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Album Review: Schoolboy Q-Oxymoron

  • Artist: Schoolboy Q
  • Title: Oxymoron
  • Lead Single: Collard Greens
  • Twitter:
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Oxymoron (äk-sē-ˈmȯr-ˌän): noun – a figure of speech in which apparently contradictory terms appear in conjunction.

The paths of our lives are paved with hypocrisies. For as forthright and righteous we may be in our own cause, we can be equally contradictory as ambiguities blur lines and pencil in shades of gray. For ScHoolboy Q, his oxymoron is that everything wrong he does is for the right cause, his daughter Joy. This component critically appropriates the title of Q’s third studio album, Oxymoron.

Much more than a repurposed literary term, Oxymoron is a representation of Quincy Hanley’s life, especially his early years, the tales of a young gangsta. It can seem like a cop out to label something as “gangsta” when writing about hip-hop, unless of course it actually is “gangsta,” an element that ScHoolboy Q has authentically brought to his raps. In the words of daughter Joy, “fuck rap, my daddy a gangsta.”

From the beginning to end, Oxymoron is entrenched in this aura, producing an authentically sinister vibe. Entangled in darkness, drug addiction and the wicked nature of gang culture, Oxymoron transports us to a nightmarish soundscape that is as frightening as it is delightful. Ironically, the macabre air that engulfs Oxymoron, breathes life into the album, animating the dwindling presence of true gangster rap into something refreshingly organic.

“Gangbanging was a ritual and grandma would help/ She should’ve never left her gun on the shelf/ This little piggy went to market, this little piggy carry chrome.” Hoover Street is like a tale of innocence lost, flipping an old nursery rhyme at the end of the second verse to fit his childhood infatuation with gang culture. Q’s grandmother actually showed him his first strap as she used to take the bullets out and let him play with it. When he was about 11, his homie Rat Tone showed him his first AK-47. By the time he was 12 his gangbanging career was underway. While you were playing your Gameboy, young Quincy was playing with gats. Let that thought digest for a while.

But what adds layers to this complicated tale is a genuine human element that permeates through Q’s rhymes. Gangbanging may desensitize a man to violence, drugs and everything that comes with the territory, but Q’s acknowledgement of these evils adds depth to a generally shallow subject matter, strengthening the oxymoron of Oxymoron. This becomes apparent in Blind Threats when he rhymes, “kneeling down with some questions to address like/ Why the ones who commit the worst sins live the best?/ The Ten Commandments, I can mark five checks/ But I sense flaws, the Bible preaching blind threats.” Oh, and if that’s not enough for you, Raekwon holds it down with the final verse.

What truly makes these nightmarish beats and criminally beautiful lyrics come together is the wildly unpredictable madness of Q’s flow.  His whimsical erraticism adds a level of anxious phobic madness that’s compounded with a high level of confidence. Sprinkle in the signature “YAWK, YAWK, YAWK,” adlibs and in the paraphrased words of Carl Weathers, “baby you got a (gangsta ass) stew goin’.” Even 2 Chainz took a shot at emulating the capricious flow, which complimented Q nicely on WHat They Want, as the two personalities congeal on dark soundscape provided by Mike Will Made It.

Recently, ScHoolboy Q has been upfront with his drug addiction, something he’s kept under wraps for a while. “My little secret, she gon’ kill a thug.” Q invites us into a two-part tale of introspection and anguish, sharing more of his trials and tribulations. Prescription is his story as an addict as we find a nearly comatose Q who’s just wrecked on prescription meds. Q paints another sorrowful masterpiece with the pain of his addiction. “I cry when nothing’s wrong, I’m mad when peace is involved.” The eeriness of the beat and the painful lyrics are sandwiched between the sounds of his daughter trying to wake her father from his torpid state. As he snaps out of his drug induced stupor, the beat changes to that violent sound we’ve become accustomed to as he starts to sell the drugs he used to abuse. Being the existential thug he is, it’s much more than just celebrating the drug money. “How could they say feeling good is an addiction?/ But the world is full of shit so I don’t listen/ In fact, ‘we living to die’ is a contradiction.”

In many respects, ScHoolboy’s sound is a lot like 50 Cent’s, an artist he idolizes. It get’s understandably tricky when you compare two hip-hop contemporaries; so before you start calling bullshit, think about it.  While Q’s flow, cadence and lyricism are wholly different from Fif, it’s that “King Kong ain’t got shit on me,” kind of bravado that draws a comparison to the early days of 50 Cent. Groovy Q has been “50 raised, since my county days”, taking that east coast confidence to the west on his outro, Fuck LA. “I keep a Glock or get razor sharp, bitch, get left with Pac/ My Biggie knock, he won’t know who shot, fearing down the block.” Despite recording several tracks together, unfortunately 50 Cent didn’t make the cut on the album.

Oxymoron creates a distance from the immediate association of Kendrick Lamar to anything ScHoolboy Q or TDE related, as the media is so quick to do. Anytime the group gets brought up it’s always, “Kendrick Lamar and TDE” or questions like, “how has Kendrick’s rise fame helped Top Dawg Entertainment?” But fuck that because it’s Quincy’s turn. K-Dot played a big part in this album as he not only did the track listing under Q’s guidance, but his assistance on Collard Greens helped to showcase ScHoolboy Q to a wider audience. With all that help, Q took care of the rest, stepping out from Kendrick’s shadow. His fans see his independent artistry, but it’s now the world’s turn to witness.

He’s created a sound that’s truly sovereign of his peers. With production credits to Pharrell, Tyler, The Creator and The Alchemist, he’s aligned himself with artists who helped to create something so sonically idiosyncratic to SCHoolboy Q. Add in verses from West Coast legends like Kurupt and Suga Free and he perfectly blends the LA sound with the uniqueness of his own.

ScHoolboy Q’s Oxymoron has been a few years in the making, but the timing and execution of the album is going to surprise a lot of listeners.  Oxymoron is just the type of ingeniously twisted and dark type of album that’ll make ScHoolboy Q shine. It’s worth every penny, but shit, if you ain’t gonna buy Oxymoron, you might as well cop that ski mask and rob someone for it. YAWK YAWK YAWK.

-Review by Carmine Colangelo

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