TDE is planning to release six projects this year and they are off to a great start. After Isaiah Rashad, SZA and ScHoolboy Q, next in line is Ab-Soul. Fans were speculating that something was wrong within the label when Soul threatened to release his music without anyone's consent—"I’m this close to leakin my shit like its a mixtape...,” he tweeted in May—but TDE and Soulo have worked out their issues and righted the ship. With his next project, These Days..., set for a June 24 release, Ab-Soul stopped by the XXL offices to talk about the recording process, his TDE brothers and where he's been for so long. —Eric Diep

XXL: You’ve been quiet this year. What’s going on?
Ab-Soul: Business strategy. I’ve had great friends, though. I’ve had some great special guest appearances here and there. I did something with Common, everybody is talking about that. I did something with Lupe. A lot of guys. Action Bronson, Smoke DZA. I’ve been bouncing around a bit. Shout out to all the homies, keeping me afloat.

What’s the inspiration behind the title, These Days...?
It’s kind of like self-explanatory. I just wanted it to be a little time capsule of the last couple of years since my absence. The vibe of music and life right now like the last couple of years.

How do you feel about fans thinking that your Control System might be better than These Days…?
Just want my old shit. I don’t throw around the word “pressure” or “fear” too often. It’s all good. Shit’s hot. They’ll fuck with it.

How’s the recording process so far?
It was fun. I turned it in now. I recorded most of it at Mac Miller’s house. Very nice house in LA. We had a lot of fun. That’s rap camp. [Laughs] He’s moving, too, unfortunately. He’s upgrading, but we had a lot of fun in that red room. Very psychedelic, you could lose track of time. Just open the door and it's daylight. People like recording there 'cause of the vibe. All the artists you named [ScHoolboy Q, Vince Staples], great artists. We just go in there and have fun.

What is the tone you are trying to set for this album?
I definitely want to set as many tones as possible. With this one, I want to try and set as many bars, touch as many bases as possible. Some dark shit. Some bright shit. Some grey shit.

Do you ever think when you are recording that you are trying to make a song for the radio?
Lightly. You can kind of hear a beat that you would kind of think the radio would support for sure. Not like, “Gotta make a radio song. Country song. Pop song.” It’s not exactly along that grid like that.

What was the strategy behind putting out “Stigmata” first?
I just felt like after releasing the title, 'cause “Dub Sac” and “Tree Of Life” also appear. I just think after releasing the title, I just think it was a great record to give you an idea about where I'm going with this. It’s kind of like my cornerstone record of the project. Kind of really gets to the core of the album.

How did your relationship with Asaad start and why did you have him on there?
I just got introduced to him, I was out on the road with Joey Bada$$. The camera guy, my guy Slick, he was a big fan of him and he was playing his shit. He just heard it and I just became a huge fan recently. This last six months, probably. I immediately met up with him when we got to Philly. I had to meet him. You know, I reached out to him and he came. And we met up. We were kind of just building from there.

You also flipped Nas’ "The Cross." Are there other references you're making on this album?
A lot of references on this album. It’s another... These Days..., it’s kind of like a real, I really wanted to capture the days, the last couple years I’ve been absent. A lot of references, new and old.

Why did you decide to not put out a lot of music since your last album?
I finished a project with JMSN, [but] we couldn’t meet the business end with that, and I guess didn’t work out. I immediately changed face and started working on this one. We got a couple new artists—SZA and Isaiah Rashad. Just moving as a company, moving as a unit, it was a conscious decision to just wait and make sure the timing is right.

You got really excited on Twitter and wanted to drop your album like a mixtape.
That’s what it will feel like. At the same time with the strategy of the company, I didn’t want people to think that I was asleep. Like I didn’t have it ready. I’m not looking at it at the same time. With all things with branding, and TDE is a company, it’s a big company. It’s not just Ab-Soul. ScHoolboy Q, Kendrick. Collective unit.

Are JMSN and Jhené Aiko going to make the album?
Yeah, they're my guys. They blessed me on the album. You can definitely look for them on there.

Kendrick and ScHoolboy Q both had big album sales. Does that concern you?
Nah. I don’t even know their numbers to be honest with you. I kind of just look more into the shows. I go out to their shows and I can see that. I don’t need to see any numbers to back that up. I think they are doing well. I think a lot of people are gravitating to it. We a gang. It’s a family affair. We gonna come together and try to make it as big as possible all the time.

You also announced Longterm 3 this year. What’s the status of that?
I just gotta make sure I'm rich first. You know what I am saying? That Longterm 3 is the lifestyles of the rich and famous. That’s the whole concept. When you heard that I got rich, you’ll probably see that coming very soon. If that happens...a dollar is a funny thing, too. Today’s rich might be tomorrow’s rich. Just hope for the best.

What’s going on with Jay Rock? What can we expect from him?
Jay Rock is the foundation of TDE. He’s the first artist signed to TDE. Jay Rock is also our first experience with working with major labels. Jay Rock is going through a recreation process and he’s taking his time with our lead until it represents itself, I guess. We're gonna back him up. He’s the OG, for sho. He’s got that seniority.

He got shit. I’m just saying, with [“YOLA”], he was up first. He had a situation with Warner Bros. and whatnot. I don’t get too involved in the business thing. I just know he was presented in a certain way, and now he wants to make sure when he’s re-presented it’s on his terms and how he wants to present it. He’s got that grind now to let him do that. He doesn’t have a deadline.

Do you prefer having your album drop without the major label?
I never had to move under any labels. I had that luxury. I don’t know how that worked out for me, but it just did. I’m just not a business man. I rap. I make music. I turn it in to them guys and I let them do all that cool shit. Just like how I've been doing this music thing, they've been wanting to do business and managing and do all that shit. Play with money and figures. I just let everybody play their part.