Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Ab-Soul

  • Control System [Top Dawg download, 2012] A-
  • These Days [Top Dawg, 2014] *
  • Do What Thou Wilt [Top Dawg, 2016] A-

Consumer Guide Reviews:

Control System [Top Dawg download, 2012]
"I've got 700 dollars from my last show/And I would spend it all on you," the most suburban of L.A.'s four-man Black Hippy posse/"supergroup" sings haltingly on the tellingly entitled "Empathy," and although initially I was impressed that he knew the word "chattel," in the end that 700 bucks was the clincher--that he can occasionally make some halfway decent money off his art, and that he's ready to blow it on love rather than blow or a blow job. Not that he's above imagining blow jobs like any other healthy young rapper--cf. "SOPA," which insofar as it's about the Online Piracy Act has a special place in its trickerating heart for porn sites. He's just a gifted kid who likes his weed and his words, which he twists with palpable delight around sparse synth beats musical enough to layer on some delight of their own. And then there's the closing trifecta: his beautiful ideals, his tragic life, and a scabrous Black Hippy remix for the fun of it. A-

These Days [Top Dawg, 2014]
In love with a suicide in a world controlled by forces he can't quite grasp, half-blind autodidact retains more brain if not reason than the average black hippy ("Closure," "Sapiosexual") *

Do What Thou Wilt [Top Dawg, 2016]
"Mischievous, mysterious, miscellaneous," he calls himself--with exceptional self-awareness if you ask me. This big reader with the pathologically light-sensitive eyes will never write a senior thesis--college rap he ain't, which is a positive, nuhmean? But his music emanates intellectual excitement and pleasure as he grows up. Confused though the particulars of his "heroine addiction" are, his tree-huffing doggishness recedes whenever he rhymes his feminist-curious yearnings, and if his politics are too Aleister Crowley, at least he's down with the Beatles' psychedelic seer rather than Zeppelin's megalomaniac. As listening, more fun than his fellow Black Hippy's outtakes for sure. As wordplay too. As thinking, leaves room for improvement and reason to hope there'll be some. A-