By my standards I was quite late on ScHoolboy Q, with my first experience being “Nightmare on Figg St.”off of his Habits and Contradictions album. It was gritty, lyrical and the beat was insane, so from that moment on I followed his music with keen interest. Oxymoron followed this and my love for the mix between the gangbanging life that he left behind and the creativity of someone who appreciates real artistry (as they all seem to do over at TDE) kept me fascinated. Once I heard the lead single “Groovy Tony” I knew I was going to like this album, but then I heard “That Part” and I wasn’t so sure. ScHoolboy Q is just okay, the chorus is quite catchy but Kanye’s “OK, OK, OK, OK, OK, OK” gave me Lil Yachty flashbacks and I won’t lie, I skipped the hell out of that track.
Thankfully the bulk of this record is not trash like that, and there are several key cuts on this which in my opinion, make it one of the best West Coast albums this year (second only to YG’s Still Brazy.
Kicking off this album with “TorcH” excellently sets the tone for the whole record. The guitar driven instrumental seems to wrap itself around Q’s verse as opposed to vice-versa. The standout not only on this track but on the majority of this record is the delivery of ScHoolboy and just how creative he is with his vocal performance. Also, what really makes this album flow are the little touches; the background vocals on several tracks help create this atmospheric sound that you really become immersed in. This can only be expertly appreciated with some high quality audio output on the part of the listener but it’s impact is significant. I could talk about how great Anderson .Paak is on this but I’ll get back to him later.
The sharp and vivid art of story-telling that Q has in this record definitely beats anything he had put out previously, and this is despite the introspection on both Habits and Contradictions and Oxymoron. “Lord Have Mercy” demonstrates this, even though it is short and sweet, it sets the tone for the entire album as track 2. “Never, ever, ever, ever get caught tellin’ on my n*ggas, I’m a gangbanger, deadbeat father and drug dealer” pretty much encapsulates the message of the record in one fell swoop. Plain as day. If you want to hear that story the next 14 (I’m not including “Overtime” but that will come) songs are about to do that.
Having already heard the Groovy Tony single with just ScHoolboy, I was curious to see if, much like Kendrick using an alternate version of “i” on his album, Q would do the same . He did and. it. came. in the shape of an ungodly verse from rap legend Jadakiss. Note to all you older rappers, this is how you maintain as a legend. When you’re on a record with a contemporary rapper, you absolutely have to kill it and oh my he did. “3 man weave with the Lord and the Devil” is just mean, and “when I hug your mother, look over her shoulder you notice I got the Blank Face”. Just ugh. There isn’t a rapper alive that could have followed that verse and Q seems aware of this and the song immediately transitions into “Eddie Kane”. This track is just as mean and gritty, and I’m not sure who sang on the hook but they killed it too (Apparently it was Dem Jointz? No clue, but thanks RapGenius).
And speaking of fire features on this project, let’s also discuss “Ride Out” for a second. The instrumental on this is dirty, gritty, grimey…hard as hell. Q’s verse matches the intensity of the beat effortlessly and that combined with the simple but catchy hook already made this song flames. Then…Vince goddamn Staples. Much like he did on Earl Sweatshirt’s “Hive”, he comes through with a monster verse continuing where he left off from his debut album Summertime 06. He is also another artist to look out for. In many ways, on this track he sounds like the lovechild of a ScHoolboy Q and Danny Brown, his higher pitched delivery really juxtaposes with the gritty beat well and topically it fits with the atmosphere of the whole album.
But let’s pause a minute and look at “Overtime”. What. The. Hell. Is. This?! On his last album, there was “Studio” which was obviously meant to be one of the radio friendly songs and although it wasn’t one of his better songs, it wasn’t that bad. But this right here? This bihh right here? This is Boo-Boo. By far the worst track on the album and I sincerely hope the label put pressure on Q to include this, because it really takes you out of the zone in the track-list. It sounds just so so so at odds with the whole album, and placing it after “Blank Face”, with an stellar vocal performance from Anderson .Paak, was a huge mistake. Damn that dude can sing, and there isn’t a popular singer I’m aware of who has a sound like his. Definitely go check his music out, you won’t be disappointed (do not judge off of his XXL Freshman Cypher performance, that was boo-boo).
“Tookie Knows II”. Looking at this track, initially I was like who the hell are Traffic and TF!? I remembered an interview Q had with Snoop Dogs on GGN, where he spoke about hopefully being able to bring the Hoover’s into the rap game in a similar manner that Snoop had done with DPG. Well here it was. And. It. Was. Awesome. Both Traffic and TF killed there verses, Traffic with his gritty, raspy delivery was hype as hell and TF had my favourite bar on the track (“May 1st, May Deuce, May 12th, Members only”, if you know you know). Q’s verse and delivery brought me right back to hearing “Nightmare on Figg St.” for the verse time, and I loved every minute of it. Great way to end a great album.
Verdict on ScHoolboy Q – He’s definitely in his pocket throughout this album, 17 tracks and only like 3 or 4 trash? That makes a very solid effort. Q is only getting better with age.