Jared Leingang, Reporter
Following in the footsteps of his 2012 album Control System and 2014 album These Days, the artist out of Carson, Calif. called Ab-Soul releases his album titled Do What Thou Wilt.
The album includes 16 tracks and has features from his Top Dawg Entertainment labelmates SZA, Schoolboy Q, as well as Punch, Mac Miller, Da$h, Rapsody, Bas and others.
Known as a wordy lyricist with the punchlines and wordplay that’s unparalleled, the MC starts off the album with the track titled RAW (backwards). It’s an introduction track that does it’s job as a tone setter for the rest of the album. In the track, Soul calls out fellow rapper Jay Electronica, and mutters the phrase “Raw backwards on all you rappers” throughout the song. Raw backwards is the word war so it seems Soul has it out for other artists.
The next three songs which were released as singles prior to the release, Braille, Huey Knew THEN, and Threatening Nature, all looked promising at first glimpse, but Braille falls short in concept. Although it has a dark, punchy instrumental, the lyrics don’t compliment it well.
Huey Knew THEN follows up with better wordplay like the line, “Before I had a desktop, I was looking for a shortcut to be an icon.” One downfall is the instrumental is repetitive and listeners found themselves waiting for a beat switch or something to keep the track interesting but it was nowhere to be found.
The track Threatening Nature is the best of the three singles. The title of the track is a reference to the 1996 song Nature of Threat by Ras Kass. Soul speaks on topics such as the Bible, if God is a woman, women’s rights while mixing in clever wordplay and lyrics. One line that really stood out in this song and reinforced the topic of women was, “You singing hymns in church, I’m looking for the her’s. In 66 books in the Bible, they ain’t let a lady say one word.” Soul uses the word “hymns” as a homophone with “him’s” and contrasts it to the word “her’s.” Soul’s complex wordplay was on full display in this record.
The topic of women and the belief that God may be a women is a concept found throughout the album. In tracks titled God’s a Girl?, Womanogamy, and HER world, Soul addresses the worship of the female form and relates it to the beliefs of the Thelemites, a collective Soul associates with according to genius.com.
In the track, The Law, Soul preaches “Love is the law, Love is the only law” over a smooth instrumental with a female voice sample in the background.
The album title Do What Thou Wilt and multiple songs in it are all references to the law of Thelema which states “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Love is the law, love under will.” That means people have the right to live by how they want to and love as they choose. It’s an interesting concept to say the least.
Not every song was about this message. In the track Portishead in the Morning, Soul references himself as a philosopher and a prophet multiple times throughout the track.
In the track Straight Crooked, Soul raps questionable lyrics like “Ruffled a couple feathers when I called Barack a puppet show, Now that Trump is POTUS I know this election is just another Muppet Show.” Soul is known for speaking out about politics so it’s no surprise he mentioned the recent election.
The track INvocation really stood out when compared to the other songs. It has a jazzy beat that feels like Soul took a page out of fellow labelmate Kendrick Lamar’s album To Pimp a Butterfly for this song. The song demonstrates Soul’s ability to craft a record very well. It shows off his complex wordplay with lines like, “It’s been a drill to be ill, you ain’t really sick, who you amusin’ next?” which is clever wordplay on the medicine Benadryl (been a drill) and Mucinex (amusin’ next). The instrumental is catchy, the lyrics are meaningful, and it’s a track everyone can enjoy.
The best song is D.R.U.G.S, which is an acronym for Don’t Ruin Us God Said.
The song details Soul’s struggle with drugs and his love for his mother. The track has a nice piano sample that fits the storytelling concept. In the background there’s a chant saying “I think I need some help.”
He ends the song with him calling his mother and telling her he loves her. One of the lines that stood out was, “and for the kids looking up to me for what I’ve seen, No. I don’t need any of these things to do anything.”
Soul has had a past of using drugs and consciousness as major themes in his music, but this was a reminder to his fans that idolize him that he doesn’t need drugs to become successful, and people don’t need to do them. This is one of the best underlying messages on his album.
Other tracks like Beat the Case are more upbeat and fun while the track Now You Know speaks on his life growing up in Carson and how Soul feels he has been misunderstood throughout his life.
Evil Genius has a serious and chilling beat, and Soul delivers with intricate wordplay. He speaks on theology, esoteric knowledge, and states that he studies the economy, and the origin of our species among other things.
In the track Lonely Soul, Soul mentions things in his life that has left him feeling lonely, like the loss of his love interest Alori Joh, and his friend Georgiano. Soul ends his verse with the line “A coward killed my brother Georgiano and his momma and I’m complaining about an album. What is my problem?” Soul is complaining about his album release date when there are more important issues and problems that he should’ve of been worrying about and this song is him acknowledging that.
One track that I found myself not enjoying was called Wifey vs. Wifi. The song doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of the album. In the end of the song Soul talks about the keypad on cellphones and how there are letters as well as numbers and if you dial M-O-M the numbers it corresponds with is 6-6-6. Soul is known for outlandish theories like that but comparing someone’s mother to satanic levels seems like too far of a reach and has no real purpose. It’s just a strange track overall.
In the final track YMF, Soul asks if his content is non-fiction or not or is it politics or hip-hop. It’s a good closing track that sums up the album. The final song serves as a reminder to question things, even the topics Soul has rapped about in the previous 15 tracks.
Soul doesn’t want people to believe him because he says it in the song but encourages listeners to do their own research and come to their own conclusions.
Overall, Ab-Soul’s album has witty lyrics, important messages, insane wordplay and interesting instrumentals. If listeners can look past the explicit lyrics and listen to the words and messages, they’ll find an album that will have you searching on Google for meanings of the topics Ab-Soul speaks upon.
It’s not Soul’s best album by far, his 2012 release Control System is a classic but this album was a step in the right direction to reaching that peak again.
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