Alrighty. As we all know, I am a huge TDE fan–more specifically a huge Black Hippy fan–and even more specifically a big Ab-Soul fan. (I have the biggest crush on him, my gawd. I just wanna play in his hair all day). HOWEVER as I’ve expressed before, I am not a biased fan. I’m not going to front like I like something by my favorite artists simply because it’s by them. Nah. With that disclaimer being said, let’s hop into this review..
These Days is Ab-Soul’s follow up to Control System. Control System is probably one of the best albums to come from TDE in my opinion. Now, what I can say about These Days… I don’t know where to start.
Well, let me start off and say that I do like this album. It’s a solid body of work. His strong lyricism is apparent throughout each track on this album and most of the production is on point but I feel like conceptually, this album was a little confusing. The concept was hard to grasp initially. The sound of this album was all over the place. It goes from a traditional hip-hop sound like Stigmata to an a la Versace, Versace trap beat like TWACT. Even his flow changes up from song to song. He even took on a Migos-type flow on the later half of Just Have Fun.
But… I think that was what Ab-Soul was trying to achieve. Hear me out on this. I feel like Ab-Soul purposefully placed this commercial, mainstream type songs on this album to reinforce the concept of These Days. These days that’s what we hear on the radio. These days that’s what mainstream hip-hop has been reduced to. Maybe I’m reaching but I feel like that’s the concept of These Days which leads me to think that Ab-Soul taking on the persona of Jesus alludes to him being the one to carry the rap game on his back and to save it from itself through him.. LOL, oh boy. This all sounds better in my head but hopefully, ya’ll get where I’m going with this.
I say this because I’ve heard some people say that Ab-Soul is selling out with this album. Bullshit. No, he’s not. The concept of this album flew right over those folks’ heads. If it’s one thing I love and appreciate about TDE artists is that they stay true to themselves, especially Ab-Soul.
I will say that there are some great moments on These Days. For example, Kendrick Lamar’s Interlude was special to any hardcore TDE fan because it was a play off of Ab-Soul’s Outro from Lamar’s first album Section 80. They even used the same instrumental, flipped out. Kendrick Lamar did a great job generally speaking. It was emotionally charged. The delivery was captivating. Do I think this verse was better than Ab-Soul’s Outro? No, but it definitely was a worthy response. I even love how at the tail end of the track, it samples the campfire skit from Section 80. So dope.
Ride Slow was also one of my favorite tracks on here. Danny Brown killed his feature on there. His verse was fuego. I also appreciated at the very end of the album, Ab-Soul has a raw sound clip of him rap battling another emcee, Daylyt. Maybe, I’m reaching here again but I feel like Ab-Soul placed the rap battle at the end because again, it’s reinforcing the ideal that these days, we don’t get this organic part of hip-hop anymore. We don’t hear cats going back and forth with raw free-styling. No cookie cutter music. Just their words. Where rap began. The talent in hip-hop has been compromised to fit into mainstream pop culture.
I think Ab-Soul was experimenting with his sound on These Days. I’m all about artists experimenting and finding new layers to their music but I don’t think it was executed too too well.. There were some songs that were awkward such as World Runners, where Lupe Fiasco’s verse was awkwardly included in the song, in my opinion. There were some songs that were a complete miss with me such as W.R.O.H. I just felt like the instrumental was just dragging along. It just didn’t hold my attention.
Overall, this was a decent album. It wasn’t amazing. I don’t think it moved Soul forward but I don’t think it pushed him back. I’m still looking forward to LT3, his next project to be released later this year (I think). Let’s see what else he has up his sleeve. Until then, I’ll give this album a 3.5 out 5.