written by Carla Bynum
Q released his major record label debut album Oxymoron over two years ago but that wasn’t the first we’d heard from the California native. In 2008, he released his first full length mixtape called ScHoolboy Turned Hustla and he released the mixtape Gangsta & Soul the following year. In 2009 he also signed to the independent record label Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE). It wasn’t until 2011 that he released his first independent album Setbacks. A little more than a year later, he released his second independent album Habits & Contradictions.
The album starts off with the track “TorcH,” featuring vocals by Anderson .Paak. They don’t care about the well-being of those around them because they have worked hard to get everything they have. Q says he sees the devil in disguise when he looks into his eyes because he is controlled by his love for money, which is explicitly talked about in the bible. The love of money is the root of evil.
ScHoolboy Q has never been shy about his gangbanging lifestyle. Although he knows that he sins regularly in his life, he hopes that the Lord will have mercy on his soul and he will one day make it to heaven. “Lord Have Mercy” is short and sincere and features Swizz Beatz.
One of the album’s lead singles “THat Part” was released on May 13th and features a verse and production from Kanye West. The song also features production credits from Cardo, Yung Exclusive and Cubeatz. An official video for the song was released on June 2nd and the song was remixed and features verses from Q’s Black Hippy cohorts. The remix was released on July 8th and was later released for purchase on July 16th.
“Groovy Tony” serves as the first part of track number four and is the album’s first official single. Q is joined by arguably one of the top 5 rappers dead or alive Jadakiss. The song was influenced by Ghostface Killah. The second part of the track is “Eddie Kane.” Q likens himself to the little brother of Eddie Kane, a character from the movie “The Five Heartbeats.” Eddie was known as the troublemaker of the group who fell into a life of drugs following the group’s success. Q feels like he’s Eddie’s little brother because he has fallen into a similar lifestyle.
Q addresses the leeches in his life who weren’t there for him before his successful rap career but now have their hands out on “Kno Ya Wrong.” Lance Skiiiwalker joins Q on part two of the song about his desire for a particular woman who he would like to deposit into his life like he deposits money into his bank account.
ScHoolboy Q and Vince Staples collaborate on the song “Ride Out” where they share stories of growing up in their respective hoods. They want to ride out, smoke, and get dough. The two previously collaborated on Staples song “Back Sellin’ Crack” from his mixtape Stolen Youth in 2013.
Q is joined by South African singer and songwriter Candice Pillay on the song “WHateva U Want,” a love song about how Q plans to spoil his lady and give her whatever it is she wants.
Malcolm X’s classic speech “By Any Means Necessary” is a speech that all African American’s should seek, according to ScHoolboy Q. On his song “By Any Means,” Q reimagines the speech in his own terms to fit his lifestyle and he encourages listeners to “get yours by any means.” Kendrick Lamar joins Q on the song’s hook. This song was also featured as a part of Q’s short film prior to the album’s release.
ScHoolboy Q and E-40 share tales of their drug dealing days on the track “Dope Dealer.” The song features production from Southside and Metro Boomin.
“JoHn Muir” is the name of the middle school that Q attended and according to him, that was the beginning for him. When he premiered the song at his listening party, he said, “The beginning of me fucking with my homies from the hood. The beginning of me stealing, robbing, getting beat up, jackin’ niggas, getting jacked, the whole nine.”
Q and Tyler the Creator reunited on the song “Big Body,” where Tyler serves as the producer. Q and Tha Dogg Pound, consisting of rappers Daz Dillinger and Kurupt, call out the fakes who claim they are someone they aren’t.
SZA and ScHoolboy Q reflect on certain issues they have faced in the world but they realize that things will “Neva CHange.”
ScHoolboy Q compares his old life in the hood when he was hustling to his new life as a financially successful rapper. When he was a child, people oftentimes told him that his chances at success were slim and he would never make it big but now he’s “Str8 Ballin.”
“Black THoughts” starts with a snippet of Trayvon Ray Cail who is serving a life sentence in prison for a murder that took place in SeaTac, Washington. Cail talks about growing up in the hood and how he didn’t have his parents around to teach him right from wrong. The streets taught him. ScHoolboy Q can relate to his experience because he grew up in a similar neighborhood and became enthralled with the street life. He raps about the state of life in the hood. Q tweeted that it’s a shame that he wrote this song and “Neva Change” over a year ago and they still speak to current happenings in the world.
Anderson .Paak joins Q again for the album’s title track “Blank Face,” a song about Q’s struggles and how he has learned to accept the faults in the world and taking it for what it truly is.
“Overtime” is a smooth bedroom song reminiscent to Q’s hit single “Studio.” Q admitted that he was originally hesitant to include the song on the album and the label made him. He also said the record label was wise to include a radio record such as “Overtime” on the album. The song features Miguel and Justine Skye.
The mixtape Habits & Contradictions featured the “Tookie Knows” interlude. Fans were excited to hear the “Tookie Knows II” follow up on the new album. The song is a reference to drugpen Stanley “Tookie” Williams who was instrumental in the development of the West Side Crips, which Q is a part of. The song features appearances by rappers Traffic and TF.
Although ScHoolboy Q is an underappreciated artist, there’s no doubt that he is one of the greats of our generation lyrically. He has a gritty and honest style about him that rap fans can truly appreciate. His albums have been consistently good and he continues to deliver banger after banger. This album is easily one of the best rap albums of the year thus far.
Recommended Tracks: “By Any Means,” “JoHn Muir,” “Neva CHange” “Blank Face” “Overtime”