From voting on release dates to checking out song premieres, we've been anticipating Ab-Soul's, new album These Days, for a while now. But even with all the preparation we've done leading up to the release of the California native's first project since 2012, which was released on Tuesday (June 24), there was still plenty we were surprised by.
Some things were a given when we pressed play: Soul's lyricism would be sharp and his mentality elevated; the production would be strong; the sequencing would be on point. But here are some other things that we noticed that added to our listening experience of These Days.
It's not surprising that Joey is on the album, especially since Soulo was featured on the New York rapper's own "Enter the Void" in 2012. What's notable, though, is that about halfway through the second track, "Tree of Life," the Pro Era MC's voice emerges -- even though he's not featured on the tracklisting. No complaints about this bi-coastal tree-burning anthem, though.
Schoolboy Q often refers to himself as Puffy, so who better to feature on a song with Q than the man himself? That's exactly what Soul does with "Hunnid Stacks." After Q's verse -- and with just ten seconds left on the song -- the beat cuts out, and Diddy's iconic voice cuts in: "What, it ain't no more to it," he says, replicating a phrase Biggie boasted on "B.I.G. Interlude" from Life After Death. "Soulo eatin' now. Tell 'em Puff said so." Noted.
Kind of. It's actually called "Kendrick Lamar's Interlude." But it's definitely an extension of the above, which was a track on K. Dot's Section.80. On the "Outro" (as you might imagine), it's Soul's turn to rap, as he's given the stage on his labelmate's project. The same goes here, but the reverse, as Kendrick delivers a monster verse. Each track is backed by the jazzy production of Terrace Martin, and both use a similar refrain: "Life's in a traffic jam" ("Ab-Soul's Outro") and "Life is a traffic jam" ("Kendrick Lamar's Interlude").
First, there's "Hunnid Stacks," where Malcolm is uncredited but provides the hook. Then, there's "Ride Slow," which was produced by Larry Fisherman (a.k.a. Mac Miller) and features Delusional Thomas (a.k.a...you guessed it, Mac Miller). Also, Mac's Most Dope homie Jimmy has a speaking interlude on "Just Have Fun."
Maybe this shouldn't surprise us, given that more than one song was packed into one track a few times on Kendrick Lamar's good kid, m.A.A.d. city. But Soul does a stealthy job of hiding some dope music at the end of tracks like "Tree of Life" and "Just Have Fun," which have beat switches late and deliver two for the price of one.
"Swear to God this the only time I use this flow," the T.D.E. rapper promises at the beginning of "These Days," which comes on the last two minutes of "Just Have Fun," before borrowing the popular cadence for his honest and fiery minute-long verse.
The musical component of the 23-minute final track, "W.R.O.H," ends after about four minutes. From there, it's straight a cappella. Soul throws on his battle rap cap and squares off against Daylyt, as they trade lengthy verses packed with potent punchlines. We're certainly glad Ab-Soul took the time to put together this full body of work with These Days, but something tells us he would have held his own had he chosen a battle rap path, instead.