If you know me personally, you should definitely know that Schoolboy Q has been one of my favorite rappers for a long ass time. If you do not know this, you should probably pay attention to me more. Just kidding (kind of)! Schoolboy Q has always been one of my favorites for multiple reasons; his eclectic storytelling ability, weird and gruff vocal fluctuations and his many very different and trippy flows are some of the things that I like the most about Schoolboy Q’s music. It always feels like you are sort of connected to him or in his life literally somehow because of the way he tells these stories; he really lets listeners into how he thinks and feels about everything and all of the crazy things that have happened to him. He is very honest and real about who he is and what he is thinking with each song and album he puts out. One of the coolest things about Q, though, is how much he is always evolving as a person and with his music. It is almost as if each new album is the explanation on a new era of his life he is in, and how he feels about life now that he is in this new era. If you were to listen to his first album, Setbacks, and then listen to his most current album, Crash Talk, without any context, you probably would not even be able to tell that it was the same artist who created both of these records. It has been really awesome to see Q grow as an artist as a person over the years, and even though his latest album was not my favorite of his, I am happy to see he is in a really good place right now.
While it seems like there are quite a few rappers these days that like to lie about who they are and what they do(i.e. that goon Lil Tecca), Q is definitely as real as he seems. Everything that this guy raps about is something that has happened in his life; if you want to see a story of someone who was really able to come full circle, you need to look into Q. The South Central Los Angeles native grew up a Hoover Street crip, and he was introduced to gangbanging and was with the shits at an early age. When Q’s first album came out, which is called Setbacks, Schoolboy Q was not in a very good place in his life mentally, having just gotten out of prison and having gotten really into hard drugs (mostly pills) around this time. These circumstances put Q in a very careless/I don’t give a shit vibe in almost a bad way when he was making this record, and it really does show in the content of the album. My favorite song from Setbacks and one of the songs that best exemplifies the feeling of the project is ‘To Tha Beat(F’ed Up).’ This track has a very strange and buzzy LA hardcore rap type of instrumental, and Q’s attitude on this one is just as hard and strange. I think these lines from the chorus are going to explain the feeling of this song better than I can with my own words: “Who got the weed, n****a get me fucked up!! Who got the lean, n****a get me fucked up!!” Every song on Setbacks is about gang banging or getting stupidly fucked up, so if you are looking for a West Coast-style album with that sentiment, check it out.
The next album that Q released, Habits and Contradictions, is a lot more low key and introspective than Setbacks. The content of this album is also about gang banging and getting fucked up, but the feeling of this one is a lot more mature and solemn than his first album. Schoolboy Q really seems to be trying to warn people about the lifestyle that he had been leading up to this point. A lot of the songs on this record are very intense and violent; songs like ‘Oxy Music’ and ‘My Hatin Joint’ give a very deep look into Schoolboy’s life and thoughts at this point, and what he had to go through to get to where he is. There are also a few songs with a lighter tone, like ‘There He Go’ and ‘Sex Drive'(featuring Jhene Aiko), where Q is very tongue in cheek, stating that he knows who he is and knows he is the shit and knows what he wants. The next album that Schoolboy Q dropped is the classic Oxymoron. This is the record that propelled Q into superstardom and cemented him as one of the top artists in the rap game. Although this album is super deep and poetic and intense and awesome, it is also obvious to see that he was at the worst point in his life when this record came out. Oxymoron is a very interesting and diverse record; it is partly made up of hard ass rager cuts, partly made up of intense and incredibly descriptive and angry gangbanging cuts, and partly made of sad and druggy cuts. Some of Q’s most popular party cuts are on this album; songs like ‘Man of the Year’ and ‘Collard Greens’ and ‘Hell of a Night’ are still probably some of his biggest songs. But the fact that he was making songs like this show that he was not in a good place mentally; every song is in some way about getting fucked up out of your mind, and considering what we now know about his headspace at the time, this is not a good this. One of my favorite songs to date by him is the super sad and druggy ‘Prescription/Oxymoron.’ I especially love the first half of this song. This track is about a time he was so addicted to Xanax and lean that he would not respond to anyone, even his daughter. He would just lie on his couch and get super fucked up all of the time. This line from the first verse really explains the feeling of this song: “My mama calls, I hit ignore. My daughter calls, I press ignore. My chin’s pressed to my couch, my knees are on the floor! I’m blacking out…”
Q’s next album, Blank Face, is also very highly critically acclaimed and is considered by many to be one of the best rap albums to come out in the last four years. Q’s vibe on this album is very gangsta and cutthroat, but also very witty and humorous; it is almost as if he was trying to get back into the mindset he had for Habits and Contradictions in a retrospective and not so serious way. One of the most popular songs he has ever put out, ‘THat Part,’ is a phenomenal highlight of this record. This track is a 100% Certified Banger that features Kanye West, and both rappers demonstrate their lyrical talent with some hilarious and very tongue in cheek bars. This lyric from Kanye is one of my favorite from this whole record: “Okay, okay, okay, okay, okay, okay, okay!!” Beggars can’t be choosers, bitch, this ain’t Chipotle! N****a with an attitude, bitch, I feel like O’Shea! Walking living legend and I feel like Kobe!” My other favorite song from this record is ‘By Any Means.’ This one is also very humorous and witty, but it has a lot more of a chill vibe than ‘THat Part.’ It has a very West Coast chill gangsta rap sort of vibe to it, and Schoolboy Q’s flow is so smooth you could spread that shit on a bagel. Q’s most recent album to come out, Crash Talk, actually came out earlier this year. This record was actually supposed to come out last year but got delayed to the end of the year because he did not think it was ready. Then, when Mac Miller died last September, Q felt he was not in a good place to make music(they were best friends), and he scratched the whole album and started over. Crash Talk is an album that although it does feel rushed, also feels a lot lighter and happier than anything we have gotten from Schoolboy Q this far. He has stated that he is the happiest right now than he has ever been in his life, and I think it is pretty apparent from this record. It is just so much more soft in tone than anything he has put out so far. This album totally has its fair share of bangers; ‘5200,’ ‘Crash,’ and ‘Floating’ are all the type of hard as hell party cuts that we have come to expect from Schoolboy. Although a lot of people did not love this lighter tone from Q, I thought it was a cool breath of fresh air from the intensity we have come to expect from him. I am glad that he is in a better place now.
If you are a huge fan of Schoolboy Q and have been able to see how he progressed as a person as his career has progressed, it has sure been a wild ride. Back in the days, he was making Setbacks, Q was one of the scariest and hardest gangsta rappers out there, making his intensity and emotion palpable in his lyrics. Many years later, although Q still raps with the same lyrical cleverness and intensity, his music is so much lighter and tongue in cheek. Some people have criticized Crash Talk because they miss the old gang banging and druggy Q, and honestly to my comment to those people is “Fuck You;” dude has said that he is in a better place than he has ever been, so enjoy his music and be happy for him. We as consumers need to stop wanting artists to be sad or in a bad place because we think it makes the music better; it is a total assinine and bullshit way to think. I am just excited to see what he puts out next because once again I am sure it will be different from anything he has made so far.