Ab-Soul Goes Back To His Roots & Shows He’s Still A Top Dawg

Next month makes it six years since Ab-Soul released an album. In the time since Do What Thou Wilt., the Carson, California veteran worked on 2018’s chart-topping Black Panther soundtrack, which was nominated for “Album Of The Year” at the following Grammy Awards. He made meaningful collaborations with fellow Carson native and TDE label-mate REASON and showered fans with a handful of noteworthy loosies.

This weekend, Soulo announced plans for his highly-anticipated next album. HERBERT will arrive on December 16 through Top Dawg Entertainment. Following last month’s exceptional “Do Better” (recently named a song of the week in an episode of Ambrosia For Heads’ What’s The Headline podcast), the 35-year-old born Herbert Anthony Stevens IV unveils “Gang’Nem,” another video single.

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The video emphasizes the song. In the visual, beautifully shot street sequences play in reverse, while Ab serves the camera. “All my naysayers are eatin’ crow / ‘Cause we reapin’ every single thing that we can sow / Needle and thread in my head, I’m a string theorist / Everything is connected and we the seamstresses / Durag wrapped up, try’na train my waves / Auntie gave me a bowl cut but I was catchin’ fades,” he begins. Ab throws bars that fall in line with a style and aesthetic he’s had since the early 2010s. “Writin’ raps in the trap, I was locked in / The drank made me slow but my mind was on Mach-10 / Elbows of vegetable for the L-O / Had the runny nose but I ain’t have a cold / If you know, you know, really though / The homie hit me, told me, ‘Hit the blicky, bro’ / This ni**a always into some wild sh*t/ One time he bought the KelTec, I had to tell him all we shootin’ is videos.” He shows depth and speed to his mind, with a double-entendre for firearms as well as alluding to controlled substances. He speaks about his evolution and maturity without sounding preachy.

REASON is among those who appear in the video. Notably, just after the 1:00 mark, there is a sequence that shows the makings of a great MC, and cites traits found in Eminem, 50 Cent, Biggie, JAY-Z, Big Pun. It is unclear if Ab wrote the hand-written list, or Top Dawg, or someone else. It includes mention of hearing 50’s demo in the early 2000s. For years, the TDE collective recorded songs in the same city of Carson that Ab is from, and where this video was made. This sheet, attached to the wooden veneer wall, has significance to Ab.

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There’s depth and power to the closing remarks from Ab’s first verse: “Ain’t have the eyesight for the gunfights / But got a couple crodies I would go to war for / Shooters you won’t find on NBA highlights / I know where the bodies buried, I won’t tell a soul; Soul.” The video shows Soulo’s environment, a place not often covered in Hip-Hop. The chorus is about maintaining those authentic ties to one’s roots, while clearly showing growth in other areas of life.

The second verse goes to Fre$h—the veteran who was previously known as “Short Dawg,” and spent years as an artist on 2 Chainz’ T.R.U. label. The Houston, Texas native matches Ab’s energy in showing his loyalty to the crew while reflecting on life. The song is produced by veteran TDE affiliate (and Digi+Phonics co-founder) Sounwave—known for producing extensively for Kendrick Lamar (including “N95” on Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers), as well as Ab’s “Bloody Waters” in ’18 alongside Anderson .Paak and James Blake.

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A press release for HERBERT forecasts, “After suffering through a series of unspeakable tragedies, Stevens completed the album as a changed man with a new sense of purpose.” It is clear that while six weeks remain on 2022, the excitement is not waning.

This song and others from Ab-Soul are presently included on the AFH playlist, embedded above.

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#BonusBeat: Ab-Soul’s episode of Grit by AFH from 2012: