Ab-Soul is a premier member of prominent hip-hop label TDE and one-fourth of Black Hippy. Of the four Schoolboy Q, Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock and Ab-Soul respectively, Ab-Soul always been more of the mysterious one and has always been the most conscious one of the group. For this reason, it’s fitting that the cover of Do What Thou Wilt finds him coming out of the shadows into the light and exposing his severely scared eyes (This a result of a case of Steven-Johnsons Syndrome as a kid). Do What Thou Wilt is the fourth studio album from Ab-Soul, this one following up his 2014 release These Days an album I thought was solid but didn’t quite live up to the expectation to his acclaimed album Control System. Do What Thou Wilt is a welcomed return to form.
This album may very well be Ab-Soul’s lyrically densest material yet, a large theme of the album has to do with the idea of sexism and woman in general and that sort of spirals out into his views of politics, spirituality, etc. In a recent interview, Ab-Soul referred to himself as “KRS-2” and also cited Ras Kass as an influence on this album. It’s fitting because you get both the braggadocio and sense of caring about hip-hop culture while also truly attempting spit knowledge, things both the artist above used as hallmarks in their work. “Raw(Backward)” is a booming raw track that’s a backlash to all sub-par rappers. “Threatening Nature” is a hard anti-sexism track. “D.R.U.G.S” is one of the most personal tracks on the album, which finds him talking about gaining an unhealthy relationship to drugs.
The heavy subject matter of the album aided with bleak, shadowy production. Unlike These Days, Do What Thou Wilt is pretty consistent front to back. “Huey Knew Then” features a sparse instrumental with a lonely melody on the track. “Invocation” is my favorite beat here, a somewhat trippy instrumental on which Ab finds his pocket rather well on. “Evil Genius” is one that’s almost minimal in its instrumentation but works for how Ab-Soul approaches the track. Records like God’s A Girl and Now You Know are a bit more upbeat but do so without taking you out of the album completely.
Listening to this album, I can sense that Ab-Soul took his time to craft this album. It’s lyrically dense; it’s very conceptual and consistent. If there’s anything, I would say the only negative is that Do What Thou Wilt can be exhaustive to listen to. Ab’s lyrics can be a chore to disseminate, and the atmosphere of the album can feel a bit impenetrable depending on what mood you’re in. Regardless, Ab-Soul is sharp and uncompromising in a way he wasn’t on These Days, and Do What Thou Wilt is all the better for it.