Album Review: ScHoolboy Q’s Oxymoron

Schoolboy Q

After two successful independent records (including 2012’s Habits and Contradictions), Black Hippy/TDE member ScHoolboy Q announced a full-length two years ago that his major label début was in the works.

During that two years in which his label-mate and friend Kendrick Lamar figuratively shat all over the competition, ScHoolboy Q kept himself busy with numerous guest features, including for the rapper even your grandma loves, Macklemore, and dropping new singles. The promised release Oxymoron has finally arrived and it hasn’t strayed too far from ScHoolboy Q’s formula.

The dark, gangland, drug themed schizo-raps that made his work so compelling are on full force, albeit with a different flavour at times. The self proclaimed ‘baller futuristic, groovy gangsta with an attitude’ glides over beats laying down street tales from his gangster days mixed in with the occasional party funk jam guaranteed to get the crowds pumped up.

Oxymoron features numerous guest spots including Tyler The Creator, Raekwon, 2 Chainz and Kendrick Lamar to name a few, all ranging from solid to excellent. The most memorable feature however is from Schoolboy Q’s three-year-old daughter Joy. She appears sporadically throughout the album with random lines, including a heart-breaking moment on ‘Prescription/Oxymoron’ where she tries to wake him up after he’s been rendered unconscious due to his drug use.

Despite ScHoolboy Q’s more lively, fun tracks like ‘Man Of The Year’ and ‘Los Awesome’, his demons and the pressures of his former drug dealing gangster life are the more interesting side to his music. On the track ‘Hoover Street’ in between references to crackheads and Nintendo 64, he mentions his drug addicted uncle living with his family and bribing an underage Q with alcohol in exchange for urine for drug tests.

He prays for God’s forgiveness and to take him away from his problems on ‘Blind Threats’ but also admits he’s “high on some drug/ I’m space cadet”. He may have been a gangster and a drug dealer, but he was also a walking, rapping contradiction.

When you go from a track like ‘Prescription/Oxymoron’ which is a stand-out detailing his drug dependency, to something like ‘What They Want’ where he implores the ladies to “drop your pants to your knees” – the difference in quality in song content is very noticeable – Oxymoron is, in fact, an oxymoron. There however isn’t a single bad track on the album.

‘Collard Greens’ is a definite highlight even just for hearing Lamar rap in multiple languages. The album’s deluxe edition features another must-hear slow jam track called ‘Grooveline Pt. 2’. Featuring an old school West Coast rapper called Suga Free who sounds like the most awesomely eccentric pimp of all time.

On the production side of things, the music is handled by different producers including Tyler The Creator, man of the moment Pharrell Williams, Mike Will Made It and The Alchemist. The songs are all sonically brilliant, and the beat for ‘Break The Bank’ on the right sound system could slap the taste out of your mouth.

Does Oxymoron improve on ScHoolboy Q’s previous work? Yes and no. It’s a great album no doubt, and a perfect starter for hopefully a great year in rap but this Vulture is convinced that with growth ScHoolboy Q could drop something to even match Kendrick’s music, which is still miles ahead.

Whether he needs a few better thought-out tracks or just to balance the content better is the question but if a dirty, loud and gangsteriffic album is something you love, you have every reason to check out Oxymoron.

Josh Brooks

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