When you listen to Schoolboy Q‘s third studio release, Oxymoron, prepare for a reminiscent experience. Why reminiscent? Because Q seems to channel his West Coast gangsta rap forefathers while still creating ways to mix in his own vibrant charisma.
Ever since Tog Dawg Entertainment‘s star quartet of Jay Rock, Ab Soul, Schoolboy Q and Kendrick Lamar introduced themselves to the world in 2011, it seems like they’ve been gradually pulling the hip-hop universe towards the
west best coast. Kendrick Lamar, the quartet’s most successful member thus far, released an album that was debated throughout 2012, received Grammy nominations, and catapulted himself into the conversation for most prominent artist over the past year.
Even prior to his own release, Q‘s voice rang out in a boisterous way: he exclaims “Yawk yawk yawk yawk!” at the beginning of what became the culminating song at many of Lamar‘s tour stops, “m.A.A.d. City”. However, it seems that this time around, the stage has been set for Q to really prove himself with his 2014 release.
On Oxymoron, Q portrays himself as a deeply conflicted artist–and not a “Marvin’s Room”-type of conflicted. No, his personal conflicts seem to be a bit deeper.
Q‘s version of the tales he has to tell about life in Crenshaw are more rugged than what listeners experienced with his label mate’s 2012 release. Make no mistakes, Q makes gangsta rap. He just happens to roll with the hippies.
This album is definitely rich with authentic emotion along with Q‘s tough talk and introspective lyrics. He conveys some of the contradictions he’s living with by discussing his ambitions, addictions, and healthier vices while also demonstrating an ability to create catchier songs needed for radio-play (“Break The Bank,” “Prescription/Oxymoron,” “Studio”).
“Collard Greens” has given Q consistent airplay and extended his reach to a newer audience. The song reached the top 30 R&B/Hip Hop charts and gave Q a place on terrestrial radio. His latest single, “Break The Bank,” provides an exceptionally well done mash up of Q‘s laid back flow on some of Alchemist‘s best recent production.
Q‘s collaboration with Raekwon on “Blind Threats” is a reflective journey into the mindset of many people trapped in the hood. More specifically, he discusses working towards a better life and experiencing conflicted thoughts on religion. On this track Q exclaims: “But if God won’t help me, this gun will/I swear I’m gon’ find my way.” Both Q and Raekwon the Chef are introspective over this mellow track on what turns out to be a captivating match of styles.
Despite all of this, the effort is not flawless. The Pharrell-produced “Los Awesome” feels a little staged and less authentic than other songs, and Q enlists 2 Chainz on the sleepy “What They Want,” a collaboration less hard-hitting than it seemed on paper.
Overall, Schoolboy Q‘s ear for quality production adds incredible balance to his style on this project. He fluctuates between lively and laid back, while being selective enough with production to ensure that the two are complementary. Whether you’ve been riding with Q for years, or you just recently stumbled across his music, Oxymoron serves as an easy entry point into the world of Schoolboy.
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