Ab-Soul Freestyles Over Tupac & Biggie Disses With Love For Both

Just days before releasing his first album in six years, Ab-Soul makes his first freestyle appearance on the LA Leakers. The TDE mainstay begins as Justin Incredible and DJ Sour Milk drop the beat to Tupac Shakur and Tha Outlawz’ “Hit ‘Em Up” (as produced by the late Johnny J). Soulo makes the 1996 vitriolic diss song his own, spreading love, while championing Top Dawg Entertainment—the label he’s called home since the 2000s. He makes the song about harmony, not division—pointing out that helped bring unity to rival street organizations. “Red and blue make green; we made that make sense / Ain’t sayin’ we invented it, but we stuck to the script,” he spits. The lyrics are noteworthy over a Death Row Records beat, another label known for housing Blood and Crip artists together. “Community Revolutionary In Progress / Started in the projects to multi-million dollar contracts / I wonder if the hypothesis is correct,” he continues.

Soul plays to the audience with a confident display of bars. At times where he seems to fumble, it’s part of a larger act. The lyrics also address the Carson, California MC’s status as an underdog, with some bravado and flare. He then gets back to TDE business: “We the mafia of the West; I know K-Dot left / That’s still my partner in crime / Respect the family ties.” At a time when many wanted to see how Top Dawg’s roster would handle Kendrick Lamar’s 2021 exit to co-launch pgLang, it’s all love. Perhaps that ends the Death Row comparisons, given that label’s onetime issues with Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Daz Dillinger, and others departing.

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After two minutes, the beat changes to The Notorious B.I.G.’s “Who Shot Ya?” (as produced by Puff Daddy, The Trackmasters’ Poke, and Nashiem Myrick). Going across historic diss records, Soul does not waver. “I’m only warming up, check the temperature / I do it BIG as Christopher, you ni**as miniature / I need a ticket for my signature / Or we can’t get it done,” he touts—immediately spotting the beat and working it into his display. Throughout the verse, he refers to himself as the best—calling himself “Uno,” saying there’s “no better,” and that he’s “the illest.” This set of bars certainly does good to back up that opinion, from the same MC who touted his was better than JAY-Z on “ILLuminate” a decade ago.

In the final stanza, Ab goes the hardest. “No, I ain’t finished yet / More frequencies to implement / Energies to reciprocate, philosophies to intercept / My ni**a said the system’s set; why fight it? / We in the net! / I’m gettin’ vexed,” he spits. Moments later, he adds, “They corrupted the Black Panthers, so we took it to Wakanda / Then ‘T’Challa’ caught cancer / So how the f*ck am I supposed to focus on making music? / With all the moguls we losin’ and all this global confusion? / The rich gettin’ richer, and the poor gettin’ slicker / Robin Hood done sold his bow for a Draco, ni**a.” The MC literally ends the verse with a bang.

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In a recent Vulture interview with journalist William E. Ketchum III, Ab-Soul spoke about his ferocity for the craft of rapping. “I was just trying to restore the feeling of Hip-Hop in this climate. I intentionally tried not to listen to much music during this process so I didn’t have too much external influence. I wanted it to sound like me, and what I wanted it to sound like; you could easily just get influenced by what you’re hearing, cadences and flows. I just wanted it to all come from me as naturally as possible. I’m glad you put it that way, but I never stopped loving Rap.” In that same interview, he reveals that he slid his first demo cassette to DJ Quik.

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December 16’s HERBERT is slated to involve Russ, Joey Bada$$, DJ Premier, and Punch.

New music from Ab-Soul, as well as Kendrick Lamar, Joey, Russ, and others is currently on the official Ambrosia For Heads playlist.

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