Ab-Soul-Christopher DRONEr

Given Ab-Soul’s fondness for conspiratorial topics, and the controversial yet strange nature of the Chris Dorner killings, this is textbook work from the TDE rapper. Few upcomers rap with the venom, belief and combative nature of Ab-Soul, and when combined with his often outspoken, leftfield subject matters, more often than not it’s very unique listening.

He’s backed by an intense, rather uneasy production, which uses bells to great effect to create a dark, post-apocalyptic style sound, built on with slow, sharp percussion and a touch of synth for a hint of modernism. As mentioned above, Soul’s raps feature that conspiratorial influence, tempered with brash street raps and arrogant bragger lines to keep a sense of relative normality running through the track, whilst his flows are admirably flexible throughout, moving through various speeds and cadences to create natural checkpoints in the track. The song has the caption ‘new project coming soon’, and let’s hope it features more of this ilk.

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Ab-Soul-The End Is Near ft. Mac Miller

ab soul mac miller
Many are predicting a huge year for the TDE representative, and having started it strongly, Ab-Soul lets his latest solo release go.

Soul opens with typically watertight flows, with his delivery seemingly changing with every given sentence, and it’s a skilful display that moves between near-offbeat rhymes and beat-riding bars with consumate ease. That production certainly helps, with a minimal approach built up of thick percussion, intermittent dashes of ominous keys, and atmospheric vocal samples, with the end product being a relatively dark yet gently-paced production that allows for almost any approach in terms of flow. It’s an equal share of spotlight for Mac Miller on this too, who helms that production this under his Larry Fisherman pseudonym in addition to contributing a verse. Mac’s reputation amongst hip-hop fans has slowly grown with each release, and his work on this moody production, both on the mic and behind the boards, will endear him to many more; a smooth verse with a confident delivery does enough to make a mark on the track. A good effort from all involved.

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Ab-Soul-ILLuminate ft. Kendrick Lamar (Video)

If TDE’s members are to be believed, 2013 is going to be all about Ab-Soul and ScHoolboy Q. This was one of the standout cuts from Ab’s Control System album, and certainly one that garnered plenty of attention across hip-hop courtesy of his labelmate attaching his name to this.

Ab’s lyricism veers between confident, humble, biographical and even somewhat altruistic at times, displaying his versatility as a rapper and packaging those raps into an intense and hungry delivery that adds plenty of gravitas. That Kendrick verse is a great addition too, his introspective style fitting well with the spaced-out, atmospheric production, and there’s no doubt this is a mighty fine slice of hip-hop from start to finish.

The visual is both engaging and relatively simple, with a very dark, almost-underworldly style that plays on the aura of the production well, with shots of dilapidated buildings, personal close-ups in dim lighting, and rapid shifts from scene-to-scene that create a slight sense of unease. There’s a ton of messaging packed into here too, a favourite being the surveillance-esque footage of Kendrick being driven through a dead street, indicative of his status as ‘everyone’s MC to watch’ in an alarmingly-empty hip-hop scene, and I’m sure you’ll find plenty more worth noting. An engrossing watch and a good track.

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Ab-Soul-Only 1

The Kendrick Lamar whirlwind has finally died down, and Ab’s the first of the TDE crew to step out and drop some new material since that universally-loved (except for Shyne) album release.

It’s one that sets him up for a big 2013, as this will grab the attention of many. The first verse is a nice mix of spirituality with some biographical, down-to-earth work, making for a nice contrasts in themes that work well together, before an incredibly infectious hook jumps in (I may walk around tomorrow just shouting SOUL-O). The second verse is a little scattergun, running through a touch of conspiracy, bragger rap and more, before the highlight third verse which is also somewhat mixed in terms of theme, but packs in some excellent lines, a bit more ‘weirdness’ (listen out for the Metatron’s Cube reference), and some shots at Shyne to close off. A good all-rounder from the TDE representative, and hopefully there’s plenty more coming very soon.

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Joey Bada$$-Enter the Void ft. Ab-Soul

Joey’s pushed Waves out as an official iTunes release, and if you go ahead and support Joey’s track you’ll get this brand new effort with TDE’s Ab-Soul too.

A great co-sign for the rapidly-rising Joey Bada$$, and one that should up the buzz ahead of the Pro Era crew’s upcoming mixtape. The production slides right in alongside the work on 1999, being suitably vintage with a little twist of mysteriousness, as slowed-down percussion layerss up with drifty yet slightly scratchy synths and an ever so slightly creepy vocal sample. The raps from both are enjoyable and well-suited to the production, as Ab opens with a verse laced with a couple of those thought-provoking rhymes, before Joey jumps in with a performance that feels right at home next to the TDE heavy-hitter. Another positive addition to Joey’s burgeoning reputation, and you can grab this on iTunes US now (hopefully we’ll see a UK release soon).

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Kendrick Lamar-The Recipe (Black Hippy Remix) ft. Ab-Soul, ScHoolboy Q and Jay Rock

The fearsome foursome come together once again for another Target bonus cut from Kendrick’s LP, this time grabbing the album’s first single and taking it for a ride.

Kendrick’s work on here is unchanged, but the rest of the TDE crew drops off enjoyable work that spices up the original, which I’m sure has finally dropped out of many’s playlists. A much different vibe to the grim Swimming Pools Remix, each of the feature verses are much lighter and laced with a touch more arrogance, with Jay Rock probably just edging it: he tones down his aggression, which leaves his delivery as gritty yet laidback, a great complement to this relaxing production. Another likeable remix.

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Kendrick Lamar-Swimming Pools (Black Hippy Remix) ft. Jay Rock, Ab-Soul and ScHoolboy Q

With any good album release comes a slew of bonus tracks from various retailers, and as ever most of them are only available to consumers shopping at certain outlets. Essentially, most fans won’t get to legally own some of this material unless they buy the album several times. Way to combat piracy. Not.

This one (and another coming shortly) were found on the Target edition of the album, and it’s a damn shame they’re not more widely available. The original Swimming Pools still gets heavy play, and throwing the TDE crew into the mix provides a great upgrade on that, with the moody tones of each rapper suiting this dark production. The highlight verse of the new additions has to be Q’s, utilising a similar flow to Kendrick’s opening verse on the original, but lacing it with a unique touch that seperates it from its reference point. Kendrick himself appends a new verse over a retooled production to the end, with the beat being much less atmospheric and more on a thudding, underground hip-hop style. Top remix, and let’s hope it becomes more readily available soon.

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BET Hip-Hop Awards 2012: The Cyphers

As per every year, the only thing we check the BET Awards for is these excellent ciphers, and this year is no different.

The 2012 edition brings you some utterly superb lineups, with the clip up here being a personal highlight as it features several of my favourite upcomers-A$AP Rocky, Joey Bada$$, Childish Gambino and Angel Haze, alongside newcomer Driicky Graham. The rest of the ciphers feature the likes of T.I., B.o.B., Talib Kweli, Jean Grae, DMX, Eve, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, Kurupt, DJ Quik, Xzibit, Mac Miller, Ab-Soul, Schoolboy Q, Hopsin and more.

Plenty of promise, click on below to check out all of the ciphers. Who do you reckon had the standout performance? Big fan of Joey Bada$$ with the cipher up here, and my winners for the rest are below.

→ Continue Reading

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Smoke DZA-K.O.N.Y. (Mixtape)

I don’t give this guy nearly the attention he deserves in my iTunes. He’s dropped off several projects in recent years which the hip-hop community seems to have met with relative approval, and yet I’ve not fully committed myself to listening to any of them yet.

This will change now. It appears that not only do hip-hop fans appreciate this guy, but his peers do too as the features on this tape make for salivating reading: Joey Bada$$, Ab-Soul, Big K.R.I.T., Wiz Khalifa, A$AP Twelvy and many more. For a mixtape that mostly came out of nowhere, that’s quite the list he’s assembled and I’m sure most of those don’t lend their names lightly. If, like me, you’ve neglected DZA’s work, there’s pretty much no excuse now and I’ve got complete confidence that he’ll deliver the goods here. Free grab and/or stream below.

Smoke DZA-K.O.N.Y.

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Colin Munroe-Unsung Hero (Album)

It’s been a long time since we had a new project from Colin, and whilst he’s released small bits of material over the last couple of years, it’s great to have him back dropping off something full-length.

Arguably, he didn’t quite capitalise on his huge buzz back in 2009-10, but that doesn’t seem to have hindered his reputation within the industry; features on this include RZA, Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Pusha T, Cassie and more. His relative inactivity has seemingly led to his sound being a little less unique, given the slew of eclectic artists who’ve broken out in recent years, but a quick listen to this tape shows that few have the same level of command over all of the genres he tries to cover. A man who has a great talent for melodies, here’s to hoping this tape revives his career, and that there’s more to come. Download and/or stream below.

Colin Munroe-Unsung Hero
(click here to stream)

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Talib Kweli-Attack the Block (Mixtape)

Can’t complain about a little unexpected Talib Kweli, especially when its a huge 18-track project boasting some massive features.

Twitter seems to be surprised about one feature in particular, that being the Lil’ Wayne (and Mack Maine) assist, which isn’t actually that big a shock given Kweli’s very public praise for Weezy. There are much more notable features on here, including Ab-Soul, Ryan Leslie, Black Thought and Mac Miller. Of course, Talib’s hardly a slouch with a mic and I’m sure he’ll further his status as one of the better rappers around with this tape.

Talib Kweli-Attack the Block

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Rapsody-The Idea of Beautiful (Album)

I don’t know a great deal about Rapsody, but the album’s warming title and artwork coupled with a phenomenal lineup of features makes this one that I’m very eager to check out sooner rather than later.

Assists on this one come from Childish Gambino, Rocki Evans, Mac Miller, The Cool Kids, Ab-Soul, Raheem DeVaughn and more. I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s as close to grabbing a complete who’s who of upcoming rappers as anyone’s come in recent months, and not only does that add star power, but it gives Rapsody plenty to compete with and live up to. With such weighty cosigns I’m sure he’ll have some quality to deliver, and you can stream or download the album over at DJBooth below.

Rapsody-The Idea of Beautiful

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There are a lot of reasons to love this track. Firstly, it’s TDE appreciation week and having heard from Jay Rock, Kendrick, and ScHoolboy, it’s great to have some new Ab. Secondly, the beat is helmed by JMSN, who dropped off a great track a week ago. Finally, Soulo is rapping about all sorts of conspiracies, and I love that sort of stuff.

He covers off plenty of theorists’ favourite topics, from aliens to doomsday, over a strong beat that combines bassy percussion with foreign vocal samples to great effect, adding in an ominous, end-of-days feel to the track. Soulo’s choice to rap from the perspective of the planet Nibiru (or just generally a destructive power) is bold and very entertaining, giving this song a ton of replayability, and huge credit for really sticking to the theme here. A great concept track.

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Ab-Soul-Black Lip Bastard Remix ft. Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q and Jay Rock Video

The huge posse cut from Ab-Soul’s recent (and very enjoyable) Control System album, with his TDE labelmates all coming through to help Ab-Soul out.

The sombre and relatively stripped back production on this creates a great environment for the TDE crew to flex their rapping muscles. Kendrick opens up with a brash and cocky verse, Soulo follows up with a decent verse and anthemic bridge/hook, before ScHoolboy comes through with the highlight verse, adding tons of emphasis to his raps by switching up and dialing back the aggressiveness alternately. Ab comes back in for another verse to stay front-of-mind, before Jay closes things off in the gruff tones and intense manner that he knows best. It’s a good collection of verses that displays the superb depth of talent in the TDE crew.

The video follows suit with the audio, being mostly minimal and focused around the rappers more than anything else. The dark scenescape undoubtedly adds to the power and grittiness of the track, whilst the siren lights create a little danger and urgency. It’s enough to complement a good hip-hop track, and one of the better posse cuts in recent months. Grab the Control System album now.

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Ab-Soul-Illuminate ft. Kendrick Lamar

It looks like now that the Schoolboy Q hype is calming down, it’s time for another excellent talent to emerge from the TDE camp, as Ab-Soul gears up for his #controlsystem project release on Friday.

Ab’s probably the first act I’d actually heard of from TDE, and whilst its taken a little longer for him to gain the acclaim his colleagues have, there’s no doubt he’s a talented rapper as this track demonstrates. Fantastically smooth, atmospheric synth work softly weaves through the track, backed by a strong percussion for a nice thickness to the production, and Ab delivers some passionate, driven raps that contrast nicely with the beat to really spotlight the lyricism. Kendrick delivers on the assist as per most of his guest spots, coming through with yet another enjoyable all-round performance, and it caps off what is a very likeable track.

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