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Review: SchoolBoy Q – Oxymoron

Check out what HTF thought of SchoolBoy Q, the face of the west coast right now, third studio album, ‘Oxymoron’.

‘Oxymoron’ is the third studio album from the current face of that raw, street level west coast flavor, SchoolBoy Q.  It is arguably his most anticipated project to date because of firstly; the incredible talent he has had the fortune and privilege to work alongside to help him put it together including, Kendrick Lamar, Tyler, The Creator, Raekwon, Pharrell and The Alchemist. Secondly, the anticipation is high because of how established he is as a rapper now. His music has always been ruff around the edges, and he should have enough practice and time to now produce something a little special. It will also be his first album released under a major record label (Interscope) to music retailers, whereas his first two albums were released independently to digital retailers only.

“Gangsta, gangsta, gangsta,” shouts the Los Angeles rapper right off the bat, offering one more than N.W.A’s “Gangsta Gangsta” ever did. We all know Q isn’t exactly the most lyrical rapper, and he hasn’t built his substantial fanbase through trying to be. The first track ‘Gangsta’ makes sure you know that straight away. It has a surprisingly catchy hook for so little creativity  and the beat will definitely have your head noddin’ in the club or the car. Pharrell produced ‘Los Awesome’ isn’t awful but I think Q is going to have to bring something else to really have this project stand out, this sorta hip-hop isn’t rare at all at the moment. A solid verse from Jay Rock though. ‘Collard Greens’ is definitely one of the highlights of the album for me. Some beautiful production with Kendrick and Q both delivering. Still very much his character, which of course we want to see but just slightly lowered and it works over the cleverly put together beat. I’m not a 2Chainz fan at the best of times, and for me he just brings the track, ‘What They Want’ down and drags Q down with him. The beat has that steady energy that you want to hear, but I’m sorry, there are way to many cringey lines for this track to work. ‘Studio’ is the sort of tracks I love hearing from him. It’s not what you always expect because isn’t as heavy as most, but still very enjoyable. BJ the Chicago Kid is a nice addition as well.

‘Prescription’ is a rare introspective track from him (at least in the first half) and this is an example of how he can be a brilliant storyteller like Kendrick, they are just telling different tales. ‘The Purge’ is produced by Tyler, The Creator and I was expecting a lot more because I am usually a big fan of his production, but it is a fairly forgettable track altogether. Nice to see Q teaming up with a proper west coast OG in Kurupt though. ‘Blind Threats’ is another big highlight for me. He gives some of his best constructed rhymes I have heard for a while and Raekwon delivers one of his best verse for years. And the beat is sick (dat violin doe). Once again some more beautiful production on ‘Hell Of A Night’ and I can of sense this track being a bit of a hit anthem soon. It’s a banger, if that’s what your into anyway. ‘Break The Bank’ is one of the albums singles and you can see why with it’s stylish hustler lyrics and video. Nothing special but a noticeably nice bridge and interlude before the third verse.

‘Man Of The Year’ is probably the biggest single off the album and its the same story for several tracks on this album. Another good banger. Bit repetitive but some good production once again. Q has stated before that he isn’t a fan of conventional song structure, and it shows on ‘His And Her Friend’. However, it doesn’t have a obvious direction and it’s a bit too all over the place for me. The album gets back on track though with ‘Grooveline Pt. 2’. A chilled and groovy beat and his flow on his verse is exactly why he is so popular at the moment, it is just right. The album ends with ‘F*ck LA’ and finishes its circle as it comes back to that gang-banging shit where the album started. Nothing special and not there for his core fans, more the gang members.

I think this album had just a bit too much hype; a lot of which was created by Q himself. It’s not that this is a bad project by any stretch of the imagination because it is just a very mixed bag, but I think he has tried to do a bit much. A not as good kid traversing the same m.A.A.d. city as Kendrick, Schoolboy complements Lamar’s narrative distance with evocative, unflinching first-person dispatches from the front lines. Some absolutely stunning production which will make this album stand out this year, but I think he has let himself down a bit with some of his own performances. He is never going to struggle for respect and fans because he just has that hip-hop culture surrounding him, and that raw attraction that you want from gangsta rappers. But he is capable of a more altogether better project, which he definitely has proven before.

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