Wednesday, 19 March 2014

''Oxymoron'' Schoolboy Q - A Review

Coming off the back of Kendrick's outrageous success, a blow out cypher at the BET Awards last year and continuing with Isaiah Rashad's standout debut last month, it's safe to say that it's never been a better time to be a part of Black Hippy and Top Dawg Entertainment. Just about the most hyped group of rappers in hip-hop right now, it feels like anything TDE touch will turn to gold, and here we have the third record from one of the flagship members of the group in Schoolboy Q. Oxymoron comes at a point where greatness is now expected of any TDE member, and following a relatively well received initial two outings by Q in 2011 and 2012, it seemed safe to assume that this could be one of the biggest and best rap albums of the year if executed correctly.

Unfortunately this is far from the case. Q is a wholly different rapper from his labelmates, favouring brash, loud anthems over the conscious rap style of Kendrick and Rashad, but this isn't the problem itself. After all, there are any number of similar minds in the game right now who are just providing straight up bangers over any deep thought pieces, and doing it extremely well; ASAP Rocky, Bronson and Tyler to name just three. But Schoolboy's problem is not that he has nothing to say, it's that he's saying it badly. The lyrics we are subjected to throughout Oxymoron's 60 minute, outstayed running time are beyond average, and repetitive to a fault as Schoolboy brags about drugs, money and women in cringeworthy style from first track to last.

There are moments of quality throughout the sludge, mainly provided by well chosen guest spots that include Kendrick on ''Collard Greens'', a decent lead single you should be familiar with already from last summer, Tyler The Creator who brings his trademark darkness and menacing production to ''The Purge'', and Raekwon on album highlight ''Blind Threats''. Another consistent highlight is the album's production which features the usual TDE cohorts in Sounwave, THC and Digiphonics, who bring some much needed background musical quality to tracks like ''What They Want'' which suffer from Q and 2 Chainz standing in front of them.

As impressive as the music can be at times however (''Blind Threats'' in particular is excellent), it still cannot save Schoolboy's resounding mediocrity in the rap department. Q boasts a decent flow but can't back it up with any substance, and every time he mentions another drug deal or all night party, it's hard to shake the feeling that there's somebody on the rap scene right now doing the same thing a whole lot better.

It's easy to see where Schoolboy Q fits into Black Hippy- he's that eccentric loose cannon, the loud one who they'll give the hooks to- but the undeniable fact based on this material is that right now (and probably in a long term future, judging by the fact it's a little late to turn things around as far in as a third album) his reputation and popularity is being carried by better, younger, and more talented friends. There is a great deal more to come from Top Dawg and Black Hippy and he'll probably ride a mighty high wave as a result of it, but I'll be surprised if it gets any better for Schoolboy Q's solo career than Oxymoron, and all considered, that's a damning verdict.


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