These Days… provides lyrical themes and a musical soundscape that differentiates Ab-Soul, the self-proclaimed “Lupe Fiasco on drugs”, from his TDE label mates. There may be the odd guest verse or ad-lib from the Black Hippy members, but at times he proves himself to be a far more insightful rapper than the “groovy gangster” Schoolboy Q or the socially conscious storyteller Kendrick Lamar.
One of many songs in which the beat changes around the halfway mark, ‘Just Have Fun’, is the highlight of the album. It’s up-tempo first half preaches the somewhat “positive” message, “do the drugs, don’t let the drugs do you” and features a preview of his singing voice which is more prominent during the track’s reflective second half. Latest single ‘Closure’ also has a tone similar to that of Chance The Rapper as he blurs the lines between rapping and singing in what is the most personal point on the album as he details the strife of a previous relationship.
The production is mostly consistent and has a little bit of everything from the celebratory, laidback ‘Feelin Us’ to the dark, eerie ‘Ride Slow’. Guest vocals on the latter from Danny Brown, Earl Sweatshirt and the song’s producer Mac Miller, as pitched-up alter ego Delusional Thomas, actually feel necessary along with its unsettling organs and heavy bass, unlike the Rick Ross-assisted ‘Nevermind That’. There are more featured artists than actual songs and more than a few have weak verses. It is the album’s biggest downfall as entertaining songs like ‘TWACT’ and ‘Stigmata’ are let down by ill-fitting guests.
Ab-Soul is trying to make a statement that he is own artist and shouldn’t be compared to the rest of TDE but that in itself is problematic when your voice isn’t that prominent across the album’s 15 songs. It can’t be denied that he has improved lyrically, but this album only leaves you wanting more, even after a 20 minute battle rap with Daylyt to finish it off. However, it is still an interesting listen and an enjoyable insight into the life of a man troubled by moderate sight loss and the problems with society these days.