2016 has been a crazy year to say the least. People have died, artists we didn’t see coming have collaborated and some have even returned to right some wrongs from previous trash albums. This is where the self-proclaimed “Black-Lipped Bastard” comes into play. Ab-Soul (Soulo), one of my favorite TDE rappers, has returned to the hiphop scene for the first time since These Day’s was released in 2014.
After These Days many fans feared Ab-Soul wouldn’t be able to recover from what felt like a letdown. The album was all over the place and difficult to follow. What could have been his breakthrough album into mainstream hip hop fell short and critics definitely weren’t too kind with their critiques. Personally, I believe Ab-Soul took the criticism and evolved from it because his new 16-track project entitled Do What Thou Wilt (DWTW) is a magnificent change in pace.
DWTW boasts features from some fellow TDE members such as SZA and Schoolboy Q. “Beat The Case” in particular is a great collaborative effort between Schoolboy Q and Ab-Soul. Where Q decides to discuss the incredible come up he’s had in hip hop recently and Ab-soul took on the challenge of addressing the failing American legal system “You got 10 commandments, 33 amendments over 20,000 laws/ Raise your hand if you think you’ll beat the case”. Anytime TDE links up on a track it’s destined for greatness but this particular song stands out on the album and showcases Ab-Soul in true form.
Ab-soul definitely was a little more experimental with the beats on this album and it worked to his advantage. Especially on “INvocation” a track with a very old school flavor to it with the use of actual instruments to set the mood of the track. Verses like “I paid my dues and rocked the bells, like Quasimodo” make the listener laugh and nod along in traditional Ab-Soul fashion but then he hits you with verses “Just remind them all, that it’s real/ Like where the Ark of the Covenant is still” and you’re stopped in your tracks to be instantly reminded as to why he’s considered to be one of the most the woke rappers to date.
What I love most about this album is definitely the beats. A large portion of today’s music tends to sample the same beats just tweaked a bit. With DWTW that’s just simply not the case. The album does have a particular tone where each beat might sound extremely similar but they aren’t going to be found on anyone else’s album. Not just because this album just came out but because Ab-Soul did such a good job with choosing his features and laying down verses that it would be hard for someone else to hop on a track.
“Portishead in the Morning/HER World” is one of the tracks that executes what I just mentioned. He starts off with a broadcast discussing a supernova event that took place on his birthday back in 1987 and completely sets the tone for the rest of track. He goes off to discuss how he is a prophet (essentially a rap prophet) attempting to teach the masses “My goal was to hit the hitters to glitches in the system”. Ab-Soul has always been considered the genius of TDE with verses that tend to go over your head on the first listen this track is no different.
Now I’m not saying he’s not sampling music because Angie Stone’s “Brotha” was sampled for “The Law” featuring Mac Miller and Rapsody. What I am saying is that what he does with each track makes it harder for someone to cover it. The choice to have Rapsody on this track a rapper whose out of this world ability to demand attention with each line she spits alongside him and Mac Miller was a choice that demanded recognition and let listeners know reproducing something over this beat would be almost impossible. “Cause we all gods/ And God is Queen and God is love”. The funny thing is the original track in an ode to black men and how amazing they are. Ab-Soul took that premise and flipped it creating a track uplifting black women. I’m not going to say that this was a track made for black women but this track was a direct nod to how powerful black women are.
Ab-Soul released one of the greatest albums this year there’s no questioning that. He managed to weave double meanings throughout almost every verse forcing the listener to listen a couple of times to each track before they essentially understand everything he was saying. For some people that can be frustrating but Ab-Soul knew what he was doing. Each track told a story and a powerful one at that. These Days might not have been what fans wanted but DWTW was definitely what we needed and what new fans needed in order to see what we see in Ab-Soul. Is this his best album? In my opinion yes.
Do What Thou Wilt is a great way to end 2016 and I foresee a fruitful future for the TDE’s black lipped bastard. Agree? Disagree? Feel Free to let me know your opinions