Ab-Soul’s Frustrating Display of Ineptitude

By: Michael Charlebois

There was a time when Ab-Soul was considered a good rapper. The West-coast based Top Dawg label featured a talented cast of four rappers whose work in the early part of the 2010’s drew comparisons to the likes of N.W.A. as well as other notable labels in hip-hop’s history. This acclaim gave Soul a good platform to build off of, and his 2012 album Control System gave us a glimpse of Soul’s potential. In fact, in itself, it’s a very good project. With a steady balance of good production, clever wordplay, and solid rapping, Soul came off as an astute yet paranoid personality. At his best, he could tap into the dark emotional aspect of his life as he did ever so perfectly on “Book of Soul” — a song detailing the misfortune’s in his life which included the death of his long-time partner Alori Joh. After Control System, it seemed as though the ceiling for Soul — much like his peers — was very high.

This isn’t to say the rapping on Do What Thou Wilt is bad. Soul’s flow and wordplay is usually satisfying to the ear, and at a low volume without listening too closely, this would be fine (albeit, weird) as background music. After diving in it’s easy to see that Soul captures the worst qualities of Lupe Fiasco, and continues to combine it with the misogyny of pre-Divine-Feminine Mac Miller and the eye roll corniness of J.Cole.

Some of the most memorably awful lines include: “With all disrespect the American flag was designed by fags,” on “Threatening Nature”, “I’m finger fucking Mother Earth / Put my thumb up in her butt then roll like I was bowling,” on the horribly titled “Womanogamist”, or the mind blowing “God gotta be a thot, the blood from your erection come from your brain and your feet, so you can’ think and you can’t run,” on “HER World”. That’s just a small sampling; there’s an abundance of them, and the fact that Ab-Soul thinks these lines are clever, and desperately wants you to know, is probably his most infuriating quality. Take, for example, his need to admire the line “A criminal’s best asset is his liability,” by using the next bar to say “That was crazy, lie-ability”. It’s like he’s too insecure to just pass a metaphor off without letting the listener know about it. The hook on “Beat The Case” (a song that literally never addresses Black commentary) goes “Beat it, beat it, beat it like a runaway slave.” These are just some of the highlights of Ab’s many faults, but make no mistake, listening to Ab is a flat-out uncomfortable experience throughout.


To make this experience all the more dumbfounding, Ab-Soul spends a great deal of the album addressing women, but in a very unconventional way. First he addresses the fact that as a society we don’t talk about feminism enough, but a few lines later he openly objectifies women with the line “Bitch I’m getting head while I’m sinnin’.” “Wifey vs. WiFi”, arguably the worst song on the album, features an ambiguous metaphor about prison and women, and spends the majority of the first verse talking about his dick. This includes the lovely line: “Listen bitch, when it’s in you the sentiment is incredible.” On “God’s A Girl,” well, I don’t know really know what’s going on in this song, but Soul compares himself to Jesus and makes the case that God is a girl because of the way Soul is pleasured by her. It’s uncomfortable to listen to. The hook (The hook!) on this song goes: “I ain’t gon’ lie you got me cryin’ with a hard dick (amen).” Eventually, the concept comes full circle on the album’s only standout “The Law”. The soulful cut features another solid Rapsody feature and is an ode to women, but the sentiment just doesn’t seem genuine at all based on what came beforehand.

All things considered, this album is a mess. Ab-Soul desperately wants to come across as intellectual, but his over-the-top concepts are so poorly executed, and his contradictions (though probably intentional) are plain unappealing. His ideas come across as half-baked, conspiracy raps that will alienate most listeners. Whether Soul’s fault or not, there’s nothing really engaging outside of a couple of songs. The dark atmosphere that Soul was striving for wears off pretty quickly, and as a result it’s a chore to get through the entire 77 minutes. On the opener “RAW (backwards), Zacari sings “We don’t wanna hear that wack shit no more.” In a way it’s a fitting line as the album proceeds to be filled with laughable contradictions, and there is none more obvious than following up that line with an album full of wack shit. Do What Thou Wilt is the worst Top Dawg album since the last Ab-Soul album, and it affirms that Ab-Soul is the weakest link in the Top Dawg chain.