Pegged as his fourth studio album (followed by its predecessors Longterm Mentality, Control System, & These Days - all under TDE), the fourth quarter of last year was definitely an opportunity for Ab-Soul to make his biggest impact to date, dropping the same day as his friend J Cole (likely not by design), the day of December 9th where everyone in the culture was tuned into good Hip Hop. While impact is truly hard to gage in today’s climate of music - where it’s basically considered that anything less than memes and snapchat footage is a commercial failure - a few months in it seems that despite a lack of sales the quality of the album has widely been critically acclaimed - and mostly for good reason.
Do What Thou Wilt is critiqued track by track below.
RAW (Backwards) ft Zacari
“What’s happening? Another baptism by Pastor Black Lip” The intro is definitely an accurate portrayal of what comes behind it, abstract Hip Hop over ill production and it’s raw af 🔥🔥🔥
Braille ft Bas
“Peter Piper picked a pack of pickled peppers, Soulo found a pound of loud and lit it up, bet this resin never leave my finger tips, Helen Keller would’ve felt the shit (braille), but tell me what is it you ***** want, really, tell me what is it you ***** want, are you ***** dope or you just doin' dope? Is you ***** dope or you just doin' dope?” Other than the fire Peter Piper outro this one with Dreamville’s Bas is rather forgettable, even though this is a TDE/Dreamville collaboration that needs to be expanded and happen more often.
Huey Knew THEN ft Da$h
"This is a story all about how, my life got flipped turned upside down, and if you roll another blunt and keep your mouth shut, I'll tell you how I became the wicked ***** they call Young Mind Fuck” The first single and it’s a good one, where Soul flips the 'Fresh Prince of Bel Air' and to great results, followed by “I hope I’m In Obama’s IPod…” moment which coming from him is both realistic and comical at the same time.
“Way back when I was in grade school, I learned about history, but what about her story—did anybody ask? Hm, with all disrespect, I think the American flag was designed by fags” Ab-Soul challenges not only the system of government in this record, but more specifically it’s allegiance to Christian faith which he openly objects to and for good reason, nonetheless it’s one of the most memorable verses aimed at religion by a rapper since Prodigy of Mobb Deep’s 'Pearly Gates'. Furthermore the record opens up with the biblical children’s song made famous from Spike Lee’s Crooklyn, and it sets the tone for what is indeed the most memorable record on the album.
“Look, I got two baby mommas, but I ain't got no kids, nah I'm fucking with you, them my lesbian friends” Produced by Mike WIll Made It this one is definitely smooth but it probably could use a boost of adrenaline… either way it’s at times humorous and at times thought provoking and if you’re faded this one is likely good for the vibe… this one got the video treatment as well.
INvocation ft Kokane
“They say pussy and paper is poetry, power and pistols, Nuclear power plants and missiles, real warfare, yeah, this where the wealthy need welfare, I’m an immortal man on healthcare” What shouldn’t go unnoticed is that thus far the production on this album has been incredible, and this record is certainly no exception - with production by Rahki (who previously produced Kendrick’s 'i' & 'Black Boy Fly') that seems to effortlessly combine every instrument under the sun and it’s perfect - the production is amazing - and it compliments the cryptic and aberrant lyrics with impeccable form.
Wifey vs WiFi /// P.M.S. ft BR3
"Aye, my ***** lil' Riley got into it with his mommy, they be fightin' all the time, so I ain't pay it no mind, he said: ‘God, she could really be the Devil,’ I said ‘Chill!’, he smacked his teeth, and shook his head and said: "No, for real!” … followed by... “Notice how every number represents three letters of the alphabet, like, 2 is A-B-C, 3 is D-E-F, 4 is G-H-I,’ I said: ‘I get it, alright!’ he said: "now trip off this, listen to me, Soul, I know you off the shits, but I'ma need you to get a grip.’ I said: "be serious," he said "dial M-O-M." what a hella coincidence! It was 6-6- (record scratch)” Ab-Soul is in some type of storytelling mode on this and I must admit… he almost lost me… but this one is cool and the second part that features artist BR3 spitting a capella is lowkey some of best rhymes on the tape “See, this penitentiary mind state, is it my fate? for God's sakes, why did I have to lose the case? I kept it real, and I ain't never been fake, I'm feelin' like Biggie when he lost Faith” 🔥🔥🔥
Beat The Case /// Straight Crooked ft Schoolboy Q
“Black Hippy witH tHe caps lock, wHen my album came..best album out in Hip Hop and I'm still heatin' up tHe crockpot, platinum plaques tHat I ain't Hung yet, you got opinions no acHievements, type of ***** make me laugH, uH, Hit tHe gas and turn to flasH, uH, palms itcHing like a rasH, uH, my trigger finger be tHe stasH, uH, bitcH I'm blankin' out tHe face, uH, (All I do is beat tHe case)” Schoolboy does his numbers but I’ll pass on this production for the first 3 minutes and 30 seconds… yet I’m officially all for the last two minutes along with it’s message “Ruffled up a couple feathers when I called Barack a puppet show, now that Trump is POTUS I know this election is just another Muppet Show” 🔥🔥🔥
Portishead in the Morning /// Her World
“Demigod with a record deal, everything's puny to me, you a newbie, I'm from Nibiru, microphone check one, two, three, master of ceremony no matter the territory, I'm cozy, Oz. of OG, my brain playin' ring around the rosy, the fried egg in my head defies science, I'm Bill Nye, goin' to great heights to stay the highest, call me Soulo ho the Prophet, but do you really comprehend it? Is it prophet meaning messenger, or profit meaning expenses? pick it… Ah, forget it!” Fire wordplay on this record that’s apparently inspired by the English ‘trip-hop’ group Portishead, a group that Ab-Soul has praised on record throughout the years - on a personal note however - I’m good on this… the lyrics are potent but the production is intense yet forgettable.
God’s a Girl?
“Getting head in the clouds by an angel in disguise, she an angel in disguise, d'evils gonna be my demise, I swear that God's a (girl, bitch)” Now this is some 🔥🔥🔥 production - even with the ‘Jesus got no pussy’ interlude which is perfect- that’s provided by PakkMusicGroup and Soulo murders this… one of the better records on the album.
Now You Know
“I swear to God I wish I wrote this fucking verse on Mother's Day, that ain't got shit to do with this or does it? fuck it, anyway, I've been miseducated, mislead, misinterpreted, misunderstood, mistaken, misjudged, That's why I'm a misfit, up to mischief, on a mission, in a missionary, hittin missionaries (missionaries), that was all mises, terms with 'mis' prefixes to be specific, all you feminists should be on my dick for this shit (word)” 😂😂😂🔥🔥🔥 phenomenal production by A$AP P on the Boards (member of the A$AP Mobb) that samples the classics Notorious B.I.G.’s 'Juicy' as well as Outkast/Goodie Mobb’s 'Git Up Git Out' - and it’s definitely done well.
D.R.U.G.S. ft Mac Miller
“They say the apple don't fall far from the tree, apple a day, it keep the doctors away, I wonder if my father got more faded than me, but I can't ask him, ‘cause the doctors couldn't save him, baby, my mama clean as holy water, hallelujah, we total opposites, I'm dirty as this Fanta mix, we Qualitesters, we can't find no Hi-Tech, I ain't lyin', *****, Act stashed on the low for the high, *****, whole squad full of them codeine fiends, OG by the OZ, and I still owe the weed man down the street, monster magic off them Xannies, I might have me one, mix it with the syrup, Perc' on top of that, then I'll be numb, if I don't wake up, tell 'em…” best drug fiend lean raps of the 2016… only a shame that it’s nothing more than drug fiend lean raps.. or perhaps not considering the D.R.U.G.S. acronym apparently stands for Don’t Ruin Us God Said, as coined by the great Lupe Fiasco whom Ab-Soul immensely respects. Either way I’m not excited about this, or the dozens of other records Black Hippy has collaborated with Mac Miller on (moment of perspective: does a pop star dope fiend from suburbia add or take away from the artistry in TDE? Think about it and I’ll let you decide)
Evil Genius ft Teedra Moses & Javonte
“Obviously opting not to sing songs in sobriety, subsiding the poison imploding our society, functioning addict with clammy hands, leaking my paraphernalia everywhere” tbh an hour into the album you can probably skip this… unless you’re really interested in cracking the Davinci Code… or the concepts found within Descartes Meditations intertwined with more drug addict raps that again… have been done ad nauseum at this point… and similar to the repetitive content on Blank Face LP and The Sun’s Tirade I’m slowly losing my intrigue… although the instrumental in the outro is kinda nice tho…
Lonely Soul ft Punch /// The Law (Prelude) ft Punch & SZA
“I kept the Soul in the alphabet, the alpha-male in my era, I'm here to baffle them like the Baphomet, they ain't know what the cover of my second album meant, I mean the booth if I'm asking you where the bathroom at” respectfully… skip this… SZA’s voice is nice however and I do like the Sergeant Pepper's 'Lonely Hearts Club Band' reference.
The Law ft Mac Miller & Rapsody
“I hope you're still blue, with golden ovaries, on your tippy toes for me, just how you 'posed to be, they spoke of us in Cairo quite some time ago, how these atoms interadapt to this is incredible, they love to go to sleep but hate to be awake, treat the eye of Horus as if it's just a symbol, unattainable, they read the wrong rights, they see the signs but ain't see what the sign saw, but luckily, Love is the only law, love is the, Love is the only…” As always great lyrics and wordplay from Ab-Soul… but another Mac Miller feature on this? The second on the album? Hmmm… respectfully that’s not what I’m looking for when I tap into anything TDE (yet TDE continues to collaborate with Ariana Grande’s boyfriend much to my chagrin) - otherwise Rapsody spits a nice 3rd verse and this track is cool…
“Cause I'm a liar, a cheater, a devil in disguise and a deceiver, if I was you and you was me, I wouldn't believe you” Abbreviated from the term ‘Young Mind Fuck’ and encompassing a few of the concepts and ideas scattered throughout the album, this one serves it’s purpose as a solid outro to a very insightful and demonic 16 track experience.
Ab-Soul has creative word play like no other, where his metaphors and concepts are legitimately a different level, and I’m going to need a lot more time to fully understand everything he spit on this. Perhaps that’s the beauty of this album, where considering it’s themes enriched with religious and historical undertones from all over the world - the longevity will likely be far more significant in comparison to it’s low record sales in the first month. In the end Ab-Soul definitely did make a work of art, and although it will likely be an acquired taste to some, this one will definitely satisfy his day one fans and all TDE fans alike.
Therefore I’m not surprised by the reception to Do What Thou Wilt on either a critical or commercial level, as keeping it 💯 most things Kendrick related are critically acclaimed (see: Schoolboy Q and Isaiah Rashad as prime examples - as even while they’re deserving - quality music in general doesn’t always garner admiration). Nonetheless the mystique and appeal of the Black Hippy movement is apparent and it’s real, where in the same year as the Black Face LP, Sun’s Tirade, and Untitled Unmastered, there remains a faithful following that believes Do What Thou Wilt inevitably surpassed them all. Either way it’s all TDE, and no matter where you rank it this project is definitely a great addition to the catalogue.