When an artist leaves a sour taste in your mouth from their music, all you can do is spit it out and start getting hungry for the next release. It’s fair to say that many fans have not been pleased with the music Ab-Soul has released since 2014’s These Days… along with his guest features on TDE projects. Some humans thrive off of being doubted though; it can serve as motivation and fuel that desire to put out great material. 2012’s Control System is peak Ab-Soul and that guy has returned on his new album, Do What Thou Wilt.
While listening to this project I imagined Ab-Soul in two different sports scenarios. In the first, I saw him as a boxer, throwing jab after jab trying to tire his opponent before landing a haymaker. The second scenario saw him as a baseball pitcher, slowly building his fastball velocity with each bar until he’s throwing 96MPH in the 8th inning. If you think of the album in these terms then a) you’re weird like me and b) you most likely enjoy dissecting lyrics. Don’t worry, there is a lot of information to dissect from Soul’s latest offering.
From the beginning of DWTW it’s evident that Soul is motivated to get back to his Control System days. He’s not even afraid to challenge a well known name in Hip-Hop (Jay Electronica) from the very first track as he’s ready to show off his sparring skills to spare Kendrick Lamar from getting his hands dirty. This isn’t one of those bars that you hear and think, “oh who is that about”? This is aimed AT Jay Electronica. Shooters shoot and Ab-Soul is a shooter on ‘RAW (backwards)’. The first few tracks are good practice for Soul to try and win you back as a fan. The punches start landing harder and faster on ‘Threatening Nature’. This is a song that Soul broke down with Sway before the album was released. Hearing the lyrical breakdown of this song will make you listen to the album differently. The song was inspired by Ras Kass and Soul gives you food for thought about a plethora of subjects — religion, race, and sexism to name a few. One of the highlights of the album comes with this line: “An atom is a molecule and Adam was a maricon/But if he never would’ve ate that apple then he’d be mad sad/And never would’ve pulled the leaves off of Eve/And seen all that a**”.
Ab-Soul seldom digs deep in his songs but he always scratches the surface on topics you’ll potentially talk about with your family and friends (or strangers on the internet). He’s giving you enough to relate and make you think without doing all of the work for you. While he talks about people like Aleister Crowley and the Bible having 66 books without any women writing the stories, he wants you to do the research for yourself. The album itself is thought provoking but it won’t change your life. One thing to note is that he revisits a lot of the subject matter he spoke about on Control System without boring you or making you think he’s recycling the same topics in the same manner that he did in 2012.
Soul begins to tire midway through the fight as songs like ‘God’s A Girl?’ don’t stick as hard with you as the aforementioned ‘Threatening Nature’ but he goes to the corner and gets rejuvenated for his haymaker that is ‘Evil Genius’. If you’re familiar with Soul’s story, you know about the death of his late girlfriend Alori Joh in 2012. He spends most of ‘The Book of Soul’ from Control System addressing it in one of the saddest and emotional displays of lyricism ever. Losing a loved one is never easy and it still haunts Soul as he rhymes on ‘Evil Genius’, “told Lori I wouldn’t do coke again, but she did what she did and I’m here again”. It’s heartbreaking when you think about it because it shows that even though Soul still loves her, he can’t keep living in the past. While doing coke may not be the best way to deal with it, you have to begin somewhere.
Die hard TDE fans will be talking about this album for months to come and pondering where it ranks on every list imaginable. While These Days… saw Ab-Soul begin to turn into something we didn’t want him to be, Do What Thou Wilt. is a nice refresher that Soul is one of the nicest on the mic. His lyrical content will make you double back on songs and you’ll be hearing things you missed weeks, months and possibly years down the road. Let’s hope this is the Soul we continue to hear from in future releases.
Repeatable: ‘Threatening Nature’, ‘Portishead in the Morning’, ‘Now You Know’, ‘Evil Genius’
Skippable: ‘Womanogamy’, ‘God’s a Girl?’
By Joe Coad