It’s not an easy task trying to label ScHoolboy Q or classify his music and style in any way. His once difficult background does not solely define who he is as an artist. As one of the genuine rappers out today in a world full of Riff Raff’s, ScHoolboy Q makes music that gives fans something much greater to hear. Q is a story teller who disguises his true lyricism behind his uncanny flow. A sound that ranges from gasping yelps to soothing melodies still manage to send a message in almost every song. With ScHoolboy Q, fans are guaranteed music that is ingrained in reality. Whether that comes from his humor or his gangster rap edge, it comes with a level of truth.
ScHoolboy Q’s new album Blank Face LP is loaded with more storytelling. Q’s fourth album is full of guest appearances, but the sound of each track is captured by Q’s narrative. His voice is the focal point of the album as his verses speak of his drug fueled past on Hoover Street, all the way to his new, healthier life with his daughter. Even with the biggest names in hip-hop appearing on the album, they are able to speak with their own personalities without overshadowing the message Q is trying to give. Kanye West trades verses with Q on “That Part” and Vince Staples is featured on “Ride Out.” These two songs are the standout tracks on the album, and the incorporation of Kanye and Staples seems to fit with the artistry and chemistry each performer has with one another.
Top Dawg Entertainment is no stranger to concept albums, but Blank Face reaches for truth rather than a tirade. Each verse that Q spits is raw and filled with emotion. Q displays a unique ability to channel the emotions of his fans with his ability to adapt as an artist. He can connect conflicting tones and feelings in one song and make it work. His verse can sound aggressive and spiteful, and turn to hopeful and uplifting in the same verse. It’s this changing tone that tells his story. On “Lord Have Mercy” Q raps, “Guess I’m being a real n**** like I’m ‘pposed to be / But being real never once brought the groceries.” Then it switches up faster than Q can actually rap as he says, “Hope was all that I needed / dreaming myself to work. The working affair was better than bullet holes in my shirt.”
Tracks like the single “Groovy Tony/Eddie Kane,” turn the attention towards the actual rap and a sound that is definitively Q’s own. Part of the sub-group Black Hippy’s, some want every hip-hop artist to be Kendrick. Blank Face strays away from trying to merge with To Pimp a Butterfly and instead emphasizes an aura that is wrapped around sincere lyricism. As a listener, the album holds your attention with the lyrics and changing tones and tempo. Q is able to resemble the artists that are featured throughout the album without shifting the culture away from his gangster attitude. Q’s music doesn’t stray away from its true meaning and force a false representation of the past. When artists like Drake and Future set out to glamorize their successes, ScHoolboy Q crosses a different path by not holding back from the truth and exposing his troubled past. Q does so with a personality that represents true gangster rap, yet he still possess a pop-like instinct that is relatable for a broader fan base.
Q’s last album Oxymoron, featured songs “Hands on the Wheel” and “Hell Of A Night,” which were incredibly popular hits with that pop-esque feel. Q continues to produce these hits on Blank Face with the E-40 featured track “Dope Dealer” and “Whateva U Want,” with the help of Candice Pillay. Blank Face LP isn’t the first great album Q has recorded, nor will it be his last. However, this is the first album where Q shows how well rounded of an artist he is, and just how much potential he truly has.
Q can be soft, he can be sharp as glass, but which ever form he takes he does so with ease. With songs such as “Collard Greens,” “Man of the Year,” and “There He Go,” Q has written well-crafted, catchy songs that captivate listeners with their truncated yet enthusiastic melodies. However, most of Q’s work, along with Blank Face is part of a bigger package. “That Part,” “Neva Change,” and “Overtime” featuring Miguel and Justine Skye, all allow Q to delve into his cloudy style of songwriting and storytelling. That storytelling is what makes Blank Face so memorable. “Black THougHts” is one of the more moving songs which documents Q’s surroundings. Q raps, “Ole gangsta crip, my papa was a bitch / left me while hope just don’t exist.” This line helps shine a light on the difficulty of Q’s upbringing. Blank Face LP isn’t an album that needs to reflect typical social norms or a particular standard that appeases to all. Q’s latest album is all about a genuine illustration of a real artist who speaks for himself and raps for others.
Hip-Hop| Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE) and Interscope Records.