Ab-Soul spells out his message for once in his third album These Days…, an album so straight forward that it’s confusing. The hippiest member of the Black Hippy crew, Ab-Soul’s style is characterized by his radical views on politics and the media. Considering his sophomore album Control System ragged on popular culture, releasing an album titled These Days that’s inspired by the music and culture of these days was an interesting move for the west coast rapper.
These Days… starts off with Purity Ring produced “God’s Reign” featuring fellow TDE member SZA. Purity Ring and SZA put a mystical and mysterious spin on Soulo’s subtle intensity as he uses this track to balance out the pros and cons of his success. Unlike the typical rap songs complaining about how hard it is being famous and various other first world problems, Ab-Soul gives listeners an overview of the darkness he blindly walked through as well as contemplating whether it was worth it. “God’s Reign” is dark and deep but Ab-Soul’s seriousness is nothing new to his fans. It’s when the album breaks away from the depressing theme that it starts to really become intriguing. These Days… gets interesting by the third track, “Hunnid Stax,” a ratchet song boasting a lifeless chorus and a goofy flow that appropriately features Schoolboy Q. Alluding to Schoolboy’s 2011 “Druggy’s Wit Hoes”, “Hunnid Stax” is another song that proves Schoolboy and Ab-Soul have way too much fun when they get together. Puff Daddy randomly ends the song, stating “There aint no more too it / Soulo eatin’ now / Tell em’ Puff said so,” apparently officiating Ab-Soul’s success.
With contributions from Puff Daddy, Rick Ross, Action Bronson, and Earl Sweatshirt (just to name a few), random is an accurate description of this album. There’s no definitive sound, making it difficult to tie all the different styles together and connect them to Ab-Soul’s view of life These Days. Ab-Soul jumps around all the subgenres of today’s rap and mimics the songs at the top of the rap/hip hop charts in “Twact,” featuring Jinx & Short Dawg. Despite listening to this song three times in a row, I still have no idea what Twact means, but it’s the type of song I would still dance to it if it came on in a bar. The song that follows, “Just Have Fun,” sounds like new age rap and was produced by Blended Babies, a production group responsible for “Smoke Again” by Chance the Rapper, as well as producing tracks for Vic Mensa and Kid Cudi. The first half of the song is fast and exciting, with every other line being a different pop culture reference ranging from Drake’s Nothing Was The Same to The Beatles “Strawberry Fields Forever.” The second half features a beat allegedly inspired by Pink Floyd and church choir-like chorus by the O’My’s while Ab-Soul experiments with a relentless flow.
Although These Days… includes conflicting styles, blatant connections assure listeners that a theme does exist. Throughout the album, Ab-Soul draws countless parallels to past songs, as well as quoting, referring to and featuring all the TDE/Black Hippy members. “Kendrick Lamar’s Interlude” includes the same cymbal riff and Kendrick even keeps the flow identical to Soulo’s feature on Kendrick’s 2011 Section.80 called “Ab-Soul’s Outro.” TDE/Black Hippy member Jay Rock co-features with Ravaughn in the silky smooth jam “Feelin’ Us,” and “Stigmata” borrows Schoolboy Q’s infamous ad-lib.
Ab-Soul wraps up the album with the two part song “Ride Slow” produced by Larry Fisherman (AKA Mac Miller), featuring Danny Brown and Delusional. Danny Brown thrives off eerie flows and suits the strange tone well. The second half gets even weirder with a spine-chilling rendition of Tupac’s “Hail Mary”. The album comes to an end with another two part song called “W.R.O.H.,” an acronym meaning ‘We Really Out Here.’ The first half is four minutes, with Ab-Soul giving all the positive details about his success as a rapper, and the second half is a 19 minute long rap battle between himself and controversial California lyricist Daylyt. It is a bit lengthy but worth a listen for those who enjoy an entertaining rap battle. The same can be said for the album These Days…; it’s not an album Ab-Soul fans will fall in love with overnight, but its content is worth taking that extra time to dive in deeper. Following 2014 album releases from TDE members SZA, Isaiah Rashad, and Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul still managed to make waves in the world of hip hop heads with These Days... If that’s not Top Dawg Entertainment, I don’t know what else is.