Ab-Soul is labelmates with fellow Southern California rappers Kendrick Lamar, ScHoolboy Q and Jay Rock, but he says his influences are rappers from other parts of the country. “Twista, Canibus, Eminem, Nas, Lupe Fiasco and, most importantly, Jay-Z,” the Top Dawg Entertainment rapper says in an interview with ThePoetryQuestion.com. “There are many others, but those are the ones that come to mind at this time. Those artists are basically the template to my format as an MC. They all capture me with their music, whether it be the vibe, delivery, cadence, story, or just the lyrics in general.”
A member XXL’s 2013’s Freshman Class, Ab-Soul also picked Jay-Z when asked which rapper he’d want to have a drink with, even though he took arguably took a shot at Jigga on “ILLuminate.” “Jay-Z, without a reasonable doubt, and I’m assuming he’d enjoy some Ace Of Spades champagne,” Ab-Soul says in the interview. “Of course I have millions of questions, but I really just wanna tell him how much of an inspiration he has been to me musically and as a young Black man in America.”
Ab-Soul also discusses how he got his start as a rapper as a keystyler, someone who freestyle battles over the Internet via chat, forums or message boards. He says the experience had a profound impact on his development as a writer and as a rapper. “Keystylin’ is where I learned just how effective similes, metaphors, word-play, entendres, et cetera are to this craft,” Ab-Soul says. “The basics of lyricism or poetry in general. Therefore I was already a decent writer by the time I actually recorded in a booth.”
Ab-Soul has said that he recorded his first song in 2002. After releasing mixtapes several years later, Ab-Soul released his Longterm Mentality album in 2011 and his #controlsystem LP last year. He has also collaborated with and toured extensively with his TDE labelmates, known collectively as Black Hippy.
As for the emergence of rap crews, including TDE, Ab-Soul says he understands why such organizations are successful. “Two heads will always be better than one,” he says. “From chemical bonds to families to tribes to governments to corporations to gangs to rap groups. Simple math.”