Skip to main content

The Book of Soul: An Ode to Ab-Soul's ‘Control System’ 5 Years Later

A half-decade later, 'Control System' remains the high-water mark in Soul’s catalog.
DJBooth_logo2x

Exactly five years ago today, I was 23 years old and (allegedly) living in Canada on a long-expired visitor’s visa, spending my days at one of the local smoke shops assisting customers in choice bong picks and discovering my passion for hip-hop writing through a poorly-run blog that would eventually lead me to where I am today.

My existence was drenched in the smoke of Canadian ganja and I was surrounded by the type of armchair philosophers Katt Williams once explained as “smarter than a dumb motherfucker.” I was entrenched in a potent cocktail of hip-hop studies and esoteric obsessions, spending just as much time scouring the writings of Aleister Crowley and Terrence McKenna as I was the front pages of DJBooth and 2DopeBoyz.

Exactly five years ago today, Ab-Soul released his second album Control System—a project which, given the headspace I was in at the time, tapped an ice pick into my consciousness that burst into fractalized shards. At the time, Soulo was already my favorite of TDE’s four horsemen through his Long Term mixtapes, but somewhere between Longterm Mentality and Control System, Ab-Soul had downloaded some sort of cosmic message that endowed him with qualities that had only been hinted at in his previous projects.

Soul had always displayed powerful wordplay—a skill he’d honed through BlackPlanet freestyle chat battles facilitated by free AOL/NetZero trial discs—but Control System was made by a man who had been to the mountaintop of knowledge and been struck with a lightning bolt of monumental understanding once he got there. The metaphysical themes he was beginning to explore in the Long Term series had blossomed into a full swan dive into the depths of psychedelic thought. The Black Lip Bastard had arrived.

Scroll to Continue

RECOMMENDED ARTICLES

5-Albums-Header

5 New Albums You Need to Hear This Week

New albums from Fireboy DML, Pigeons & Planes, ELIO, SANNI, and Baani Sandhu? Audiomack has a breakdown of all the must-hear new releases this week.

Copy-of-Best-of-the-Week-Header--1-

5 Songs You Need to Hear: Best of the Week

Get familiar with new releases from Beyoncé, JAE5, DJ Tunez, NAV, and DOMi and JD Beck.

5-Albums-Header--4-

5 New Albums You Need to Hear This Week

New albums from Doe Boe, Hotboii, Kweku Flick and more? We have a complete rundown of all the new releases you should make time to hear.

From the album’s Jhené Aiko-assisted opener “Soulo Ho3” to deeper cuts like “Pineal Gland” and “Illuminate,” the themes on Control System are not for the average hip-hop listener. These weren’t brief, vague mentions of the Illuminati and mushrooms, this was a legitimate documentation of one man’s venture into an alternate consciousness. The album cover is the Tree of Life, for fuck’s sake. Soulo was deep in it.

This burgeoning experimentation and the tragic passing of his beloved Alori Joh just months before Control System’s release brought out a darkness and aggression in Soul’s demeanor that had until then been masked by a charming layer of lighthearted references and a whimsical, witty sense of humor. This wasn’t the Ab-Soul that made “House Party 5,” this was a man with clear demons finding solace in an exponential expanse in thought, and this new Ab-Soul was even more deadly on the mic than his already lethal previous incarnation.

Then there are the features. The unbridled anarchism of Soul and Danny Brown on “Terrorist Threats,” the hyper-machismo of “SOPA” with ScHoolboy Q, the Section.80 revival vibes of “Illuminate” alongside Kendrick—Control System showcases some of the strongest feature pairings I’ve heard from anyone on TDE in recent memory. Every guest role is perfectly conceptualized and executed to a T, and Soul manages to remain the star of the show even among the damn near flawless performances accompanying him.

To this day, Control System marks a high point in Ab-Soul’s catalog. Do What Thou Wilt. and the Long Term series still get steady rotation in my house on any given week, but both Soul’s latest release and 2014’s ill-advised These Days… lacked the noxious combination of focused arrangement, eclectic production, killer features and lyrical complexity that Control System has in spades.

I’m well aware that Soul is still capable of this level of artistry—there were several glimpses of it on DWTW—but Control System will always hold a special place in my heart as a formative album both in my life and in the discography of TDE’s original Black Hippy.

Related

Copy-of-Best-of-the-Week-Header--1-

5 Songs You Need to Hear: Best of the Week

Get familiar with new releases from Beyoncé, JAE5, DJ Tunez, NAV, and DOMi and JD Beck.

5-Albums-Header--4-

5 New Albums You Need to Hear This Week

New albums from Doe Boe, Hotboii, Kweku Flick and more? We have a complete rundown of all the new releases you should make time to hear.

Best-of-the-Week-Header--4-

5 Songs You Need to Hear: Best of the Week

Tap in to brand new songs from Megan Thee Stallion, Pabi Cooper, Doechii, Nija, and KIRBY.

5-Albums-Header-1

5 New Albums You Need to Hear This Week

Press play on new albums from Tiago PZK, Flo Milli, Icewear Vezzo, Ms Banks, and Reggie & O'Kenneth.

Header

10 Rappers You Should Know Right Now

Tell all your friends about Ken Carson, Strick, Cochise, Dougie B, Lil Kayla, and more. Audiomack introduces you to the rappers who are up next.

Header--18-

“Music Was Going to Be My Way Out”: An Interview With JeriQ

Rising Nigerian artist JeriQ has made his dreams come true. He breaks down his journey for Audiomack World.