Release date: 11th May 2012
Label: Top Dawg Entertainment
“Said I was the underdog, turns out I’m the secret weapon,” Ab-Soul confidently declares on the opening track of the newly released Control System. And the “Black Lip Bastard’s” boasting isn’t unfounded as his latest contribution to the already heavy TDE artillery proves that he stands just as strong as the other heavyweights in his circle repping the Black Hippy Movement.
While it may be argued that despite being smooth, Soul’s approach sometimes lacks the charisma effortlessly delivered by the other rappers in his crew, this is not important because he more than makes up for his (disputable) less than tight flow with a factor just as important, if not more so: lyrical content, which is one element this record simply cannot be faulted on as it is one of its main strengths.
Soul presents thought provoking subject matter with honesty and intelligence which makes for a really compelling listening experience. You especially feel this when you reach the more tender tracks on the album such as Empathy or the attention grabbing and heart-breaking Book of Soul, which is probably one of the most moving songs I have ever had the honour of listening to. I purposely use the word “honour” here because on Book of Soul he communicates a kind of raw emotion and personal transparency that a lot of music lacks nowadays. On the track he describes the health problems he had growing up before moving on to express the effect Alori Joh’s passing had on him, it’s enough to send shivers down your spine. For real.
And as well as injecting a good measure of sentiment and wit into the album, Soul also hits us up with many insightful and well-considered conscious rhymes, often focusing his anger and passions on the American ‘system’ and way of life. One such verse that had my ears pricking up when I first heard it was the closing to Beautiful Death:
“Tragedy after tragedy, it’s sad to see
America killin’ her babies like Casey Anthony
We try, we try to cope and hold on to our sanity
Poppin’ ecstasy will surely shorten life expectancy
We travel the seven seas in hopes for a little peace
We promised pie in the sky, I’m dyin’ to get a little piece
Put down your piece, I’m wish you all a beautiful death
Compared to his previous Long Term project series, the new album offers a darker and more intense vibe but perfectly showcases the versatility and development of Ab-Soul’s talent as an artist. You do not need to dig deep or listen for too long to understand why Kendrick Lamar described Control System as being one of the most important Top Dawg Entertainment releases. The beats are tidy and the production compliments the lyrics without interfering, ‘carrying’ the artist or stealing the limelight, but more importantly it is a deeply layered, well-rounded record which truly represents and encapsulates the many colourful aspects of our generation; from humour and cheek to critical thought and everything between. It is therefore no wonder that Control System has been getting the rave reviews it has been since it dropped and that after a mere five days of listening it has easily become one of my favourite releases this year. I cannot see any reason why this album should not be synced to your iPod right away but if you are still on the fence about whether you should depart with your hard earned cash, feed your speakers and nourish your sense of sound by streaming the album via the Soundcloud link below, you’ll soon be minimising this web page and opening iTunes.
My top tracks: Track Two, Terrorist Threats, Pineal Gland, ILLuminate, SOPA and of course, Book of Soul.
My rating: 8/10