Here’s something I wrote in the middle of my latest review post for Mindless Ones, in which I talked about a couple of comics I didn’t like and one that I did:

Is this really what I want to aspire to though?  Something that reminds me of something I liked before and might therefore conceivably enjoy again, if I put the work in? Apparently I can’t pretend that I’m immune to the appeal of this stuff, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting more than either Multiversity: Guidebook or Earth 2 have to offer.

If you swapped the names in that paragraph out for “Your Old Droog” and “Action Bronson”, and replaced the idea of putting work in with “trying not to think about race” then you’d have a fairly accurate record of how their works hit me.


Droog and Bronson don’t have much in common beyond their home town and a love of shit-talk. Bronson blends baroque culinary references with absurd descriptions of his physical prowess. Don’t get me wrong, the big guy’s got some moves, but songs like ‘Rare Chandeliers’ see him pulling off spectacular combos that would make Jackie Chan feel like captain inadequate:

Backflips off the ledge, hang-glide off the roof
Land on one leg, see me all up on the front page
Holding a pump gauge, ready to dump, aim
At your nuts, like the mouth of a whore
Somersault Cadillac on the door

Bronson’s voice is high pitched, needling, and his flow is punctuated by moments where his voice drops, breathless at the end of a sentence as he comes crashing through safe wall or some other shit. There’s no getting around it: he sounds like Ghostface Killah.


Your Old Droog, meanwhile, raps in a low growl, snapping hard on the internal rhymes, referencing ’90s rock bands, only pausing to dare you to call him out for it:

Back in the line of fire
Sayin’ my style’s dated is like checkin’ to see if wine expired
Salut, thought of that bar in the car
Cheffin’ up in the truck like halal food
Got them raps for you, I ain’t talkin’ gyros
Get on the mic and spit that porno for pyros

There’s no getting around it: he sounds like Nas.

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Patterns of a Diamond Ceiling #2: Ab-Soul, Abstract, A$$hole…

Having spent 2011 and 2012 listening to so much new, free hip-hop that I almost lost track of who I was and where I laid my head (in case you were wondering: a man who writes about comics on the internet; Glasgow), I made a decision early at the start of 2013 to cut back a bit.  While this means that someone like the Bottie Beast is probably better placed to give you an overview of what’s going on with hip-hop right at this point in 2014, it also means that I’ve had a decent amount of time to really dig into the albums and songs I did check out over the past few years.

With an album like Ab-Soul’s Control System,  it’s just as well that I had time to spare because otherwise I might not have got my head around how good it really is.

As the member of the Black Hippy crew who does the most to live up to the back half of that description, Ab-Soul risks being obscured by some of the more traditionally appealing rappers in his posse. Schoolboy Q’s perfectly titled Habits and Contradictions provided an early warning that the current era was going to belong to the TDE crew, and Kendrick Lamar’s good kid, m.A.A.d. city received so much praise that it kicked off a discussion about what rap fans mean when they label something a classic.

Still, now that the smoke has started to clear – well, shit, as I type this Q’s Oxymoron is currently setting fire to my speakers but let’s deal with that in a separate post – it’sControl System that’s stayed with me.  Ab’s too stoned and too subtle to make an album full of straight bangers, but there’s something about the raw fluidity of his rhymes that just gets to me.  The way he can get stuck on a series of punishing homonyms for most of a verse before switching his flow up to effortlessly hit series of breathlessly off-kilter punchlines suggests the movement of a mind that’s still in the process of making itself up.  This sits in stark-contrast to Lamar’s ever-more impressive verbal gymnastics: the power ofgood kid, m.A.A.d. city lies in the fact that it always seems like Kendrick knows what he’s doing, while the genius of Control System is that it makes you feel like you’re thinking these thoughts for the first time every time.

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