Ab-Soul, who has been dubbed the “genius” of the hip hop collective Black Hippy, returns with his second solo project: a menacing, thought-provoking piece of art that Ab- Soul clearly hopes will propel his work into the ears of rap fans worldwide. The 90s-esque lyricism, unconventional sound, and in-house album production is similar to that of his fellow Black Hippy members. But Ab-Soul’s flow and indomitable character truly separate him from his colleagues.
Control System opens with Jhené Aiko, who has collaborated with Ab-Soul on a number of projects, reciting the intro of Janet Jackson’s hit “Control.” Not surprisingly, “control” is a major theme of the album. For example, on the eerie, other-worldly sounding “Terrorist Threats,” Ab-Soul and fellow rapper Danny Brown take aim at militaristic methods of government control, claiming, “if all the gangs in the world unified/we’d stand a chance against the military tonight.” In “Illuminate,” Ab-Soul talks about conquering the throne of the rap world; he admires Jay-Z’s legendary career, but also claims that with a soft, simple beat, he could run laps around the (arguably) most successful rapper of all time.
But while Ab-Soul might think he can give Jay-Z a run for his money, he still has a lot to prove. Ab-Soul’s lyrics are undoubtedly unique, but he can’t quite match Jay-Z’s exquisite rhyming and uncanny ability to paint a story with his music. And of course, Ab-Soul has yet to achieve Jay Z’s commercial success.
Ab-Soul’s approach to his music is refreshing. If the defiant spirit of his current album is any indication, Ab-Soul will stay dedicated to his unique sound even if it means that he will not see the glamour of mainstream success. If he continues to make ground-breaking albums like Control System, he just may change the face of hip hop.