GRITTY INTELLECTUAL RAP
Ab-Soul, These Days (Top Dawg Entertainment)
Top Dawg Entertainment’s success has put a lot of pressure on Ab-Soul. Falling somewhere between the lyrical brilliance of Kendrick Lamar and the enjoyable ignorance of ScHoolBoy Q, the Carson, California, MC has a lot to prove with his solo outing, These Days. While he is effective with the artful ode to vegetation “Tree of Life” and the weeded-out “Hunnid Stax,” the album short-circuits and loses its identity. “Twact,” Ab-Soul’s attempt at a club hit, comes off awkward; “Sapiosexual” suffers from mundane production and an uninspired hook. Trying to do too much, These Days lacks focus and clarity. However, when Soul is on, he’s one of the best wordsmiths in hip-hop. “Stigmata” is an exercise in lyrical dexterity as he cleverly rips through the rumbling production, while the Lupe Fiasco-assisted “World Runners” finds the two MCs one-upping each other. Ultimately a solid effort, but much more is expected from a lyricist of his caliber. It’s a minor stumble from TDE, but still better than much of what’s out there. ★★★✩✩
HS87, We the Plug (Hits Since ’87)
Ever since Hit Boy left G.O.O.D. Music last year, curiosity piqued about what the producer would be up to next. Well, he’s decided to showcase his HS87 crew while establishing himself as a credible MC with the collaborative album, We the Plug. Although a little long in the tooth and a tad crowded, Hit Boy does achieve success. The production takes center stage with trunk rattlers such as “No Talkin’” and the whining saxophone and distorted bassline of “Scorn.” With so many people in his posse, it’s difficult to get a feel for each individual’s talent but it still makes for an enjoyable listen. ★★★✩✩
Day 26, The Return (BMG)
It’s been nearly seven years since Day 26 was formed on Diddy’s Making the Band reality show. After seeing some marginal success, the group attempted solo careers in 2012 but now find themselves back together for The Return EP. Robert, Brian, Willie, Mike and Que are vocally solid as evidenced on “Russian Roulette.” The songwriting, however, is another story. “Bullshit” and “R&B Singer” are both terribly contrived in an attempt to give the group an edge. It’s a shame, because Day 26 has promise but needs the assistance of an A&R to focus their talents properly. ★★✩✩✩
Upcoming albums on Andreas’ radar …
JULY 22: Common takes a break from acting and gets back to rapping on Nobody’s Smiling.
JULY 29: The Cool Kids’ Sir Michael Rocks looks to establish himself as a respectable solo act on his new project, Banco.
AUGUST 12: After a long hiatus, Cali tandem Dilated Peoples return to the scene with their highly anticipated Directors of Photography.