Ab-Soul Explains Firing Competitive Shots At The Throne, Meaning Of "Control System"

Exclusive: Ab-Soul explains rapping: "I used to want to rap like Jay-Z / Now I feel like I could run laps around Jay-Z / Nas ain't seen nothing this nasty / Big and 'Pac got it coming when I pass too."

If Top Dawg Entertainment’s Black Hippy collective were the 1997 Los Angeles Lakers, then Ab-Soul would be Kobe Bean Bryant. It’s true. Jay Rock fits the ultra-cool Eddie Jones mold - a super balanced, super consistent leader. Schoolboy Q is absolutely Nick Van Exel, a tricky - possibly polarizing - off-kilter cold-blooded killer. Kendrick Lamar is Black Hippy’s Shaquille O’Neal - leading the league in multiple statistical categories, unquestionably the go-to guy every night. Ab-Soul, like Kobe cira ’97 is raw and ambitious. He’s a brash outsider who thrives off of unbridled competition and, when the cypher’s complete, might be greatest of the lot. In 2011’s Long Term 2: Life And Times Of The Broke And Almost Famous, TDE’s secret weapon went public. 2012’s #ControlSystem just might be the precursor to the Ab-Soul takeover.

Photo by Jerome D.

Ab-Soul Explains Meaning Of "Control System"

HipHopDX: How has it been over the years with Black Hippy, watching your crew grow but also growing yourself?

Ab-Soul: It’s definitely been a lot of fun. We’re definitely having a lot of fun with what we’re doing. It’s been a challenge. With every major thing you want to do in life, you definitely want to challenge yourself at all times and make sure you have whatever input into whatever you’re standing behind.

DX: I think that’s one of things [you end up] sacrificing as an artist over the course of a career when you start adding label expectations and fan expectations. Sometimes it seems like you can get away from the essence of what it is you’re doing and why you do it.

Ab-Soul: Word. I’ve been doing this since I was a kid, man, and I started doing it because it was fun. I just want to keep that same attitude my whole career.

DX: You’ve got a lot of really notable bars that have left impressions on people in a fairly short time. I think 2011 was a great year for you lyrically. One of the joints that really stands out to me in your catalog is “Be A Man” off of [Long Term 2: Lifestyles Of The Broke And Almost Famous]. On the final verse where you’re talking to your step-pops, you [say], “I looked him in the face and said, ‘It ain’t about the money / And honestly, buying an education sounds funny.’” I’ve never thought about how ironic it is that we actually spend so much money on education. You look at how student loan debt now is in the trillions. Kids coming out of college don’t have jobs. It is kind of ironic that we charge so much for an education. Where did that come from? What brought you to that point?

Ab-Soul: Two words for you, brother: control system. Simple as that. Everything that is mandatory in this country is a control system. A lot of the economy, society - it’s all controlled. Politics. It’s a big production, if you will. I just think I’m one of the people that’s kind of aware of that.

DX: When did you first notice this? I don’t think you’re alone by any means, and I don’t think there are a lot of people who speak up about this stuff in a way that’s as effective as you do on wax and through your music. When did you come to this conclusion that a lot of this stuff is orchestrated?

Ab-Soul: Because you can go get a library card for free, I think. Right? Back in the day when I got my library card, it was for free and it had all the information you would find in school if you know how to read. If the goal is to get the information or the education, why would you want to pay for it if it’s free? Of course you have the Internet and things like that. But I know it, why don’t I just share it with you? If I know how to do a heart transplant, why don’t I just teach you how to do it? Why do I have to charge you to do that? It’s important to keep people alive, right? So why do you have to pay people a lot of money to learn how to do it? I just don’t get it. It doesn’t make sense. Am I right or wrong? I mean, if I need a heart transplant, why do I have to pay to get a heart transplant? If everybody is so concerned about staying alive, then why don’t we just all teach each other how to do a heart transplant? There’s a lot of people that know how to give heart transplants. Why don’t they just give a free seminar on how to give a heart transplant? Why does it have to cost so much? Control system.

DX: Is that the broader concept around the album?

Ab-Soul: Yeah. That’s going to be the concept. There’s a lot of references on the album. I used a lot of ancient symbolism, ancient history. Music that I’ve grown to love over the years growing up and just showing how it all connects in an inspiring way. We’re all connected. We all have the same DNA. I just kind of feel like we’re getting away from the truth.

DX: The thing I think stands out about [“Be A Man”] is that your step pops showed a little cynicism at the idea of going into the music business when music isn’t selling in the same way. What’s your step pops saying now? Black Hippy is everywhere. You are a linchpin of that group. The group just signed with Interscope Records. How are those conversations these days?

Ab-Soul: Keep doing your thing! [Laughs] Stuff like that.

Ab-Soul Explains "ILLuminate" Lines About Jay-Z

DX: [On "ILLuminate" you rhyme] “I used to want to rap like Jay-Z / Now I feel like I could run laps around Jay-Z / Nas ain’t seen nothing this Nasty / Big and 'Pac got it coming when I pass too...” Those are some weighty bars right there, man.

Ab-Soul: Yeah. Basically it’s just a little warning shot at the throne. We coming. Don’t get too comfortable. That’s all it is. I respect all of those artists to the utmost. I’ve respected them through my entire career. It’ll be an honor to meet all of them in some kind of way. But at the end of the day, this is a competitive sport and we’re here to win.

DX: Do you think that most other artists or the industry itself still treats Hip Hop as a competitive sport?

Ab-Soul: Yeah, definitely. I just think with my generation it’s more of monetary thing than actually trying to make a connection with people. We’re trying to really touch the people rather just have the most reward. Does that make sense? A lot of the most popular rappers are really popular because of their status or their income or just their success or whatever. It’s just too arrogant, man. We’re just getting away from just really trying to connect and keep it real. It’s just too arrogant. Everybody’s talking about the same thing. You know what I mean?

DX: I think a lot of people feel the same way you do...

Ab-Soul: It gets hard to articulate sometimes because to each his own. I’m not going to tell any grown person how to act or what they need to be talking about because that’s not constitutional. Much respect to everybody out there in the world that’s trying to do anything and go hard at it, whatever you do.

DX: When you guys were leading up to inking with Interscope, what were you guys talking about amongst yourselves? What was Top Dawg debating back and forth? You guys waited a very long time to actually align with a major label after having such independent success. What was the tipping point for that decision?

Ab-Soul: Well actually, at this particular time, I’m not really at liberty to talk about that. But we’re definitely building and definitely want people to look out and stay tuned for what we have coming in the future. I can’t really speak on that like that.

DX: I’m always really interested in any artist or collective that signs with a major these days because there’s so much opportunity independently...

Ab-Soul: Exactly, and that’s our mind frame. We’re not trying to ride the wave of having a deal. They reached out to us and we don’t take that lightly. We understand that they need us and it’s not the other way around. We already have a machine working. If a major label can’t compensate us the way that we need to be compensated than it’s not going to work.

Ab-Soul Recalls Touring With & Recording With Murs

DX: One of my favorite songs of [2011] was Murs’ “Life And Time” [off of Love And Rockets Vol. 1 with Ski Beatz] with you and O.C. on it.

Ab-Soul: Yeah, yeah, yeah. For sure. That was tight.

DX: That song is ridiculous. It feels like three generations of lyricists really coming on a real lyrical level - from styles and skills wise, but also from content and message. How did you link up with Murs? What’s your relationship with Murs like?

Ab-Soul: Murs had reached out to us last year, I think like early last year, just interested in the Black Hippy movement and what we were doing. It came time for him to hit the road for the “Road To Paid Dues Tour” and he wanted one of us to go. Kendrick [Lamar] already started getting shows on his own and he wanted [me] to roll with him and help him out. So we just decided to let me go, and we were able to build from there.

DX: How’d you record that joint? Did you send the track in, or did you guys actually get together and talk about it?

Ab-Soul: Yeah, I had to send it to him because he was in New York and I was in [Los Angeles] working on [#ControlSystem]. I really wanted to get in with him. I like to get in the studio and do it live like that, personally. But we had to do it via Internet this time.

DX: What’s the difference between being in the studio live as opposed to just sending it around?

Ab-Soul: It’s just the energy. It’s Murs’ record so it’s best to be in the same vicinity of the artist if I’m going to be featured. The same thing with me. If you’re going to be featured on my record, I’d like to be there to make sure that we see eye to eye on what’s going on. If we’re all the way across country, I’d just kind of have to listen to song hear the vibe. We definitely want to try to get as much energy as possible when working on these records. It’s all vibration. We’re moving to a heart beat. Apply all of those mechanics to what we’re doing.

DX: That first line is really interesting to me. “If it wasn’t for this Hip Hop shit / I’d probably lose it...” You grew up in a record store. Your family business was a record store. You once described how when you left the record store, there wasn’t music at your house. It’s kind of a different story about [how artists find] Hip Hop. These days, most artists tell the story of the their father put them on to Hip Hop, or their homies. You seem like you were slower than expected to fall in love with Hip Hop being that you were in a record store everyday.

Ab-Soul: Exactly. There’s a lot of irony in that, for sure. I was always able to read well and was very comprehensive. I think once I figured out all of those things going on in Rap, Hip Hop music - the best artists were applying all of those things that I grew to love anyway - I just finally made the connection. I can tell you something, but if I rhyme it to you, it puts more of an [emphasis] on it. You know how pimps rap to you? If you rhyme it, it makes it more interesting to people. It’s more appeasing to the ear for some reason.

DX: With Top Dawg and Black Hippy, the emcees are out front right now. I think the producers are still waiting for their big showcase. You guys have an ill stable of producers but I don’t hear about them as much as I’d expect to considering how ill your stable of producers are. Is that strategic? Are you guys just keeping them in house right now?

Ab-Soul: Yeah, definitely. It’s just best to have your own team. There are definitely a lot of producers that I definitely want to work with, but I just feel more passionate about building a team; coming in with our own brand. I feel more passionate about that than jumping in and collaborating with all of the best guys in the game, you know?

DX: Sounwave is crazy talented, man.

Ab-Soul: Exactly. Sounwave brought me to [Top Dawg Entertainment]. He was the first producer that I ever worked with back when I was 12 or 13 years old. He was making beats on his Playstation - MTV Music Generator. We’ve been doing this for a long time.

DX: You’ve got your 10,000 hours in.

Ab-Soul: Yeah, exactly. So it’s only right that we continue to build.

DX: With everything that you’ve seen as you’ve traveled, from unexpectedly getting props just for being in a Jay Rock video, to being one of the most anticipated artists in Hip Hop right now, what still surprises you about Hip Hop?

Ab-Soul: It’s kind of like movies. With movies and video games, I always say to myself every time I see the new shit, like, “How are they gonna top this?” How are they gonna make a movie better than this? How are the graphics gonna improve from this? Somehow somebody always seems to come up with something innovative. I think that’s the same thing that’s going on with the Hip Hop culture. It’s gonna continue to grow. It’s living. It’s breathing. It’s gonna continue to grow and that surprises me every time. It surprises me that a guy like Drake can blend Rap and R&B. He really blends Rap and R&B in a way that is okay, when in Rap, that could be soft. If he did one more extra R&B song, he would be soft. He was able to come up with something innovative and make it big. Something new. Something refreshing. Not to say that he was the first singing rapper or something like that, but he’s definitely one of the biggest artists in the game right now. It’s 2 Chainz. These guys just keep coming up with this new flavor, this new style. It’s exciting, man. I’m glad to be a part of it, man. I’m that I can contribute.

Purchase Music by Ab-Soul

RELATED: #controlsystem by Ab-Soul [ALBUM REVIEW]

57 Comments

  • LD

    man when you listen to artist since their first album or mixtape you will notice whether or not they're improving and i have to say kendrick and ab are the best ive heard in a long time they have the potential to take the rap game by storm but the most important thing is they have passion it aint about the money to them its about their music and fans. #HiiiPower!!!

  • Anonymous

    you guys are gay and lame as fuck

  • Thatguy

    I think if people actually listened to black hippy like they flock to Big Sean rappin about ass all the time,Lil B talkin bout swag and wearing arts&crafts jewelry,Wayne talkin bout how hes gonna kill a nigga right after he hops of his skateboard, and Jay and 'ye talkin bout money and diamonds(arent diamonds womens best friend???) they would actually realize something. just cuz he hasnt been in the game wit millions of number 1 albums dont mean shit, just cuz hes not mainstream dont mean he cant go toe-to-toe with mainstream artists. thats like sayin Tech aint got nothin on Waka becuz Waka's songs are played on the radio and in the clubs and not too many people even know of Tech N9ne.I think its kinda ironic how they(Jay and 'ye) use the throne as a symbol of their position in the game..little history, lesson the ones on the throne are the ones gettin protected and pampered while the one at the bottom are the ones really gettin it and workin for every little thing they have.and also to kinda clear up what he said.this is what I got out of that verse. "I used to wanna rap like Jay-Z." truth be told, Jay used to be killin niggas back in the day when noone barely knew who he was, and he just started out. "Now I feel like I can run laps round Jay-Z."now he got fame and money, and hes sittin comfortable on the throne.hes gone soft. and hes not really anything to be afraid of. TDE & Strange Music -------------------- anyday. Mainstream Artists

  • mdkeren2

    BELOW on every new video article and basically any new piece of content

  • buckeyewu

    But he's got the potential to be a legend. Jay Rock, Schoolboy Q, Kendrick and Ab-Soul are legends in the making. Unless they go pop and change their music for the masses. They are the most creative new artists ive heard in a long, long time.

  • buckeyewu

    Dude is nice! Black Hippy is the shit! However, he's got a long way to go before he starts comparing himself with Nas, Pac and Big. When I heard him say it I laughed but didnt really think he meant any disrespect.

  • Oblivion

    I, for one, applaud soul for talking about legends like that. if it's a competitive sport, you can't be afraid to challenge anyone, even if they're legends. that, in no way, takes away from the respect he has for them.

  • califonatives

    no matter time or place any artist will have a hater. you either like what he's doing or not. if you dont, why are you even here right now, shutuuup and use your ears & time listening to someone youd rather listen to.

  • Grooovy

    Great album, get it!

  • Anonymous

    TDE is next!! Hiii Power!

  • innovation

    Ab-soul's album truly is amazing. Touched me personally with his profound and deep lyrics. I work in the Health Care field, and if you listen to the track "book of soul" Ab-soul discusses his experience with Steven's Johnson Syndrome, a serious condition. Therefore he had first had experience with doctors striving to save his life. I am disappointed with his comments about heart transplants and the general lack of respect. The reason why an individual has to pay for certain education (such as surgeons) is that it take approximately 10 years of education and training post high school to even begin performing a heart transplant individually. Unfortunately, not everything in life is free.

  • Anonymous

    Ab-Souls the shit. Control System is a great album, probably the best of the year so far.

  • I_75beats

    Get your instrumentals today I75beats.net.

  • I_75beats

    www.I75beats.net

  • wayne kerr

    The fans have ruined the genre by supporting free music, both legal and illegal. Rappers never used to put out so many free mixtapes, because it wasnt necessary, now it is the norm. As a result, many rappers are becoming more mixtape rappers than album rappers, and they are becoming played out before even putting out an album! Also, record labels are realizing that rap fans are not buying albums, and thus, they force their rap artists to make music that is more appealing to a wider audience. This causes the rapper to deviate from their original, signature style, which almost every time is a bad thing The talented rappers cant sell because their music isnt on the radio and their videos arent on TV. That is the only way music sells these days, especially in rap. If a rapper is popular on the internet, his album will most likely get leaked, and a lot of people will just d/l the leak and not buy the album Rap is also way too exclusive of a genre. What I mean is that you have to reallly understand rap to genuinely enjoy it. If you are not a consistent consumer of rap music, you probably wont understand most of it, and thus, will not like it. Rap is one of the only genres like this. Pop, country, rock, R&B etc. are a lot more approachable genres of music because they are easier to understand. There are limited examples of complicated metaphors or similes, wordplay, intricate rhyme schemes, or allusions in other genres. Granted, all those characteristics of rap are why I love it, but it makes it hard for more people to like the GOOD rappers, the ones who utilize those tools, instead of basic rappers like Flo Rida, Big Sean, Waka Flocka, Gucci Mane etc.

  • drob

    Ab soul needs to shut the fuck up and go sit down somewhere.

  • Yamz

    Control System is probably one of the illest things you'll hear this year. He didn't really dis Jay-Z and Nas, he's just letting the listener know he's hungry and ready to catch rec. It's like Jay-Z said about the kid "eating the apple jacks writing some shit" lol

  • ThaKritic

    Lol.. Arguin ovr shiett like its youtube in dis bitch.. Ab-soul is nice.. one of the nicest out today.. huge fan... Warning Jay tho? a lil too forward homie. He may not drop "Reasonable Doubts" anymore ( First album, Best album) but he still go hard on some tracks.. He a buisnessman now.. he aint too worried about holdin' a title he been had. As for the rest of the article.. I feel ab-soul. real nigga. Despite his "warning shot" its styll #TDEallDay!!

  • Anonymous

    I like this kid!!!!!!!!!!!

  • @ToneToneBone925

    Just listen to every song every verse. He's almost there. Don't think he just came out just because he getting mainstream attention. Him and the TDE fam are going to take this thang over and I'm rocking with them. I wish I could see the future. Public Enemy, Pac, Nas, Ice Cube all put people on game about whats really going on in the world. All considered great. It takes time for a WHOLE to call someone great..... but I already did. Him and the TDE family. Do yal research. Black Hippy TDE HiiiPower

  • AS

    it was just a powerful line....to evoke a response like urs. He knows he isnt gettin near the throne anytime soon, but by sayin that line, he has emphasised his presence in the game. Most debutants call themselves the best (game, 50, tupac at the time, snoop etc..) He has the POTENTIAL for greatness. Just hope he keeps it goin and keeps it fresh. Was a very good debut album.

  • Anonymous

    Ok I like Ab-Soul but he can't be oblivious. You have to really establish yourself to call Jay-Z your competitor. Ab Soul hasn't even released a major label debut yet, while Jay has 12 number one albums. Competition is cool but even Jay only made a diss toward Nas when he was established well enough to do it.

  • @ToneTheBone925

    I just hope that THE GOVERNMENT don't try and kill these guys. They speak the truth, people die for that. 2 Pac, MLK, Malcom X, Kennedy's(plural), Ghandi,Michael Jackson, Abraham Lincoln.... They trying to get DMX too!

    • ThaKritic

      Finally. Somebody Said it. I got a feeelin' the Gov already keepin' they eyes on these niggas. #TDEallDay

  • Dre

    First off, Ab-soul has plenty more than a few hot songs. Listen to his songs you will soon realize he's more than a quick buck and trying to get fame. He & the rest of Black Hippy are extremely intellectual with their verses and honestly in my opinion the best group out. Granted they may not get as much respect or recognition, but that's simply because the majority doesn't understand their music. They'd rather listen to the same ole thing from Wiz or Drake or Tyga or Ross, in which they all lack substance. If selling records makes you a good artist then let's put 2 Chainz in the top 5 right now. Money, Fame, Fortune does NOT make you the best artists. Look at Joe Budden, one of the most lyrical artists out. Now would you say he is widely known by society? HELL NO. To certain hip hop heads, yes. If we have people like Tyga singin rack city for 30 seconds 3 times in a song then clearly the public could give a F*** about lyricism. And hate to break it to some of you, but Jay-Z survived because of one reason he sold his soul as well as Kanye West. Now I know I will get ridiculed for this statement, but the Illuminati exists. Look at Kanye before his mother died and after... Completely different artist. Back to the topic, I can guarantee TDE will continue to take giant leaps and bounds in becoming some of the best hip hop artists on the planet.

  • Anonymous

    na ab-soul got reasoning for this dope do his thing

  • O. Twist

    A couple hot songs and now you top dog?? Rappers need to focus on lasting a couple years before they start tackling the throne. You going at guys who lasted 20 years. Make one fake album and Im thru, be a broke ass nigga like you-Too Short

    • SP

      it was just a powerful line....to evoke a response like urs. He knows he isnt gettin near the throne anytime soon, but by sayin that line, he has emphasises his presence in the game. He has the potential for greatness. Just hope he keeps it goin and keeps it fresh. Was a very good debut album.

  • NewAgeHippy

    Also, check out "thenewagehippy.tumblr.com"...

  • NewAgeHippy

    Honestly, why are you guys even debating on a topic that has NO benefit coming your direction? Make your own music... Love, Peace, and Happiness.

    • ur a fuckboy

      No! There's enough cornballs makin' music. We'd rather debate it from talented people. Sheesh.

  • What

    Nigga still calling Big and Pac name out while rapping, For real, it need to stop and this nigga and the rest of them still playing big bank take little bank with Jay Z, we all know who win that one, this nigga need to hit the lab and try to be a legend, and stop calling out niggas name like a Chick

    • lol

      thats all you got out of this article?? reading is fundamental bitch. big bank.. little bank?? that shit has nothing to do with this article. step yo game up

  • ItsTheTruth

    "Were all connected. We all have the same DNA. I just kind of feel like were getting away from the truth." Preach, Soul, preach.

  • ummmmmmm

    Dude. I like TDE but they gotta be careful not to try and fly before they even crawl. They are at 5,000 records sold, first week status sending "warnings" to platinum artists. And I haven't heard one of them that can lyrically hang with Nas, or with Jay on the popularity tip. So just play your position. Continue to grow the brand. Continue to build your fanbase. Yall are attached to Dr. Dre. When is the last time Dre was winning in music? Yall may not even see a release on Interscope dealing with that clown. Play your position. Don't take shots. Not enough people even know about TDE yet. Yall are stupid talented but dont say stupid stuff or make stupid moves. Yall not even at Mac Miller level yet. But you're warning Jay-Z?

    • 0moreno0

      STFU your comment is irrelevant.

    • ummmmmmmmmm.. ur wack

      ummmmmmmmmmm ... right when you mentioned record sales, the bitch in you came out. All Dr. Dre does is win. Rappers should call out any name they choose. Every rapper should feel like they are the best but ab-soul doesnt go as hard as any of the rappers he mentioned. he definitely has a personality that seperates him from other artists and that makes his style unique.

    • Jack Compton

      Ummmmmmm, I disagree, it's not about sales it's about content. TDE are consistently delivering lyrically in a way that Jay isn't anymore and hasn't for a while. Not on Mac Miller's level yet? Not in sales no, but for those of us that Hip hop is about art instead of about successful business models we don't give a shit about sales, Ab-Soul completely surpasses Mac Miller content wise. This is why he's allowed to send warnings to "platinum" artists, if he's lyrically shiting on said artist then it's just. Like he said it's not about being disrespectful, besides it's one line in one song anyway, he's not going to ruin TDE.

    • Ace23

      Clearly you didn't read the article because you just said everything he think is wrong with hip hop fans. Ya judge not by skills but by popularity and money. You just proved his point, it should be about skills, nothing else. Read the article dumbass

    • nah

      Lyrically, Ab-Soul is WAY better than Jay-Z is today. That's not Jay's lane anymore. True, Mac Miller sells records... TDE makes amazing songs, and gives them away. Also, how many TDE x Dre songs can you name? They aren't hugging him like that. If they were, lyrics like that would never make the project cause Dre is more non-controversy anymore.

  • Anonymous

    wish he would of asked him to explain the symbology of the album cover and the pineal gland video

  • Anonymous

    FUQQQ YEEEZZ MY NEE QQAAS!! Finally It Happened.....I got rid of all my ISHHH from my cre dit report y'all - I was in a deep Gutta for 5 years. Coudn't buy sheeet. Just approved for that 25k loan to buy a new CAMA ARO!!! IF YOU GOT PROBLEMS WITH THAT CRE DIT REPORT ISHH, GET IT CLEAN y'all. YOu can get yours too, call these people at 8EIGHT8-NINE27-3356 - they did an amazing job for me and fo a price that can't be beat nowhere, cheap as fuck. Got Rid of all my Shyyt. My homeboy was in terrible shape too, and he clean! Gettin a condo. Hit em up - they will help!!!!!

  • chronwell

    Dope interview. As a fan from the golden era, I feel delighted that young brothers like Black Hippy are runnin things. The way Ab Soul thinks and the way his music sounds is like a sunrise, for real!

  • vince

    This dude almost accidentally made the album of the year. Glad to see somebody acknowledge Murs and Ab.

  • Anonymous

    Rap is no longer a competitive sport. It's corporate owned fake gangsters telling black people to kill themselves and destroy your community by selling drugs. Sounds like jay Z.