Ab-Soul – “Herbert” review

Ab-Soul is a 35 year old MC & singer/songwriter from Carson, California who came up as 1/2 of the duo Area 51 alongside Snake Hollywood. The pair would be short lived however, as Soulo would go on to sign to Top Dawg Entertainment & has remained under Top Dawg’s wing since. Dude’s first 2 mixtapes Longterm & Longterm 2: Lifestyles of the Broke & Almost Famous would begin to turn heads & I can’t forget about his first 2 full-lengths Longterm Mentality & Control System going on to become the Black Lip Bastard’s most acclaimed efforts to date, but These Days… & Do What Thou Wilt. were both released to mediocre reception from many including myself. That being said though, I was definitely looking forward to Soulo’s 6th album here as TDE comes fresh off SZA‘s long awaited sophomore effort S.O.S. last Friday & of course Kendrick’s final offering with the label Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers over the spring.

“Message in a Bottle” is a 2-part boom bap opener with Soulo talking about being close to the edge whereas “No Report Card” takes a peppier Route promising not to stop. “Hollandaise” starts off going into trap turf with some cloudy/pluggy undertones talking about being locked in with no fucks given prior to a jazzy switch-up during the final verse, but then Joey Bada$$ tags along for the “Moonshooter” remix weaving a chipmunk soul sample & some dusty drums to get more conscious lyrically.

However on “F.O.M.F. (Fuck Out My Face)”, we have the Black Lip Bastard over a horn-inflicted trap instrumental advising the bitch-made to back up from him leading into Punch coming into the picture for the soulful boom bap cut “Goodman” talking about being righteous & good men turning tyrant. “Do Better” samples “Green Twins” by Nick Hakim dropping some more uplifting lyricism just before the Fre$h-assisted “Gang’Nem” embraces a cloudier sound getting on a whole lotta gang shit.

“The Wild Side” returns to the boom bap with some piano chords woven in speaking on turning their lifestyles into their careers while “Art of Seduction” is of course a decently moody love ballad. “Bucket” hooks up a vocal loop talking about controlling this system & not to worry about a damn thing while “Go Off” with Big Sean & Russ has a wavy trap groove with the trio giving off big sick energy. The verse from the latter at the middle is kinda cringey especially with the line about not teaching a girl how to arch since she’s from St. Louis, but Sean comes out swinging with a crazy Stone Cold Steve Austin reference once he starts spitting near the end.

Moving on from there with “Fallacy”, it’s only right for Soulo to declare that the real is back over some airy boom bap production from Hit-Boy while the title track brings a sample-based trap beat into the fold talking about how he’ll never be understood. “Church on the Move” is a gospel/trap hybrid keeping the faith while the piano-heavy “It Be Like That” admits his fuck-ups with a melodic outro. The penultimate track “Positive Vibes Only” speaks for itself with a triumphant beat & “Gotta Rap” finishes the album with the God of Boom Bap himself DJ Premier behind the boards to flex Ab’s lyrical abilities.

As someone who adored this guy’s first 2 full-lengths during my adolescence, I’ll admit that I had some doubts going into Herbert considering how underwhelming his last 2 have been. However, there’s no denying that this is the best he’s sounded since Control System. Given the title, I admire how he decided to get more personal be detailing his upbringings accompanied by some versatile production pulling from boom bap to trap & even gospel music.

Score: 4/5

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