Now that Kendrick Lamar has taken over the world, TDE has decided to unleash its next monster. ScHoolboy Q is next up from the “hottest crew in rap“, I’m not putting that in speech marks to convey sarcasm, it’s simply to quote every single rap publication of the last year, TDE absolutely are the biggest and best squad in rap music.
Oxymoron has Q sounding confident and ready for the world. This isn’t an unusual standpoint for the Cali-rapper, but this time it all feels bigger and more important. It’s like he’s rapping for his life on this album. It’s enthralling. “I’m f***ing up the streets again, tags on the toes all amongst your friends!” He raps on the vicious opener “Gangsta“, a tale of life before the fame. This is when Q is at his absolute best, talking about his past experiences and how they affected him.
A lesser rapper would allow a lot of the tracks to sound very samey, but despite the similar subject matter, Q makes every track feel fresh. Whether it’s the 2 Chainz-assisted banger “What They Want” or the Wu-Tang-influenced “Blind Threats“, Q’s subject matter rarely wavers, but when he’s so good at recollecting these tales, it doesn’t need to.
Anoter trait of Q’s that flows through the record is his total, unabashed honesty about the person he is. Yes, of course there’s the usual “rapper cliches” like f***ing someone else’s bi**h or killing someone for little to no reason, but Q interweaves them with brutal honesty that most other rappers are afraid to tackle. He brings up his family, in particular his daughter (who is featured throughout the album) and how he just wants to do right by her. Songs like the epic centerpiece “Prescription / Oxymoron” deals with his struggles with drugs while trying to give his daughter the life she deserves. It’s moving, while still keeping in with that traditional grimy ScHoolboy Q feel.
“Prescription / Oxymoron”:
The album’s best stretch comes from track 10-12, “Hell Of A Night“, “Break The Bank” and “Man Of The Year“. All three of these tracks accomplish things that most people wouldn’t expect from Q: accessible and very catchy, radio friendly hooks. Combine this with the raw rapping that is firing throughout these tracks and you really have a phenomenal section of the album.
“Break The Bank”:
While Q himself turns in a great performance throughout the entire album, some of the production and features let him down. “The Purge” is a track that a lot of people had their eyes on due to an Odd Future/TDE collaboration and not even a great verse from Kurupt can save this song. Tyler’s production is what we’ve come to expect from the Odd Future general: a very minimal, simple “is this genius or is this lazy?” kind of beat. Unfortunately it falls into the latter. I genuinely thought it was the original and unfinished version of Earl Sweatshirt’s “Whoa” beat when I first heard it.
Throw in the disappointing “Los Awesome” beat from Pharrell (Jay Rock saved that song, can’t wait to hear what he comes out with this year) and the completely forgettable 2 Chainz verse on “What They Want” and you have some blemishes on an otherwise great album. Another TDE signee SZA makes a pointless appearance on the short and unneeded “His & Her Fiend” and while it was nice hearing Suga Free, “Grooveline Pt. 2” did nothing for me.
Despite some moments of frustration, ScHoolboy Q has lived up to the monumental hype bestowed upon him with Oxymoron. He has improved as a rapper and a songwriter since his last project and continues to be (along with Freddie Gibbs) the best example of Gangsta-Rap in the game today. It’s imperfect and it may take a couple of listens to “get”, but Oxymoron will sit proudly beside good kid, m.A.A.d city in TDE’s growing legacy.
Purchase: ScHoolboy Q – Oxymoron (iTunes)