Disclaimer: No questions about Kendrick Lamar, Top Dawg Entertainment, the new Source magazine cover big-upping Black Hippy as "Rap's Illest Crew," or anything along those lines in this interview.
Now that we've gotten that out of the way, it's been a year and a half since TDE's human dictionary, Ab-Soul, released the critically acclaimed Control System, an album that he admits may take the majority of listeners quite a bit of time to understand.
In that time, bars from Soulo have come in monthly by the 16, either on his own tracks or on features, but he has done so in the quietest fashion, teasing fans who just can't wait for his next full-length project. In the meanwhile, though, a few shows will do.
See also: Joey Badass Talks Debut Album B4.Da.$$: "Just Taking My Time, Not Forcing Anything"
Right now, Ab-Soul's on the road with Joey Badass and the Underachievers as part of the Smokers Club Tour that'll be hitting Grand Central tomorrow. And earlier this week, he took some time to speak with us about his growing fanbase, Illuminati, and Jay Z responding to his tweet. Dude even asked a question himself.
It's Soulo, hoe!
Crossfade: How often are you told that you look like Eazy E when you wear your hat and glasses?
Ab-Soul: Very often. Actually, more recently been getting Slash. But I get Eazy E the most, for sure. I like all of the little comparisons. They call me Michael, sometimes, too.
Why do you think there's been a gradual but continuous increase in fans and listeners when it's been close to a year and a half since Control System?
I think Control System is a lot. It's a lot of words. It's a lot of content. It's probably going to take the mass quite some time to fully figure it out, to fully grasp the whole concept. I plan continue to grow just off of Control System alone, as I have.
What's the greatest challenge you've faced since deciding to rap without writing down your lyrics?
The most difficult thing for me, sometimes, is that honesty might be a little brutal for a lot of people. You feel what I'm saying? A lot of the things that I say might offend a lot of my friends, even my fam. That's probably the most difficult thing, just having the balls to say what I want to say at the expense of someone else.
Do you find that sometimes you may bite your tongue in the slightest because of that?
Hmm ... Not really. I'm mindful of everything that comes out of my mouth. That's all I can really say to that. I think I say everything I want to say, though. I find a way to say everything I want said.
Who first introduced you to your views of an elitist world-economic structure or groups such as Illuminati?
Shit, man, probably hip-hop. [Laughs] Probably heard about the Illuminati through hip-hop to be honest with you. I've learned most of the things I know through hip-hop music, you know what I'm saying? You listen to Jay Z and Nas and you'll learn a whole lot.
Is there a double-standard with your views on a group such as Illuminati while being on a growing label and looking up to a man such as Jay Z who is continuously rumored to be in Illuminati?
The Internet is a big place, you know what I mean? The world is a big place, people sharing ideas. The root word of Illuminati is illuminate. It means to be enlightened.
What was your reaction when Jay Z responded to your tweet a few months back?
Shit, I shed a tear. What you expect? He was not supposed to hit me back. [Laughs] He was not supposed to hit me back. I was with the homies shooting craps in the hood. That was crazy.
I know you're a student of Malcolm X's teachings, and of course, he along with someone like Martin Luther King had what people would look at as movements. So how do you feel when all new rappers come out saying they have a movement?
I don't really have an opinion on what everybody else is saying. I really don't have too much of an opinion on that. I just focus on myself and my movement, you know what I'm saying? I mean, movement is progression. I'm all for it. You definitely want to be in motion, I would think. If you want to look at it as a team, a group, or just moving forward by yourself in general, I'm all for it.
If "In God We Trust" is a lie, then what is the truth?
Shit you tell me.[Laughs] I definitely don't know, man. I'm trying to figure that shit out. God is good! That's the truth. God is good. That's what the truth is. God is good.
I know you get a thousand questions a week. I'm going to let you ask me one question.
Alright. That's pretty cool.
I've never done this, and now I'm pretty scared.
Word. OK. How do you feel about the current state of hip-hop journalists?
No. I am not scared of this question. I'll be a man of my word and this is on the record. The current state of hip-hop journalism is in a similar place to where hip-hop was when Nas said hip-hop was dead.
I believe there are countless, talented journalists, but I believe, and this goes with anything in general, that people are looking for an answer quickly as opposed to waiting patiently for everything.
I'm a person that likes to get to know the artist. I could ask you about questions about Control System, Unit 6, and Long Term Mentality. I could ask you a thousand questions about TDE, but everybody has asked those questions and why am I going to make you go in circles like that? And plus what other journalist is telling you to ask them a question?
That's very creative, my friend. That's very creative.
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Ab-Soul. As part of the Smokers Club Tour. With Joey Badass and Pro Era, the Underachievers, Chevy Woods, plus DJ Statik Selektah and host Emperor Shiest Bubz. Friday, November 22. Grand Central, 697 N. Miami Ave., Miami. The show starts at 10 p.m. and tickets cost $22 to $60 plus fees via ticketfly.com. Ages 18 and up. Call 305-377-2277 or visit grandcentralmiami.com.