Review: Schoolboy Q, ‘Oxymoron’


51HOVga9zOL._SL500_AA280_ Oxymoron proves to be a dark, captivating, yet sometimes difficult album to listen to 

Schoolboy Q • Oxymoron • Top Dawg/Interscope • US Release Date: February 25, 2014

Schoolboy Q keeps things 100 on Oxymoron – he keeps it real “from the jump” (catch the Drake reference?).  In fact, the MC keeps things so ‘real’ that at times Oxymoron is a truly difficult (polarizing) to listen to.  Sure, the old saying “honesty is the best policy” applies here and the candidness and frankness of Schoolboy Q is appreciated, but Oxymoron isn’t exactly the most endearing rap effort because it is so grimy and raw.  Schoolboy Q’s intentions seem to be emphasis on his machismo, his demons, and a trying, difficult life.  As always, the rap album (his third) serves as the ultimate ‘come-up’, with the rapper’s daughter playing a central role in his life-changing experience, judging by numerous references throughout.  Ultimately, Oxymoron, an album that is confounding yet impressive, ends up showing the range of abilities of the rapper.  It’s not perfection realized, but there are plenty of exceptional moments working toward that goal.

Schoolboy Q is a “G” from the get-go, as his daughter asserts on the intro of “Gangsta”: “Hello…hello? F**k rap, my daddy a gangster.” If the idea of being a ‘gangsta’ wasn’t firmly planted, Schoolboy Q ensures on the hook he repeats it a million times so that you know his status.  While merely stating a description of himself wouldn’t make him a ‘G’, Q backs up things with brash rhymes that he spits over incredible production work.  He also asserts he’s a pimp…he gets it in, easily.

As much as a bang “Gangsta” is, “Los Awesome” is better, sporting more agile rhymes and sick production courtesy of none other than one ubiquitous Pharrell Williams.  The hook slays from a first listen: “I’m a groove type n****a, rather two-step with you / pants sagging, rag dragging, rather gangbang with you / triggers squeeze, throw a palette, throw them thing-things with you / hot degrees, anti-freeze, chilling cool-cool with you…” Q doesn’t stop on the hook as he also spits ether throughout his verses: “Looking like a reaper in your driveway / strays through your living room / liable to drive-by on a summer day / July 4th will be in June…” He also gets the assist from Jay Rock, who complements the violent tilt: “N***as that’ll murder ya, steal you like a burglar / seemed the soul was long gone before I got them / he was dead before I shot him, it’s the reaper.”

Collard Greens” proceeds in top-notch form, retaining its greatness since being released as a single back in 2013.  From the opening groove by the drums, to the gimmicky, infectious hook, “Collard Greens” is quite distinct.  “Oh, oh luxury / chidi-chidi-ching could buy anything, cop that / oh, oh, collard greens / three degrees low, make it hot for me drop that”, Schoolboy Q raps on the hook.  Schoolboy Q is on autopilot, rapping “Kush be my fragrance, we love marijuana / function on fire, burn the roof of this mother f**ker”. Kendrick Lamar captivates on the second verse, providing a little bit of everything including Spanish and his signature gun sound effects.  Among Lamar’s best lines is when he proclaims, “I’m more than a man, I’m a God, b**ch, touché, en garde.” Stoners and non-stoners alike can indulge in the greatness of “Collard Greens” – the song itself that is!

Anytime 2 Chainz is featured on the track, well, you know there is probably an element of perversion and stupidity about it.  “What They Want” doesn’t go too dumb, but it is also sort of what you would expect – driven by sex.  The hook sums up Q’s intentions: “This the sh*t that they want / this the sh*t that they need / tell me where are you from / drop you pants to your knees, girl I’m capital G…” Even so, Q has his moments, like the clever “Might cop the Phantom, get ghost…” He ruins it with a line about his… and what he plans to do to her… but it is what it is! As for 2 Chainz, he goes the blasphemous route: “Oh Lord, she in Christians, all gold on my Adventist / pull it down and she kiss it, all gold where my wrists is.”

Hoover Street” is one of those difficult moments to listen to as Q expresses his ‘story’.  It is insightful, but certainly is an experienced that not everyone will relate to.  “I got that work, f**k Labor Day, just bought a gun / f**k punching in, throwing rocks, no hopscotch / Bet my 9 milli hit the right spot…,” he spits on the intro.  Perhaps the most troubling aspect of the narrative of “Hoover Street” comes on verse two, in which Q spits “Gangbanging was a ritual and grandma would help / should’ve never left her gun on the shelf.”  After “Hoover Street”, Q switches gears for a bedroom-joint, “Studio”, featuring the vocals of BJ The Chicago Kid.  Rather than focusing on shooting someone or violence, Q thinks with his pants (“See I’ve been in the studio just trying to get to you, baby / all night laying verses though I’d rather lay with you baby…”).  Ultimately, it works, providing a nice change of pace from the violence and darkness of “Hoover Street”.

Prescription/Oxymoron” proves to be an exceptional two-part track.  The first part, “Prescription” is all about being on drugs.  Throughout, Q alludes to addiction, epitomized by rhymes “Prescription drugs, I feel in love / my little secret, she gon’ kill a thug / my body numb, she like to give me hugs / I love her touch, I get a rush.”  While the line doubles as a sexual reference cleverly, Q is clearly under the influence of drugs, not love.  “Oxymoron”, the titular track, is truly an oxymoron as Q spits “I just stopped selling crack today…O-X-Y, a moron…” So he’s been addicted to drugs as well as sold drugs, which he was addicted to? That seems to be the sentiment of one of the better tracks of Oxymoron.  Not sure that it is compliment worthy given the danger of drugs and demons in general…

The Purge” is a beast, produced by and featuring Tyler, The Creator.  Again, Schoolboy Q’s daughter establishes the tone: “My daddy said drown, n***a.”  The significance of the line seems to be “the purge” that Schoolboy Q references within the title and song.  “Coming in for yours / n***as got them choppers and they knocking at your door,” Tyler, the Creator spits on the hook. “The sirens getting louder when the bodies hit the floor / why you look confused? Mother f**ker this is war.”  Schoolboy Q plays right on the maliciousness, referencing kilos, drug money, and guns. Q’s most notable moment comes during a bridge between verses: “Bust my gun all by myself / rock cocaine all by myself / poured propane all on myself / go so hard might harm myself.”  Oh, and did I mention Kurupt also guests on the third verse? “The Purge” goes hard.

Blind Threats” proceeds, but lacks the oomph that “The Purge” possessed.  Sure, having Raekwon guest on any track raises it up a notch, but as a whole, “Blind Threats” is a tad less enthralling than the best.  Still, “Aim that, shoot that, pledge allegiance / kill mine, kill yours, make it even / soul need saving, Mr. Preacher…” is a pretty awesome lyric. “Hell of A Night” is more ‘down to earth’ compared to edgier cuts like “Hoover Street” or “The Purge”, which makes it feel ‘looser’.  It isn’t that Schoolboy Q is giving up on his street savvy, but he’s more about having some fun, popping some bottles, and “making it do” as opposed to shooting someone or selling drugs.

On penultimate cut “Break The Bank”, Q keeps things ‘street-smart’, claiming its “My time to show out, finally the illest Crip / and I guarantee, I spit harder than concrete.”  He does spit pretty hard, so Schoolboy Q seems to be honest. “Man of the Year” concludes the album superbly, coming over more accessible than some of the edgiest cuts.   Still, he’s not forgotten where he came from.  “Fast forward getting real tell me now / every dog need a cat to meow, every once in a while,” he raps on the second verse. “I see hands in the crowds / see whites, blacks blazing a pound, jumping around…” Hey, he’s the ‘man of the year’, and by having a unified fan base coming out to see his shows, he’s really came up.

All in all, Oxymoron is a fine introduction of Schoolboy Q to many.  He shares what life has been like for him before becoming an up-and-coming MC in the rap game.  He’s honest, and seems to adhere to a no BS approach, which is something not all major label MCs can attest to.  Still, there’s a lot of grime and brutal honesty to sort through at times, which might be something Schoolboy Q may want to better balance out on his fourth studio LP.  Still, Oxymoron is well played.

Favorites:

“Los Awesome”; “Collard Greens”; “Prescription/Oxymoron”; “The Purge”; “Man of the Year”

Verdict: ★★★★

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