Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Ab-Soul - Do What Thou Wilt Review

It's tough to explain Ab-Soul without immediately diving into stereotype. In his case though, most of what's being said deals with facts. The TDE rapper, time and again, has described himself as an intellectual, using drugs as his main beneficiary to opening up his third eye and witnessing the truths in the world the majority of the population has failed to see. We all know someone like Soul, you see their lunacy appear on Facebook feeds all the time. On Do What Thou Wilt, Soul falls deeper down this rabbit hole, and rather than question the hallucinations he witnesses, he fully accepts that a talking rabbit, a stoned purple cat, and a wise old caterpillar exist in reality. On Control System, far and away his best album, Soul's delusions hadn't reached fervent levels yet. At that stage, in 2012, enjoyment still arose because the third eye ideologies were perceived as a ruse, not an actual belief. Throw in grave emotional tugs that brought Soul back to reality ('Beautiful Death,' 'The Book Of Soul'), and you have an album that had just the right mix of salt and pepper. Flash forward four years and Soul's gone to live in Wonderland, where, no matter the hypocrisy, his words will always appear relevant.

An entire review could be dedicated to how easy it is to poke holes through DWTW's soft tissue. For time's sake, we'll focus on the gaps that are already present. The most prevalent theme driving Soul's fourth LP is, surprisingly, gender equality. However, what's not surprising is how off-base Soul is in regards to the issue. Like Mac Miller and The Divine Feminine earlier this year, DWTW believes the way to ending sexism and improving equality is by putting the pussy on a pedestal, making it easy to cherish the gender whilst also receiving sexual pleasure. Two wrongs don't make a right. The same issues I had with Miller's album appear here as well. On DWTW, Soul rarely speaks of women with zero sexual connotations. In fact, the time's he does, like on 'Threatening Nature,' we're gifted with cheesy lines that achieve Jaden Smith levels of foresight ("I learned about history, but what about her story, did anybody ask?"). Anywhere else, even on the most crucial song ('God's A Girl'), we're forced to bare witness to DWTW's blatant hypocrisy. You see, in Soulo's world, God's only a girl so he can have sex with her, not because he actually believes it.

While that song, and the prelude 'Her World,' which proves God's a "thot" because the blood from your erection causes you not to think and run (cue eye-roll), are the worst of the bunch, there's other tracks that fail equally as bad. DWTW is nearly 80-minutes of pseudo-intellect pandering, after all. 'Wifey Vs. Wi-Fi,' shockingly, isn't bad thanks to its name or silly demeanor. I actually enjoy the scattered percussion and simple hook. However, the song falls apart when Ab-Soul wastes an entire verse setting up the punchline that "mom" on the number pad dials out to "666." Beyond the fact that it's embarrassing, the verse also shows Soul's weakness as a rapper, incapable of sending his message across more clearly. That's not the only poorly structured verse either. Strewn about are a handful of 'spiritual lyrical miracles' (like 'Now You Know's' first verse) that embark on being as empty and pointless as one can imagine. In moments like these, Soul says in 16 bars what a rapper of his perceived intellect can do in two. Ironically enough, multiple times, he calls out his own genius following these bars, side-tracking the tracks entirely.

Even though they're rare to come by, there are moments of enjoyment to be found on DWTW. 'Beat The Case,' which features Schoolboy Q, finds the two Black Hippy members teeing off with some ignorant bars. It doesn't try to be conscious, provocative, or offensive, and just like 'Braille,' which largely does the same thing, it thrives off being aggressively unknowledgeable. And while I still have the same issues with the lyrical content of 'Threatening Nature' the day it released as a single, I can't ignore the satisfaction derived from Soul gliding over the militaristic beat with ease. Finally, two songs towards the end surpass that of the largely spoon-fed, filler fluff of the second half by actually having a purpose contrary to the album's discerned enlightenment. 'Lonely Soul,' using an odd vocal sample, finds Soul and TDE co-president Punch reflecting on their isolated place in life, finding a smooth balance between solace and grim. And 'YMF,' which unfortunately has to stand for "young mind fuck," ends the album off on a good note, somehow. Left to sing alone, Soul actually does a sufficient job on the chorus (apart from the Kid Cudi humming), whilst simultaneously counteracting every measure he previously took ("I'm a liar, a cheater, a devil in disguise, and a deceiver").

None of these redeemable marks can offset the crass self-entitlement found on the rest of DWTW though. The embarrassing conspiracy theories, the sexist hypocrisies, the cheesy one-liners, and the subpar explanatory verses fail to elevate DWTW into mediocrity. This is Ab-Soul's worst project, and it's really not even close. These Days, his 2014 affair, that confirmed the beliefs of all those unfortunate enough to bare witness to his appalling feature verses ("let me put my mouth where you potty boo" #neverforget) didn't express nearly this many deluded epiphanies. In fact, it's worst moments were those in which Soul went ignorant ('Nevermind That,' 'Twack'), not those in which he used his third eye. While These Days did as well, DWTW suffers even more so from the bloated duration, especially given the fact that the final five songs, after you've far and away exhausted as much Soul as you can handle in one sitting, all eclipse the five-minute mark. If you're not in Soul's headspace, or not soon on your way there, Do What Thou Wilt will largely be pointless, unpleasant drivel. Oh, and no Soul, you won't be in Obama's iPod, you called the man a puppet.

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