Finding Poetry in Today’s Hip Hop Music

Sometimes on my journey for new music I get so wrapped up in just finding a new sound that I sometimes overlook songs that deserve my attention. But there comes a time when a dry spell hits, Satch knows, and you have to revisit some of music that you slid through when you first heard it. I had one of those situations happen to me after I listened to Ab-Soul’s Control System album. My taste of music today is a bit different from what it was maybe like 7 years ago. I was definitely heavily into Nas, Common, Talib Kweli, and all of the lyricists. Somewhere along the way my attention went down a different path but I still have respect for artists that can capture human emotion and make the listener feel what they felt. It’s truly a talent that a lot of newer artist don’t quite have but I can tell that Ab-Soul has those abilities.

If you were to ask me what my favorite songs off of Control System where a few weeks ago, I would have responded “Track Two”, “Terrorist Threats”, “Pineal Gland”, and “Empathy”. But if you were to ask me that same question today I would immediately blurt out “The Book of Soul”, pause and then maybe add a couple of more songs. I’m not sure what pulled me to listen to that particular song recently but for the past 2 weeks I have been giving it heavy spins on the pod. I know why I overlooked it, that’s because of the production, I was searching for something with a ton of energy. That’s no excuse though, I should have respected the song sooner. Anyways better late than never.

The production is simple and it kind of puts you in a state of mind where the experience is very intimate and you are about to hear a story that is true. Even the title of the song hinted to the substance of lyrics. The first few bars are like a confession to someone who he is dear to…
Listen Here

Your momma told me read the Book of Job
They shoulda called it the Book of Soul
I came into this hurtful Earth in perfect health
Caught Stevens–Johnson syndrome when I was ten years old
Internal and external fever, 80%
Fatality rate at that time, ain’t that some shit
Severe pink eye, my eyes swollen shut
For like two or three months, it’s still bright as fuck
And I even lost my lip skin
Grew back darker than its original pigment
Skin disfigured from boils and blisters
Unidentifiable by my little sister
Come to think of it, I could’ve got a crazy check
The shrink thought I’d be traumatized, but I’m alright

In the following bars Ab-Soul proceeds to vent about his social troubles in high school. You can hear the frustration in his voice and this was done naturally. This alteration to the voice helped the listener to not only understand the circumstances but feel his pain.

My first years of Junior High School were not alright
Them dimes wouldn’t give me no time, no, not a nod

Luckily that was short lived in the song and something beautiful starts to develop after that, a love story…

I mean not even you. we eventually gAnnotateot cool
But I was nobody, you was the hottest hottie in the school
Or the world to me, not saying that cuz I’m your dude
I’m glad I got to watch the woman that you blossomed to
Ironic we always had the same classes
I copied off your work, and you ain’t always had
The right answers but it worked, mama, thanks a lot
Probably wouldn’t have graduated had you not
Somewhere down the line, we became an item
The love was in the air like this flight I’m lightin’
The first few years was so excitin’

Then like all early relationships the troubles come and personalities start to clash a little bit. Ab-Soul does a wonderful job at describing this…

Got deeper in this rap and started pushing shit back
My money got funny, you wanted to go on dates
I had a Sounwave beat tape tryna beat Drake
Could’ve spent every minute with you but I had to get it
For me and you, you sing too so you knew the business
I know it was hard but you stayed down
My fam had doubts, you told me you was proud
I did some things, you did some things, always came back together
We knew the only way to make it work was work together

Then the story starts to take a turn a bit. It starts to feel like the pen got heavier and a weight is placed upon the listener. Ab-Soul manages to describe the mourning process and he opens up to the audience and shares his pain of losing Alori…

Seven whole years, seven whole years
It was supposed to end with our grandkids
Luckily for me I’m used to being cut short
But I’m such a nice guy, why Lord?
Why Lori? Why’d you have to take her from me?
Guess you needed your angel face for all of heaven to see
Your picture still on my mirror and it’s so scary
I swear I still ain’t looked at your obituary

He continues to express his grief and reflect upon why she was taken from him. He questions his life and his plight. These bars are more reflective than sorrowful…

So now I’m so doped up I think I’m flying
I hope the spliff will never finish
I guess the Mayans wasn’t lying
2012 my world ended
You used to say that I could see the future
You was wrong, cuz you was in it
And I was just with you the day before
You said you loved me, I said I loved you more
And as much I wanna cower and bid the mic adieu
And fall off a fucking tower tryna find you
I gotta stay cuz I remember that day I looked you in the face and told you nothing can stop me
Not even you

He follows those bars by providing an explanation of the meaning of why he is still alive and the promise that he has made. The portion where he gives a moment for the vocalist to “shine” was kind of symbolic if you think about it…

Stick to the plan, I’ll meet you at our spot
If reincarnation is true and we don’t get too lost
Even if you forget me and everything you left behind
I never lied, I love you in a place where there’s no space and time
I close my eyes and I can still hear you singing loud
We never got to tell them who The Love Religion was about
I ain’t finna stage a cry in this rhyme
Sincerely yours
I live to let you

The second verse is more like closure for the song and not for his career. He uses this verse to implant inspiration into the audience…

Everything I love the most get taken away
My momma and music is next
And if that happens before I turn 28
Then I’m going out with Kurt Cobain
I still believe in God, we just ain’t never spoke
Unless we talkin’ symbolically, then I might agree
But if you really wanna look at it that way
Then, hey man, God don’t like me
I refuse to believe that
But what’s acceptable is anything’s possible but nobody special
My ma took my TV, Clem took my radio
Now I’m on TV and on the radio
Don’t be dethroned by these systems of control
Just keep your fingers crossed and get them locks off your soul
Don’t be dethroned by these systems of control
Just keep your fingers crossed and get them locks off your soul

Its hard to find deep rooted poetry in music today but I’m glad that Ab-Soul chose to share his version of poetry with us. When you listen to songs like this you start to think about similarities between the artists experience and your own and that makes the song even more powerful. From there your appreciation grows not only for the song but for the artist.

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