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Ab-Soul - Herbert (Album Review)

Monday, 19 December 2022 Written by Jack Terry

Photo: Chris Carey  

Top Dawg Entertainment is having quite the year. Having already put out Kendrick Lamar's peerless ‘Mr Morale & the Big Steppers’ back in May, and SZA's sizzling ‘SOS’ a short while  ago, they're capping 2022 with ‘Herbert’, the fifth entry in Ab-Soul's discography, and his first in more than six years.

Straight away, the glow up of the beats Ab-Soul is working with is spectacular. Here, his adoration and respect for ‘90s hip hop is more crisp, clinical and crunchy than ever. Even when the production—by everyone from DJ Premier and Sounwave to James Blake and Boi-1da—becomes more basic, or nigh-on pedestrian on The Wild Side, it possesses a vibrancy that's been missing on past albums.

The LA rapper crackles and pops as he switches up flows and volumes, and the production does a lot of lifting in terms of elevating his introspective lyrics and narratives to new heights.

Back-to-back, Hollandaise or Moonshooter find Ab-Soul plumbing the depths of his soul, dredging up dark moments and failed relationships from his past. But he sounds invigorated and even defiant. ‘Herbert’ is the product of a man who is far more at peace with himself and surrounding factors than he has been before.

As a whole piece, though, it is not without its missteps. While a fair portion of this material is solid-to-great, there are a handful of tracks that weigh the overall accomplishment down somewhat.

The one that really sticks out like a sore thumb is the crass Art Of Seduction, on which there are several moments to make you recoil. "She say I got a beautiful dick / I make her uterus do unusual shit" is one such howler that'll make you regret having ears.

All told, ‘Herbert’ contains some of the strongest material of Ab-Soul's mysterious career to date, but they fall victim to sharing a disc with some absolute stinkers. If the fat had been trimmed, this would comfortably be the rapper's career pinnacle.


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