project is definitely not background music — it’s filled with lyrics and beats that compel you to drop what you’re doing and take notice.
For those who haven’t taken in Ab-Soul’s music before, you’ll soon realize that he is more of a poet than a rapper. He plays with the pitch and tone of his voice and combines fresh, unconventional metre with quick, clever wordplay, much like a Def Poetry artist. The result is a collection of bars that could easily be played a cappella in an incense-filled coffee shop somewhere. Pair his lyrics with production by Digi+Phonics, Skhye Hutch, Curtiss King and more, and you have the makings of a truly enjoyable piece of work.
Filled with collaborators familiar to the TDE camp, (Jhene Aiko, BJ The Chicago Kid, and the late Alori Joh), Control System is brimming with weighty words for those who like a little substance in their music; while the speaker-knocking beats and catchy hooks manages to keep the album light enough to hold the listener’s attention.
While the album is really meant to be consumed as a whole, there are some tracks on the project that really shine, namely the remix to Soul’s “Black Lip Bastard” featuring his Black Hippy comrades, and my personal favourite, “A Rebellion”; a beautiful collaboration with Alori Joh, whose beat has a touching story behind it. (Click here to read the story behind “A Rebellion”).
On another track, “The Book of Soul”, Ab-Soul gets deeply personal. He talks about his childhood battle with Stevens-Johnson Syndrome and pays homage to his girlfriend of seven years, singer Alori Joh, who tragically committed suicide this past February.
I’m a little disappointed to see fans compare this album to other Black Hippy solo projects like Kendrick Lamar’s Section.80, or Schoolboy Q’s Habits & Contradictions. To pit these projects against each other, trying to determine which is “better”, is to completely miss the point. I believe TDE is trying to show that as a group, the members of Black Hippy compliment each other well, but that each is a strong solo artist in their own right. Listen to Ab-Soul for the sake of listening to Ab-Soul…not because you’re looking for a Section.80 sequel.
Control System is a well thought out album that delivers entertaining and sobering moments in equal measure. It effectively showcases Ab’s individual talent and creativity, while giving us a small taste of what’s to come when Black Hippy finally drops their group project. Listen to it, pull it back, and listen again. Each time you do, another element of the album will come to life.
Stream Control System below: