Control System

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With his 2012 effort, Control System, Ab-Soul is the fourth and final member of the Black Hippy crew to stake a solo claim, but chalk it up to this album being crafted over time, because here he's matched his teammates (Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, and ScHoolboy Q), and arguably topped them. Ab-Soul is the child of record store-owning parents, and his backing tracks are not only diverse, but purposefully diverse, with the horny "Lust Demons" (produced by Tae Beast) sounding brittle and moneyed like a chopped-up R. Kelly cut, plus, had Ab-Soul not gotten to this buttery stuff first, the woozy "Empathy" (with Skhye Hutch at the controls) would've started a bidding war between Devin the Dude and the neo-soul genre in total. Still, with "Double Standards" beating on misogyny as hard as 50 Cent beats up on Fat Joe, it turns out that what really sticks is Ab-Soul's open mind about anything and everything, as "Showin' Love" praises a higher power with sincerity before putting the sting on the competition by brutally focusing on their cheap bag of schwag ("nugs as big as Chuck E. Cheese tokens!"). That's the brain, the brawn, the beats, and the belly laughs all at once, and when "Pineal Gland" twists a Cypress Hill track into a Twilight Zone episode, it's something new altogether, something Ab-Soul must have triangulated with Bizzy Bone and Dipset as his two known angles. Stunning, and at 17 tracks, surprisingly solid, Ab-Soul gets it right on the opening "Soulo Ho3," cracking the whip in that Eazy-E style with "Said I was the underdog/Turns out I'm the secret weapon."

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