January 16, 2013

If there was one record from 2012 that combined the drug-addled sociopolitical paranoia of Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, the wandering and ever-questioning quest for self-discovery burned and soaked into the pages (not the recent film-adaptation) of Kerouac’s On the Road, and the maddening inquiry into the darkness of the human soul that is Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, it was Ab-Soul’s Control System.

There wasn’t another record out in 2012 that I dug as much as this one (all other TDE releases and Aesop’s Skelethon are close behind). I’ve listened to it again and again over the past few weeks, trying to unearth what it is that I find so intriguing about this ‘abstract asshole.’ Markedly solid production, above-par features, and well-crafted charismatic delivery aside, I’ve decided that it has to be the skepticism embedded in nearly every bar, the constant inquisition. The certainty that nothing is certain (“Missing screws, bending rules like kneecaps / I don’t even know what’s real, I’m just being real” – “Pineal Gland”). Religion, politics, censorship, gender relations, materialism — the list of forever ‘hot button’issues pushed and prodded goes on. Granted, I’ve also been watching a lot of Christopher Hitchens debates, so I’m really in the skeptic corner at the moment.

My predilection for the infamous ‘Hitchslap‘ aside, since “Pineal Gland,” “Terrorist Threats,” and “Black Lip Bastard” all have videos (below the jump), Soulo has released a video for  another one of the best cuts off his album, “Illuminate” (featuring Kendrick Lamar).  

At first glance, the video reminds me of the end Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, when Montag stumbles upon the group of men holding camp on the outskirts of the quasi-totalitarian city, the men who are still interested in reading books instead of burning them.  As one of the actors burns money, another rifles through his backpack to reveal old used copies of the three books I mentioned in the first paragraph (you have to pause the video once or twice). Another dusts off and plays Ab-Soul’s record on vinyl. And still another projects a video of Soul rapping his verses on the wall of an abandoned warehouse. Kendrick’s verse, which is easily one of his best featured appearances, is delivered on an old boxy TV via a grainy videotape found by one of the kids in the video pedaling a bike with said TV strapped to a cart.

In the end, the two central wanders in the video, trudging through what I’m guessing is some sort of post-apocalyptic L.A., stumble upon a graffiti painted shack wherein Soul sits posed like the black Kurtz, a knowing smile across his face as he exhales a cloud of smoke. Cut to black. Roll credits. Despite the allusion, I doubt you’ll catch Ab-Soul screaming out “the horror” anytime soon. He’ll probably just pour up and blaze another one as he searches for the best way to access all of the DMT in his brain.  Maybe his upcoming project with JMSN, Unit 6, will have the answer. If not, I’m still down for more questions.