A Week’s Worth Album Review: Ab-Soul’s “Herbert”

By Daniel Paiz

2023 is underway and it’s time to get back into our review series A Week’s Worth Album Review. Ab-Soul overdelivers to Hip-Hop fans in the form of his newest album, Herbert. This December 16th, 2022, release is packed full of rhymes; this project both has smooth sounds but also draws you in with attention-grabbing narrative. Herbert subtly peaked this reviewer’s interest and then lowered its hold, until it ramped up again as if one soundwave, composed of 18 varying highs and lows.

Grandma’s praying for you

When someone records a family member, a friend or noted acquaintance on their album, there’s a feeling of approachability from the start. This moment brings about a mixture of authenticity, vulnerability, and openness. The length of their appearance doesn’t really matter. There are only a handful of those moments on this project, and none are as clear as the opening track. This tool of vulnerability and openness also brings about what Herbert digs into, these grander ideas and motifs.

Reflection, intention, and consistency are the themes of the first three tracks. The latter in particular is rather understated when it comes to “Hollandaise”, as the real flex is getting after whatever the proverbial “it” is for each of us. Several of these ideas arise when digging into this third verse:

Then it was Black Planet freestyle chat on a compact tryna get it
AOL free trials on dial-up, millennials won’t get it
Battle mongers, grim reapers, A5 stay live, I’ll never forget it
Metasota had me on AIM, teaching me how to flip it
Still got a cousin in Compton that was making beats
Creating waves with the sound
I took it as a sign, got my book of rhymes
Grabbed the mic and never put it down

Ab-Soul, verse 3 of “Hollandaise

Soulo reveals an instance where the example set around him was part of that consistent work towards where he is today. Technology changes and time moves forward, but one’s efforts to grow and execute must continue onward. After this third track, “Moonshooter” through “Goodman” are further reflections. Ideas such as losing one’s head in a myriad of ways has almost a double entendre feel to it, but also doesn’t connect the same for this listener. It’s not until “Do Better” where things feel are a bit more focused. From there until “Positive Vibes Only” feels like a series of anthropological episodes similar to season three of Atlanta. There’s a connection to themes mentioned above, but also moments of juxtaposition, misunderstanding, and also snapshots that exhibit what’s influenced the creation of Herbert, aka Ab-Soul.

Standout tracks & Final Verdict

2021 was the worst year
But all I do is persevere, you heard right, I’m still here
You made it too if you listenin’, there’s no limit in what you able to
That’s common sense, you confident, you competent, you capable
Yeah, unbreakable, it’s show time, your time is unescapable

Ab-Soul, verse 2 on “Positive Vibes Only”

Every track on this album is pretty good. But, a few that sound like they’ll be on playlists long after this album comes and goes. Positive Vibes Only, Hollandaise, Herbert, Do Better, and Go Off are the five tracks that’ll likely be in rotation on and off for the foreseeable future for this writer. As the second verse of Positive Vibes Only digs into above, there’s a theme of ups and downs, good and bad. This album digs into the cyclical nature of life. Life is made up of moments, anecdotal lessons that each of us draws upon depending on the situation one is facing. These songs also bring up the following reminder: it’s important to remember what each of us has gone through to get to where one is today.

This project at times also has a cinematic feel to it, bordering the line between short film and episodic reviews of Ab-Soul’s journey. His own journey as well as how he assesses the journey of life is very grounded, personal, but also broad enough that the listener can relate their own anecdotal moments to particular songs. These songs repeatedly remind the listener that everyone has to make decisions in life, and then deal with the outcomes.

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