Retroactive: Control System

Over the course of these ‘retroactive’ posts, I’ve highlighted some of my favorite Hip Hop artists.  While I was thinking of what or who to write about next, I realized there was a glaring omission in my growing Hip Hop anthology: Ab-Soul.  As an artist under the stacked record label of Top Dog Entertainment (Kendrick Lamar, Schoolboy Q, Jay Rock, SZA etc…) it’s easy to overlook Soulo and his eccentricities.  Before Kendrick Lamar blew up into the superstar he is today, Ab dash Soul could have easily been considered the best rapper coming out of TDE.  His flow is off kilter, effortless, technical and ruthless all at the same time. He switches from vivid descriptions to abstract ideas all within a couple bars.  It’s his absurd skills as an emcee that drew me to him more so than the other members of his Hip Hop group Black Hippy (Kendrick, Q, Rock and Soul).  In fact, I would still maintain that Ab-Soul is the best emcee out of the four.  Let me show you an early example of his mastery of language and lyrical form…

“Day in a Life” came out a full three years before his debut album off his stellar Long Term mixtape series.  His sound and flow immediately grabbed my attention. Ab-Soul can straight up outrap anyone in the game.  His punch lines, his wordplay, his metaphors and his overall flow are on a level that not a lot of artists can reach or touch.  Once Control System dropped, I realized Soulo had put everything together.  His debut album announced to the world that TDE wasn’t just Kendrick Lamar. His labelmates each deserved their piece of the pie and Ab-Soul didn’t disappoint when it was his turn in 2012.

Control System is my favorite album by Soul.  I think it’s nearly perfect and I feel like his flow and mindset were in a place where he just didn’t give a fuck. That resulted in an incredible album where he held nothing back.  He simply recorded what he thought was right and what was in his heart without anyone controlling his release or whispering in his ear.  Control System is about the machinations of America as a whole and of the music industry.  Soul touches on the economy, politics and society but he never strays too far as to sound preachy, he just tells it like it is and as he sees it.  The heart of who Ab-Soul is as a person is evident in this album.  He’s a voice for the people, he lives in this world as it currently is and he doesn’t change for anyone.  He just wants people to be aware of the control systems being put on them and to recognize that it doesn’t have to be that way…

Specifics:

  • Title: Control System
  • Artist: Ab-Soul
  • Release Date: May 11, 2012
  • Runtime: 1 hour 11 minutes

Breakdown:

*all lyrics taken from Genius.com

  1. Soulo Ho3 f/ Jhene Aiko
    • percy favorite lyric: “Fuck a foe ’cause I’m focused as four bifocals”
    • clever AF lyric:Thank God, Punchline knew I had a knack// Down to die to get my point across like craps”
    • why you should fucks with it: I mean… he uses a Janet Jackson intro on his album opener…
  2. Track Two
    • percy favorite lyric: “Sinister literature, given from this wicked minister”
    • clever AF lyric: But just imagine if Einstein got high and sipped juice// Broke rules, got pussy, beat up rookies on Pro Tools// You’d probably call his ass Soul Brother #2// And I just took a number two, and ain’t this track number two?”
    • why you should fucks with it:  Other rappers don’t want to see Ab get ignorant but we as fans sure as fuck do.  Ab-Soul is rapping circles around circles in this track and making us believe we’re looking at triangles.
  3. Bohemian Grove
    • percy favorite lyric: “Motherfuck the government, motherfuck the system// Motherfuck you, I’m just livin’ how I’m livin'”
    • clever AF lyric: “Hennessy and Coke, 1800// We mixin’ dark and light like the 1800’s”
    • why you should fucks with it: On its surface, this song seems like a fairly lighthearted song about Soul getting with a girl but the underlying meaning in “Bohemian Grove” deals with corruption within the government.  The Bohemian Grove was (is?!) a secret meeting place for high profile members of the government.
  4. Terrorist Threats f/ Danny Brown & Jhene Aiko
    • percy favorite lyric: “I ain’t got no gavel, I ain’t tryna fight nobody battle// I just wanna be free, I ain’t tryna be nobody’s chattel”
    • clever AF lyric: “Babylon, Babylon, out my window all I see is Babylon// On the news, all I see is Babylon// and all n****s do is just babble on”
    • why you should fucks with it:  One of the first songs I heard by Ab-Soul. I immediately gravitated towards it for its aggressive nature and hard hitting beat.  After going through the lyrics, I realized how deep this song gets.  Soul and Danny Brown are talking about how it doesn’t matter where you’re from, good and bad people exist in all walks of life.  This song also acts as a call to think for yourself and don’t be swayed by what the Control System is trying to make you think or believe.
  5. Pineal Gland
    • percy favorite lyric: “My demeanor is the meanest// I’m gettin’ meaner by the minute// It’s mine, I spend it; my mind is spinnin’// Your time is tickin’, the sky’s the limit”
    • clever AF lyric: “I made my dreams reality, so to speak// Or so they say, I could still be asleep”
    • why you should fucks with it:  Ab-Soul at his abstract and metaphysical best.  When Ab-Soul starts dealing with other realms and different lines of thinking, he truly enters a place no other rapper or artist can reach.
  6. Double Standards f/ Anna Wise
    • percy favorite lyric: “My auntie told me always treat my lady right// My uncle told me only love ’em for a night// You can see the immediate disconnection// Between a man and a woman, the reason for regression”
    • clever AF lyric: “She a ho, he a pimp// But her girlfriends cut off like Edward’s hands” 
    • why you should fucks with it: One of the more straightforward songs on the album and I think it’s because Soul really wanted to get his point across. He uses the first verse from the perspective of a dude and his homies; the second verse from the perspective of a girl and her friends; and the third brings it all together. Perfectly crafted.
  7. Mixed Emotions
    • percy favorite lyric: “Get screwed up like the neck on Frankenstein”
    • clever AF lyric: “I crack a seal, then drop a deuce, now I got mixed emotions// From here on out, it’s slow motion”
    • why you should fucks with it: I might think I know… but I have no idea…
  8. Sopa f/ Schoolboy Q
    • percy favorite lyric: “Soulo taught me…” also “TDE we got the belt, hold it down if nothing else”
    • clever AF lyric: “Word around town, SOPA tryna shut it down// How that sound? I’m from the underground// They gon’ make me slang a pound” – Schoolboy Q
    • why you should fucks with it: This whole song is clever as fuck if you really think about it deeply…
  9. Lust Demons f/ Jay Rock & Bj the Chicago Kid
    • percy favorite lyric: “A-B (Dash…) S-O-U-L, infinity// When it comes to the possibilities// Anytime you’re in my vicinity”
    • clever AF lyric: “I believe that everything happens for a reason// And, girl, you got me fiendin’// I don’t care about your religion// ‘Cause I just can’t resist you, goddamn lust demons”
    • why you should fucks with it: Pretty straightforward…Ab-Soul and Jay Rock trying to get with women driven purely by lust which itself is its own Control System.
  10. Illuminate f/ Kendrick Lamar
    • percy favorite lyric: “Flow like water, admiralty, the best author ever to breathe// And as we proceed to follow these dreams, I ain’t losin’ no sleep”
    • clever AF lyric: “I used to wanna rap like Jay-Z// Now I feel I could run laps ’round Jay-Z// Nas ain’t seen nothin’ this nasty// BIG and Pac got it comin’ when I pass, too// You got the mic? I ain’t the one you wanna pass to”
    • why you should fucks with it: This song is literally Kendrick and Ab-Soul breaking down the doors of Hip Hop’s Hall of Fame and staking their claim.  They take some shots at legends (see above) but the whole song is a also a love letter to those same legends.
  11. A Rebellion f/ Alori Joh
    • percy favorite lyric: “I just wanna take that banger and aim it right at my Maker”
    • clever AF lyric:I’m prolly all alone on this one”
    • why you should fucks with it: Besides the obvious notions of rebelling against authority (ie cops, preachers and God); the saddest aspect of this song is Ab-Soul’s girlfriend (Alori Joh) who committed suicide. She literally leaves him all alone on this one.
  12. Showin’ Love
    • percy favorite lyric:That’s on my fucking life, I’m just living fucking life”
    • clever AF lyric:Top notch, Crock Pot Hot, wear your apron”
    • why you should fucks with it: Hiii Power to the fullest.
  13. Empathy f/ Alori Joh & Ja Vonte’
    • percy favorite lyric: “I understand, we’re all human// I’ll lend you a hand, if you wouldn’t mind// Pamper you, and stand for you// The man to make everything right”
    • clever AF lyric: “Can you feel what I feel// When I feel what I feel?” 
    • why you should fucks with it: Ab-Soul crooning sounds better than you think it would.
  14. Nothing’s Something 
    • percy favorite lyric: “My heart beats off beat, still the life of the party”
    • clever AF lyric: “This shit ain’t about nothin’// No, this shit ain’t about nothin’// But it’s gotta be somethin’// They say I’m so selfish, I ain’t think about nothin’// ‘Less it’s making me somethin’// Matter fact, fuck that, I ain’t worried ’bout nothin’// ‘Less it’s makin’ me somethin'”
    • why you should fucks with it: Ab-Soul’s rhyme scheme on this track is outrageous.  He effortlessly goes from each verse straight into the bridge and they are also some of the realest lyrics he’s ever written.
  15. Beautiful Death f/ Punch & Ashtrobot
    • percy favorite lyric: “My only fear is fear itself// I ain’t afraid to die, more afraid of myself”
    • clever AF lyric: “It’s our time, until it’s our time”
      • Author’s note:…just want to comment on this real quick… this is such a deep line.  Soul is saying it’s our time, right now in this moment until it’s not…until we die.  We gotta live in each moment because we don’t know when our time will come.
    • why you should fucks with it: This is a gnarly song that talks about all the tragic ways we as humans cause ourselves to self-destruct.  But at its core, a Beautiful Death holds a positive message.  Ab-Soul is pleading with us to live each moment and stop causing our own premature deaths.
  16. The Book of Soul
    • percy favorite lyric: the whole thing. If I’ve inspired you to listen to this album at all, you should read every lyric of this track.
    • clever AF lyric: “Don’t be dethroned by these systems of control// Just keep your fingers crossed and get them locks off your soul”
    • why you should fucks with it: Probably my favorite song on the album. Just straight conscious, honest rapping. Ab breaks down his skin condition and most importantly, he talks about his lost love: Alori Joh. It’s incredibly personal and it’s a rap song you won’t hear many rappers attempt let alone pull off the way Ab-Soul does.
  17.  Black Lip Bastard (Rmx) f/ Black Hippy
    • percy favorite lyric:
      • Kendrick: “Good kid, mad city, mountaintops couldn’t see my views”
      • Schoolboy Q: “Rookie, softer than infant fabric, I won’t have it”
      • Jay Rock: “How you gon’ dance with the devil with two left feet?”
      • Ab-Soul: “Swung two axes and knocked the Earth off axis, ask ’em”
    • clever AF lyric: “Homie chose to go toe-to-toe, I had to break his leg// Like a cliche to rock a show, is that over your head?”
    • why you should fucks with it: BLACK HIPPY

Processed with VSCO with a1 preset

Bonus:

 

One thought on “Retroactive: Control System

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