Release Date: Feb 25, 2014
Record label: Interscope
Genre(s): Rap, West Coast Rap, Left-Field Hip-Hop
If nothing else, Oxymoron is complicated, an album about the conflicted feelings ScHoolboy Q started to remember when he left the streets for the altogether safer conditions of stardom. Toting a pistol but not really wanting to use it. Wanting to indulge a taste for certain drugs but needing to take care of his daughter. Getting good grades in high school so he could afford to play hooky and spend a few extra days on the block.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. Schoolboy Q has not bothered the upper regions of the Billboard Hot 100. Indeed, he has been for quite some time now the musical secret of many a music lover. Luckily, whereas some major label debuts from previously independent artists result in largely unidentifiable material from artists that were once sonically unique, Oxymoron does not suffer this fate.
There's no hiding behind anything if you're ScHoolboy Q. That throaty, caustic yap - the most abrasive voice in rap - makes everything he spits shivery and intense: gun culture, selling crack, anal sex. The debaucherous 17-track follow-up to 2012's breakthrough Habits & Contradictions rubs your face in discomfort: Q explores drug use (and abuse) in great detail, especially on the sobering confessional Prescription/Oxymoron.
Folks who’ve been following the Top Dawg camp for a few years now have likely settled into what’s become a pretty familiar catalog: Jay Rock plays the straight-faced gangster rapper and spiritual leader, Kendrick Lamar plays the prodigy, Ab-Soul plays the introspective lost soul and ScHoolboy Q… ScHoolboy Q does drugs and listens to Portishead records. But his career has always been more interesting than that, with the other members of the crew often regaling the media with tales of the potential they saw in a younger Quincy Hanley who spent his days the same as most other young Californians: looking for hip-hop glory atop classic mid-‘90s East Coast boom bap and Dr. Dre knockoff beats.
If Kendrick Lamar is this generation's Nas — introspective, conceptually brilliant, an ear for brilliant beats and a taste for dead-on diction — and good kid, m.A.A.d. city is a major label classic debut in the tradition of Illmatic, then fellow Black Hippy member Schoolboy Q is the character Lamar observes from his project window. Quincey Hanley has lived the ugliness that sounds so scarily intoxicating to the casual rap listener.
"Gangsta, gangsta, gangsta," shouts Los Angeles rapper Schoolboy Q right off the bat, offering one more than N.W.A.'s "Gangsta Gangsta" ever did. With tough-as-nails beats (via Pharrell, Tyler the Creator and more) and boundless energy, Q's major-label debut positions him as the hardened triggerman in Kendrick Lamar's Black Hippy crew. "Fuck rap," he says, "my shit real." Truman Capote-level realness is what made Lamar a critical sensation, and Q is just as deft with detail, whether he's describing ice-cream-truck stickups or selling drugs from a Nissan.
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 ….
Two years into Black Hippy’s mainstream rap takeover the efficacy of TDE’s hit factory is still a marvel to watch. As a group, pensive Compton good guy Kendrick Lamar, gang-affiliated L.A. street rap classicist Jay Rock, suburban psychotropic-loving conspiracy theorist Ab-Soul and drug dealing party animal Schoolboy Q unite to offer a panoramic view of Southern Californian inner city rot.
Schoolboy Q is a tad late with this debut major label album assignment; originally due in November 2013, it was moved back to this February after difficulties with sample clearance. It’s been much hyped due to the quality of preceding singles such as Man Of The Year and Q's various guest appearances, with some even suggesting it could meet or even exceed the standard of Kendrick Lamar’s 2012 masterpiece Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. The production on show is a mixture of new and old, with songs like Break The Bank and Blind Threats utilising dusty piano loops and guitar samples, while What They Want is more of the new school, its icy melody projecting a feeling of paranoia with Q rapping about his proficiency in drug dealing.
Somewhere between (or most likely before) the release of his own Habits & Contradictions album and Ab-Soul’s Control System, ScHoolboy Q embraced everything that accompanied releasing an album in conjunction with the major label system. On his fellow Top Dawg Entertainment member’s “SOPA,” Q rhymed, “Ever see an ex-student get a half a ticket / Think I’m lying, just ask Jimmy that check was mine as soon as we signed. ” Expectations were raised, Interscope’s considerable marketing push was merged with the grassroots approach that netted Habits & Contradictions a #17 spot on Billboard magazine’s Independent Albums chart and singles were released.
Review Summary: Sliiiiiide to tHe left.#1 on ScHoolboy Q’s Greatest Albums of All Time ListIf you’re under the impression that Top Dawg Entertainment is taking over the world, you’re neither alone nor unjustified (hell, my phone even autocorrects ‘tde’ to ‘TDE’). For decades hip-hop has seen myriad groups fleetingly captivate the attention of listeners with promises of longevity, only to fade quickly when their output proves to be, at best, mediocre. Those artists poised to don the crown and galvanize hip-hop have made us hold our collective breaths, but when their music sputters, we’ve learned to exhale.
While his labelmate and friend Kendrick Lamar was jumping on Imagine Dragons remixes and counting up his Grammy nominations, rapper Schoolboy Q remained the Top Dawg Entertainment label's strongest link to the left-field hip-hop. His highly anticipated 2014 effort Oxymoron was even previewed by the brilliant single "Collard Greens," a track where luxury and soul food clashed over a shuffling house music beat courtesy of the aptly named production crew THC, but that's about as easy as it gets on this grim and gutsy full-length. Think of Styles P, Young Buck, or maybe even Mobb Deep attacking abstract art the ski mask way and the brain-melting, coke game commentary called "The Purge" -- produced by Odd Future's Tyler, The Creator -- becomes a horrorshow highlight, with lyrics like "my glock is your f**k buddy" coming off just as dire as they need to be.
Earlier this month, a website asked Schoolboy Q to list his 25 favourite albums. In the top spot was his major label debut, Oxymoron: "I'd call it a classic," he suggested, helpfully. It goes without saying that Oxymoron isn't as good as its author thinks. If it seems unfair to find it wanting compared to his fellow Black Hippy alumnus Kendrick Lamar's wildly acclaimed Good Kid, MAAD City, it's a comparison Schoolboy Q virtually demands the listener make: "Tell Kendrick move from the throne," he suggests at one point.
“One day my story gon’ pay.”– Schoolboy Q, “Break the Bank” Schoolboy Q, born Quincy Hanley, joined the Hoover Crips of South L.A. when he was 12 years old. Apparently his grandmother showed him his first gun. Hanley has said that, as a teenager and young man, selling drugs, gang-banging, and football were his life.
Kendrick Lamar's Good Kid, M.A.A.D City was a long-overdue reimagining of a genre whose holy trinity—Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, and Snoop Dogg—now make headphones, PG comedies, and identity-crisis reggae albums, respectively. After decades of Tony Montana worship, gangsta rap is now closer to Michael Corleone: music that's less id- than ego-driven, where triumphant kingpins give way to complicated men with pain behind their eyes.
The first 24 words on Schoolboy Q’s debut album are “gangsta.” It’s a slap-in-the-skull reminder that whatever anyone else might say, Q is, above all else, tough. That’s what we’ve learned about him so far, anyway. Born Quincy Hanley in South Central L.A., Q linked up with the Crips at age 12 and made cash slinging Oxycontin, the story goes.
ScHoolboy Q’s been a little overshadowed by his Black Hippy crewmate and all-round rap wunderkind Kendrick Lamar – which is a shame, because Q’s arguably a far more interesting figure. Kendrick has a po-faced earnestness, not to mention a cringeworthy habit of explaining his own metaphors to the unenlightened listener; meanwhile Q’s a master ironist, a free-spinning wrecking ball of self-assurance. “Metaphor,” he yelps gleefully on 2012’s “There He Go”.
Having dominated 2012 with “There He Go” and “Hands On The Wheel,” ScHoolboy Q took his time building himself as the next big thing out of TDE. Q represents a quarter of the Black Hippy crew, alongside Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul and Jay Rock, but his independent releases, as well as collabos with the likes of Macklemore, 50 Cent and YG, showed that he could stand on his own two as a solo artist. The 27-year-old MC was chosen as an XXL Freshman in 2013, increasing his profile, as well as the anticipation for his major-label debut, Oxymoron.
When Kendrick Lamar dropped “Good Kid, M.A.A.d City” in 2012, the plan was for his label-mate ScHoolboy Q to run with that momentum. But the spotlight he was supposed to step into felt more like a floodlight. Lamar set a bar that Q wanted to raise. With “Oxymoron,” Q offers a hazy and nocturnal self-examination driven by both the grittiest elements of LA (“Hoover Street”) and the smoothed-out soundscape (“Man of the Year”) that’s been its trademark since the ’90s.
opinion bySAMUEL TOLZMANN You may recall “PMW (All I Really Need),” from last year’s Long.Love.A$AP, which found A$AP Rocky smoothly extolling the respective virtues of pussy, money, and weed from deep within a bottomed-out cloud of sumptuous synth textures and pitch-shifted voices. As is typical with A$AP Rocky’s work, it’s an easy enough tune to like but leans on the toothless side. So it’s a welcome progression when ScHoolboy Q, on loan from Kendrick Lamar’s LA-based Black Hippy crew, cuts in two minutes through to pull a bull-in-china-shop on the whole affair.
Midway through Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City, Kendrick Lamar tests his audience’s sympathy: “If I told you I killed a nigga at 16, would you believe me, or see me to be innocent Kendrick that you seen in the street?” The answer to that hypothetical, of course, is no. Innocence is Lamar’s defining trait, and undoubtedly his album would have been received far differently if little Kendrick had been the man behind the gun, not a bystander caught in the crossfire.
Black Hippy is one of the most innovative and exciting collectives to happen to rap in the last few years, and ScHoolboy Q, in many respects, is its most unadventurous member. In the context of Kendrick’s knotty dramatisations, Jay Rock’s thug boasts or Ab-Soul’s paranoid, insular meanderings, his druggy gangsta rap feels almost old school, his formula – street raps smoothly delivered over top-of-the-range beats – giving execution precedence over original ideas. In keeping with that relatively predictable nature, Q’s debut major label record is everything you’d expect, an album where expensive beats are a perfect fit to the excellent rapping and star-studded guest cast.
The anticipation for ScHoolboy Q's latest album has been rumbling on since the critical praise levelled at its 2011 forerunner, Habits & Contradictions. Couple that with a close association with Kendrick Lamar through shared label Top Dawg Entertainment, as well as some particularly savvy marketing and press coverage, and it looks like Oxymoron is set to become one of the more significant hip hop records of this year. Take note, however, that what makes it significant is less to do with any claim on musical or lyrical innovation, and far more tied up with its effectiveness at capturing a set of paradigms at work in contemporary hip hop.