On Tuesday, Ab-Soul released his highly anticipated album These Days... After soaking in the listening experience of his third studio LP, Soulo crafted an intricate piece of work that was filled with on-point lyricism and strong production. Aside from that, the TDE rapper made it his mission to sprinkle in both well-known and under-the-radar song references that capture hip-hop culture today. Rather than do subtle hints, Ab went all in by paying homage to the likes of Jay Z, Nas, Puffy Daddy and even Drake through bars all hip-hop fans can instantly recognize.

XXL was genuinely geeked out when Ab made all these references and we took it upon ourselves to find them all. Although Ab-Soul is a fan of all types of hip-hop, he made some particular choices on who directly influenced the makeup of These Days… We spoke to him about some of the rappers that get a shout-out and how he’s learned from each of them. —Eric Diep

drake worst behavior


Ab-Soul: I'm a big fan of Drake in general. I think after listening to my album and revisiting Drake’s album, I see subconsciously he said “these days” a lot in that album. I’m thinking subconsciously that was a lot of my inspiration. A lot of my innovation came from that. In general, "these days" [is a phrase] we use a lot to describe the present, and it's usually in the context of, in contrast to the old days. When you say "these days," you usually mean that. You’re describing the present in contrast to the past. That’s also a reason why that title is so great. After I dubbed it These Days..., I’m kind of just hearing people use that phrase a lot.

I think Drake’s album is a lot similar to mine. It’s just a time capsule of how things are working or are not working. For him, you would think Drake is this big superstar celebrity and everything is all good. I feel like he tried to show that real life happens, too, when you're not there. When you're not listening and he's singing on the song. Or he’s out ballin’ or whatever, he goes through real things too off camera. I think in that right, I think I tried to do that too.


Jay Z

Ab-Soul: I’m on Jay’s head a lot. And to be honest with you, too, the reason why I don’t feel a certain way about referencing Jay, why I feel a lot of power in doing that [is 'cause of] how he references Biggie a lot. To keep him alive. Jay being as old as he is, a lot of kids in my generation or the younger kids coming up under me... I’m 27. I don’t want to call myself old, but like, a lot of the new up and coming rappers are 21, 23. They are younger. This is my way of re-instilling where I got this. Don’t think I'm the first person that came up with this; I got this from Jay and I'm expounding on it. You say a Big verse, I'm only bigging up my brother. You say a Jay verse; I'm only bigging up my brother. I’m not a biter.

The first Jay album that I listened to was probably Vol. 2. I went to the Hard Knock Life Tour. That was early on. I grew up in a record shop and my mom used to get all the tickets to all of the hot concerts. And DMX was on the lineup. DMX was my guy at the time. I just remember we went to that show and she had backstage passes. I wanted to see DMX and she had backstage passes. And guess who is back there? Jay Z. Jay Z is the only guy back there signing autographs and I'm getting Jay Z’s autograph [at] 12 years old with an attitude. Like, where is DMX? Of course, after watching that show, that did raise my interest and I had to revisit Jay Z. Then I was slowly introduced. I had to go back and do my research on him since then. I’ve been a diehard fan since that night.


Puff Daddy

Ab-Soul: I had the privilege of meeting Puffy through [ScHoolboy] Q. He came up to one of our shows, I can’t remember. I had a great conversation with him. He’s real interested with helping me out with my eyes. I’ma hold him to that. He was very interested in helping me out with that. From that conversation, we’ve just been real cool. He’s been throwing me a lot of pointers and [I'm] trying to help him out with Revolt. It’s cool. Shout out to the big homie, Dr. Combs. I was trying to get Puffy and [1994] Puffy on the same track. You feel what I am saying? Who better to say I'm eating than Puffy?

snoop dogg

Snoop Dogg

Ab-Soul: Snoop Dogg, that’s my uncle. I’ll let him tell it, but he came up around the VIP At Last in Long Beach. That’s my Uncle Calvin's record shop. He had like a doghouse on top of it. They shot Tha Eastidaz video on top of the record shop. I was running around Snoop as a baby with my cousin while they was in the studio working. To be here now, that’s amazing.

The West is so family-oriented because that’s just LA in general. You can get to anywhere in LA in 20 minutes. This New York shit is just too huge. The commute is so difficult that everybody is probably not as closely knit as we were. I could say that I know a lot of K. Dot’s homies from Compton when he was kid. I can tell that he’s telling the truth. I knew Jay Rock’s homies when he was a kid. I know he’s telling the truth. I know who he is type of thing. Everybody is easier to get to. We all move everywhere. I’ve been on the ‘Shaw too. You live in LA, you gotta experience the whole thing.

Lupe Fiasco

Lupe Fiasco

Ab-Soul: He’s actually now a mentor of mine, now that I know him personally. Of course, I am an avid Lupe follower. I hold it dear to the concepts that he presents and the ideas that he was into. It’s all to provoke thought. I like when people oppose. I like people to talk about it. I don’t want everybody to just say “Yes.” If you don’t like this, if you don’t agree with this, say it. Speak on it. I think he tries to create that domain.

We didn’t make “World Runners” in the studio in particular. I sent that one to him. We cut three records, total. The other two we did together, “Thorns & Horns” is out. That one came out and then I have this one on my album and I should be featured on his album [Tetsuo & Youth].

Lupe’s a real disciplined and militant guy. He doesn’t drink or smoke, or there won’t be bad bitches in the studio. He’s in there and he’s working. When you get in, he’s vibing. He’s doing something. He’s not just hanging out, which is what I like. I don’t like to go in the studio and have a party.

Photo Credit: Ryan Muir

rick ross

Rick Ross

Ab-Soul: How that came out, like I said, I recorded this mostly at Mac Miller’s house. I was listening to him when he was recording his last project, Faces. He has a great record on there with Rick Ross called “Insomniak.” I don’t know. It just sparked my idea to maybe just reach out to him. I had the record for him. I had a couple people in mind for the record, but soon as I heard that, I was like, “Oh, yeah, I should probably reach out to Ross and see if he’ll do it.” He sent it right back. Real talk.

I think Ross is connected to the youth. I think Ross is connected to what’s happening moreso than it was like him trying to, or him thinking he could gravitate to me. I think that was him trying to stay afloat. Trying to compete with what’s coming with the new breed. Which is cool. Which is what I do. Which is what we all do. You have to challenge yourself. That’s how you determine whether or not you're supposed to be here. Shout out to Rick Ross, all of Maybach.



Ab-Soul: Battle rap right now is more exciting than it’s ever been these days. I’ve always been a fan of battle rap since a child. When Lux was on 106  & Park rapping, we’ve been watching that since then. Posta Boy. Cassidy. Jin. It’s been apart of our life forever, but like, right now in this point and time, I feel like after Loaded Lux, You Gon Get This Work epidemic, it’s been more excited than ever.

Daylyt is from LA. One of our first great battle rappers from LA. I just thought it would be dope to try that out, to see if I can do it. More than anything, blur the lines between rappers being able to battle rap and battle rappers, can they be rappers? That’s a big discussion as well. I wanted to do that for that purpose.

If you really rap, then it's kind of in you. I used to text battle online as a kid. By doing it, I did realize right then up and front the difference between battle rapping and rapping. You see, battle rapping is an actual battle. It’s kind of like a boxing match. Sparring. It’s more than how your words are coming out—they have to hit. The words have to hit you. I found that getting in with him. I think it still turned out pretty crazy.

kendrick lamar

Kendrick Lamar

Ab-Soul: What I’ll say about Kendrick is before I heard K. Dot, I thought I was the best rapper in the world. Before I heard his music and what he was doing with music, he was recording professionally a little longer than me. Just coming in under that type of environment and stepping in that field and watching his different mechanics going about recording. Making recording an art form in itself versus just being a tight rapper, I’ve gained so much from him. Just the process of actually recording. When you start, you want to just have the dope verse or the dope song. But then actually recording and making sure that it sounds good, making sure you use the right tone of voice, they feel what you're saying. I got a lot of that from K. Dot.

I get a little bit from everybody. Jay Rock is from the projects. He’s from Nickerson Garden projects. I’m not from the projects, I’m from the suburbs. I’ve been able to walk through the projects with Jay Rock and he showed me where he comes from. How they get down, as well as Q. He’s from South Central, Hoover Crip. He actually showed me his lifestyle and how he came about. I’ve been introduced to a lot of his homies and heard his stories and things like that. It’s all LA at the end of the day. These are my neighbors—still. Everything in LA is 20 minutes; you get what I'm saying? It’s very important to have all of this info when you walk. Street smarts, if you will. Just being aware of where you are [and] your environment.



Ab-Soul: The actual story behind [“Just Have Fun”] was that was the last record I recorded. After we leaked the title, Blended Babies sent Dave Free that record. They were saying that they had it in the cut; they didn’t know what to do with it. It was already made, so it was just perfect. “These days I see my best/Need be, laid me to rest.” You know what I'm saying? My vision is bad, but I still feel like I'm a visionary. I got a large vision of where I want to go. That was clutch. It just felt like everything. That was the record that tied it all in for me. And I got to do the Migos flow.

Migos are crazy. I like their consistency. I guess I won’t say it's the “Migos Flow.” Chainz was saying he got it from Migos, they got it from Three 6 [Mafia]. We all are inspired by each other. We all are referencing each other in a cool way. I think Albert Einstein says, “To be creative is the ability to conceal your sources.” That’s all that being creative is. In that respect, no idea is original. There’s nothing new under the sun. It’s never what you do, but how it’s done. Nas! Which was a Julius Caesar quote. I got [it] from Nas. He got it from Caesar. You gotta understand that nothing is new. It’s just all about how you do it. I’m sure I can reinvent a great wheel that can do more than yours.