After recent successes with Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.a.a.d. city and Schoolboy Q’s Oxymoron, all eyes on are the TDE camp, and more specifically, Ab-Soul. Ab has been impatiently waiting to get his album out to the fans, even going as far as to tweet at his label publically that he wanted it out quickly, or he would just leak it himself. While Ab has since brushed it off as a joke, These Days… has finally hit store shelves, yet independently via the TDE banner, without the big Interscope backing.
The lack of Interscope resources does hinder the project a bit, in comparison to recent LP’s from his TDE peers. This is evident mainly in the production, which is lo-fi and low budget, as many of the producers are virtual unknowns, clearly using inexpensive equipment. So while Ab does not have the Dr. Dre’s or Pharrell’s of the industry found on recent releases from Kendrick and Q, he does make the most of it, with an imperfect, honest, and soulful LP.
Ab-Soul is a cool vocalist with a lot of pain behind his voice, which subtly manifests itself in his lyrics. Like on “God’s Reign” where he starts the verse with “My girl died and I lost my mind…” or on “Dub Sac”, where he casually mentions an attempt on his uncle’s life: “N***as chased my uncle there, through God’s grace the gun jammed /
I found comfort in this pleasure, meaning I slept the best through gun sounds.” It’s clear that these true life moments – along with his own physical handicap – have shaped him as both a man and an emcee.
His music takes on an almost hypnotic quality, as he plays with delivery, as well as hook and adlib placement, especially when paired with the album’s largely mellow, soulful, basement production. Tracks like “World Runners” and “Nevermind That” benefit from their Lupe Fiasco and Rick Ross guest appearances, yet shine even before you realize they are included. The same can be said for the God’s Son inspired “Stigmata”, dealing with his stigmatism condition of almost blindness, and bonus, has one of the coldest verses from Action Bronson yet.
The best track here however is “Kendrick Lamar’s Interlude”, which features Ab and Kendrick spitting over a gorgeous, brooding, freestyle jazz session, reminiscent of something one might see in a 90′s Spike Lee film. Both emcees are equally yoked here, but the real show-stealer of this track is Terrace Martin, who goes nuts on the instrumental. An entire album of this kind of thing would kill.
These Days… is not without its faults, despite being an honest effort. The cloned DJ Mustard track (produced by DNYC3), “Twact”, is a poorly executed attempt at a club banger, and doesn’t fit with the rest of the album. Meanwhile, the repetitive J. Cole produced “Sapiosexual” fails to deliver on anything but monotony. The title track, “These Days…” (actually a part of “Just Have Fun”), has heart, but even Ab seems a bit embarrassed by adopting Migos’ delivery style on it, stating “I swear to god this is the only time I’m using this flow…”
These Days… is not a perfect album, and just may be the result of him wanting to bypass the major label system and get it to shelves as quickly as possible. While still a solid LP, what it really accomplishes is that it displays major potential for Ab-Soul to release something truly great and defining later down the line.
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