Album Review: ScHoolboy Q – Oxymoron

Dark, heavy bassed-out beats create the kind of atmosphere that you would expect after a glimpse of his album cover art, but behind this eerie feel and often chaotic flow, lies a deep, intellectual rapper who is ready to take the limelight.

Following in the footsteps of fellow TDE and Black Hippy member Kendrick Lamar, the album conveys a level of maturity and skill that has the accessibility and mainstream friendliness to propel him to the top. Q hasn’t lost any of his grit and darkness however from previous albums, instead combining this with the vision of Interscope, he has created a commercially viable rap album while still remaining true to his previous style. The tension that is brought about by these two conflicting aspirations works a treat. Whatever messed up compromises Q has had to make, it’s interesting to hear him break through these boundaries as he constantly explodes into different directions and concepts. Like Lamar, Q has been in the game for a while now slowly building a steady fan base and nurturing his style and technique, this all culminating in this album. The already rapturous reception it has received comes as no surprise, the hype around ‘Collard Greens’ and ‘Man of the Year’, both singles off the album released prior to it dropping, had already made the album highly anticipated, and all in all the LA native lives up to all these expectations and more.

The album starts off in a weird juxtaposition where his daughter has a short ad-lib in which she says “my daddy a gangsta” abruptly followed by the introduction of a bass-heavy beat and Q screaming “gangsta gangsta gangsta” in an off-key and strained note, this chorus intertwined with a weird set of flows where he madly fluctuates from different pitches and cadences. This kind of chaotic and in your face style sets the tone for the rest of the album. The following tracks after this offer an insight into the mind that is ScHoolboy Q, a dark twisted weird fantasy world in which he delves into anecdotal stories and personal issues with drugs. ‘Hoover Street’ offers a flashback to Q’s childhood struggles and his uncles drug addictions, lamenting “he used to give me whisky to piss in cups” and “had roaches in my cereal, my uncle stole my cereal, my grandma can’t control him”. Reversing in rhythm half way through after a short series of radio cuts, this track is the most musically ambitious on the album. ‘Prescription/Oxymoron’ tells the harrowing story of Q’s battle with prescription drugs and how this affected his close family members, mainly his mother and his daughter with Q often ignoring calls from them because he was too high. To add to the already moving and upsetting lyrics Q’s daughter also features on the track, cutting in through verses with “what’s wrong daddy? Wake up, wake up”. Whilst ‘Prescription’ deals with Q’s addiction to prescription drugs the second half of the track ‘Oxymoron’ goes into detail of how this led him into dealing, as a way to fund his addiction. The beat becomes heavier and the lyrical tone more fierce as the gangsta element of Q becomes evident. ‘Hell of a Night” is a complete change up in style compared to the previous two tracks; the beat is more soothing with a soft harmony floating in the background and the lyrical focus much more friendly. The chorus ringing out “get up out your seat, you can have my drink, let me see you dance”. The track is the non-single off the album and has the most potential to become a hit.

Much like how Good Kid M.A.A.D City revelled in appraisal after its release, Oxymoron is due to do the same, and it deserves it. The fluid structure of the album and creativeness that goes with this creates compelling listening. Q’s bruising lyrical content and ambitious musical elements has set the bar high for all hip-hop albums to follow. It’s too early to say yet, but it wouldn’t be a bad shout to say that Q is Hip Hop’s “Man Of The Year”.

4/5

First published: February 27, 2014

Where?: https://stylusmusicmagazine.wordpress.com/2014/02/27/schoolboy-q-oxymoron/

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