Los Angeles rapper ScHoolboy Q once stood as the most promising member of the Top Dawg Entertainment/Black Hippy camps, even outshining the now-transcendent Kendrick Lamar. Q followed Kendrick’s Section.80 with what would become the most acclaimed TDE/Black Hippy release up until that point, 2012’s Habits & Contradictions. In the years since, however, it’s become clear that no one — not Q, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock, Isaiah Rashad, or SZA — will leapfrog Kendrick in the eyes of the general public anytime soon.
ScHoolboy Q may not be T.D.E.’s franchise player, but quiet as kept, a lot may be riding on his new Blank Face LP. Crewmate (and co-executive producer for Blank Face) Kendrick Lamar has already proven himself as rap’s new messiah, but what about the rest of the squad? The success of good kid, m.A.A.d city opened the floodgates for them to further show and prove, and they did exactly that. But To Pimp A Butterfly catapulted Kendrick to a different stratosphere —from the rest of the rap game in general, and from his T.D.E.
“Music-wise right now, I suck.” In 2014, Schoolboy Q bluntly described his difficulty staying off lean, and what the drug had done to his art and personal life. He told radio personality Angie Martinez that he’d managed to keep it at arms’-length while recording his major label debut, Oxymoron, but that as soon as the album was done, he’d had something of a relapse. Listening to the album though, you suspected that Q may have been dabbling before the record was mixed.
By 2016, anything associated with the Top Dawg Entertainment/Black Hippy crew was considered "highly anticipated" by the hip-hop faithful, but no one in the posse had come close to the crossover success of superstar MC Kendrick Lamar. Team member Schoolboy Q was the crown prince, although his mix of gangsta rap and left-field production had failed to make him a household name, something The Blank Face LP holds dear. This sprawling, cumbersome, and often psychedelic effort feels like a glorious clearing house for the diverse and deep rapper, offering giant, cinematic, and challenging efforts like the Anderson Paak-featuring title track and the opening epic, "Torch," then shifting gear and getting flippant with oddball throwaways like the ultra-nasty "Studio" sequel called "Overtime.
ScHoolboy Qs newest album, Blank Face, is a masterwork of ludonarrative dissonance. At a moment when the temperatures in our cultural climate are rising beyond a mere simmer, an album that not only celebrates wanton violence, but also, more provocatively, dresses its anti-social themes in gorgeous and sensuous musical textures, should feel irresponsible, the kind of music that justifies the existence of parental advisory warnings; but rather, the mismatch between subject and tone lends Blank Face the same hypnotic effect as a Kubrick (or more contemporarily, Refn Winding) film, where the grimness of the subject matter is matched equally by the refinement with which it is depicted. Ironically, harmonious juxtapositions strike me as honest, or at least more honest, than most alternate depictions of violence.
On “Lord Have Mercy”, the second track on ScHoolboy Q’s latest album, the Californian bluntly states, “I’m a gangbanger, deadbeat father and drug dealer”, and it nicely sums up his career up to this point. His previous albums and mixtapes followed in the same vein, with unapologetic lyrics depicting the horrific nature of inner city crime in his hometown of Los Angeles. While that has proven to be his quintessential style, each successive project of his has added to his straight-and-to-the-point mystique by developing grand concepts, elevating his flows, and experimenting with hip-hop’s darker side, and Blank Face is no exception.
It’s hard to make grand pronouncements about ScHoolboy Q. He’s indebted to many things — many parts that don’t define him as a whole. As a rapper, he’s much better than meets the ear, spitting off coded insider details in flurries of strangled yelps that camouflage technical proficiency and terse writing.
I am confident to say that ScHoolboy Q is the best artist of the Black Hippy crew after Kendrick Lamar, and I am only able to say this with Blank Face. Put simply, this is some 74 minutes of dark nights on the West Coast, looking for temporary satisfaction in women and drugs, with a production and feature roster that’ll make you drool. For the record, Ab-Soul, whose Control System positioned Ab-Soul to be the most interesting persona of the Black Hippy crew, has fallen off the deep end with 2014’s These Days… and haphazard guest verses.
P.O.S. :: Chill, dummyDoomtree RecordsAuthor: Patrick TaylorI've been a fan of Stefon "P.O.S." Alexander since his debut nearly 10 years ago. On "Audition" and 2009's "Never Better," he proved himself to be one of the few artists who could successfully meld punk rock and hip-hop. Fellow Minnesotans ….
Fans have been foaming at the mouth for weeks awaiting the release of ScHoolboy Q's latest studio effort, Blank Face LP. And for all of the anticipation it's built, the album doesn't disappoint.Blank Face's narrative should be familiar to Q's fans by now. Like the projects that came before it, this album reflects on gang life in L.A., being a Black man in America and the everyday challenges of navigating both the streets and fatherhood.
Schoolboy Q's 2014 major-label debut, Oxymoron, marked him as the most street MC in L.A.'s Black Hippy rap collective. No less stressed or conflicted than that crew's breakout star, Kendrick Lamar, he's reporting from deeper within the fog of war on his follow-up. "I'll trade the noise for a piece of divine," he pleads early on, but that grace consistently eludes him.
It's sad to think that the fourth album from Quincy Matthew Hanley (a.k.a. ScHoolboy Q) might be the soundtrack we deserve in this bleak collective cultural moment. Released less than 24 hours after a black army veteran with a sniper rifle killed five cops in Dallas, and just days after the nationally publicized killings of black civilians Alton Sterling and Philando Castile by white police officers in Louisiana and Minnesota, respectively, Q's Blank Face LP represents a vision of the anger, mistrust, and numbness that have resulted from America's inability to affect change in communities divided along racial lines.
This past month was a generally slow one in terms of album releases, and yet Carl and I were able to find some true gems that will surely stick with us through the entire year. I was downright elated every time I spun the rather joyful Wildflower, The Avalanches comeback statement, while Carl ….
Any lingering notion that ScHoolboy Q is the No. 2 of Top Dawg Entertainment should be quashed with the Blank Face LP. He may not be a knotty, once-in-a-decade lyrical philosopher like Kendrick Lamar, but while Kendrick is wrestling with the ills of society and the meaning of being black in an especially dangerous and contentious era, Q is busy basking in his fame, reflecting on his trying upbringings, and inhaling drugs like a camel preparing for a desert trek.
Since they rose to stardom together as part of Black Hippy, Schoolboy Q has been sort of a perfect counter to Kendrick Lamar. K. Dot has always had this good kid, almost angelic, persona as he drops his inspirational raps about self-love and perseverance in hard times. On the other side of things, Schoolboy Q is the hard-nosed, aggressive crew member, rapping about drug dealing, hustling and protecting his own.
Schoolboy Q wants the dark, sprawling, bloated Blank Face LP to be his masterpiece. The Top Dawg Entertainment star raps, growls, and sneers over sultry horns, sparkling piano, and descending basslines on his 17-song, 72-minute opus, taking cues from label mate Kendrick Lamar's genre-bending To Pimp a Butterfly. Anderson Paak's soulful vocals add sinister braggadocio to album opener "Torch," and the incendiary "Ride Out" pits Q against a bloodthirsty Vince Staples.
On his unrepentant fourth LP, West Coast rapper Schoolboy Q is a troubled, cop-dodging sex addict. The introspective gangster rap record sees Q take ringleader status in a star-studded domain; the 17 tracks include gutsy collaborations with Kanye West, Vince Staples, E-40, Tha Dogg Pound, SZA, Anderson .Paak, Miguel, Justine Skye and others. It kicks off in classic Q form on TorcH, featuring XXL freshman A .Paak: raspy vocals, thick, grimy production, vivid lyrics.