December 9th, 2016 was a big day for hip-hop fans, bringing forth new releases from J.Cole, Tech N9ne and Ab-Soul, three of the most consistent artists in the industry. While both excited and impressed by all three albums, and still trying to reel from the shockwave of listening to Gambino’s new project, the Ab-Soul album was what excited me most. I had been a fan since Longterm Mentality and had always felt that Soul never received the proper recognition he deserved. Whether that’s because of his subject matter and lyrical content, or the fact he isn’t backed by interscope like label mates Kendrick Lamar and Schoolboy Q, Soul has never flourished to the mainstream audience like many of his other top dawg co-stars. Soul’s latest release, Do What Thou Wilt, is an ode to the quote made famous by Allister Crowley, a magician and philosopher in the early 1900’s. The 16 track effort is a prime representation of exactly what Ab-Soul is about. He compromises nothing and gives true fans of his music an album that they had been waiting over two years for.
While there’s no dispute that this album is not for everyone, that really goes to say that Ab-soul himself is not necessarily for everyone. A lot of his subject matter is based on philosophy, religion and metaphysics, combined with a healthy dose of drug references and witty rap bars. Soul likes to challenge his listeners to think, but on this record does so in a way that makes it hard to miss that he is putting some real effort and intelligence into his lyrics.
DWTW starts out with “Raw (backwards)” an aggressive call to arms in which the Chorus Recites, “We don’t wanna hear that whack shit no more”and AB-Soul cleverly declares War on every other Rapper. In other Words, Raw Backwards. It’s on this track that soul takes the time to reference both Jay Electronica and Troy Ave by name, bringing back to light the laughable rant in which Electronica states “Kendrick Lamar is his son, he wants to be like me.” “Braille” and “Huey Knew” were the first two singles released from the project and while they aren’t terrible stand-alone tracks, the placement in the album feels a little forced. Braille especially just doesn’t really fit the rest of the albums theme. ON “Threatening Nature” Soul says, “It could all be so simple, but it’s complicated” an adequate description of just about all of Souls discography.
The production is rounded out by a a great team that is led by in house TDE producers Willie B, TaeBeast, and Sounwave. Other notable producers featured are Mike Will Made It and Wondagurl. In terms of features Soul keeps the list thin, bringing back what seems to be a formulaic turn up song with Schoolboy Q and the introspective conversational song with TDE’s Punch. He also brings back his good friend Mac Miller whose house he recorded his entire last album at. While I expected some more from the Mac Miller assisted “The Law,” Rapsody comes through with a very impressive verse on her end.
“It could all be so simple, but it’s complicated” -Ab-Soul
While I wasn’t to much of a fan of the schoolboy q assisted “Beat The Case” or “Braille”, the rest of the album is ripe with the type of lyrical content I yearn for. High points in the album definitely come on songs like “D.R.U.G.S” and “Evil Genius” two tracks that bring back some signature Ab-Soul wordplay and features some of the subject matter closest to Soul’s heart, his love for drugs. So what does that mean? Is that a bad thing or is it something that should be left up to the individuals’ preference? For some, lines like the ones on “Gods A Girl” are troubling to hear. Soul raps, Top want me to go to rehab / Told him I would go too / Probably just relapse / Cause that’s what ill niggas do / Won’t even pop a bottle without poppin a pill / Can’t have a meal without picking up the bill / Should be more concerned with my health / But I’m gonna die trying to get this wealth.
Throughout the record Soul bares his insecurities to the world and doesn’t shy away from his version of the truth. No matter how brash or insensitive those truths may be. DWTW is a great addition to Souls discography and as a fan of previous work, I am more than happy with the final product. While it probably won’t win Soul any new fans, the ones that have been there from the start will be genuinely satisfied.
Im ranking this album as a strong B+, what is your opinion on the album?