The last we heard from Top Dawg Entertainments’ ScHoolboy Q was his 2014 major label debut Oxymoron and since then eager fans have been waiting over 2 years for the second installment of the chronicles of Groovy Q.
Opening slowly, the first track 'TorcH' slides into a lyrical collage of Q’s past as a South Central gang banger. Aided by Anderson .Paak, Quincy’s lyrics place the listener on the street corners he is talking about, and the production helps to throw the audiences head through the faded state he describes. Emerging from the confusion, Anderson .Paak’s sobering voice draws the scene setting to a close.
Immediately following the first track, ‘Lord Have Mercy’ is a stark contrast. From the Gospel inspired beat to Q’s list of confessions, this number illustrates the rock bottom of Schoolboy’s life as a 'gangbanger, deadbeat father and drug dealer'. A real moment of realisation and reflection that, "being real never bought the groceries".
In a microcosm these two tracks define an album which has contrast and reflection at its heart. Contrast between the dualistic nature of who Quincy was as a gangster, and who he has become since, is the basis of much of the reflection which Q contemplates on fantastically written songs like ‘Neva CHange’ and ‘Ride Out’.
Poignant examination of the traps which keep youths in the cycle of gang culture on tracks like ‘Black THought’ and ‘Str8 Ballin’ expose a new, deeper and more philosophical side to Q that wasn’t so much shown on Oxymoron.
Also worth noting is the way in which the production on the album compliments its themes, which is not surprising considering the all star cast responsible for it.
Swizz Beats, The Alchemist, Metro Boomin’ and even Tyler the Creator shape a sound much more mature than that on Q’s last album. It draws from soul, funk and even grunge to create a developed and complex tapestry on which Quincy paints Simultaneously, features from Kanye, Vince Staples and a host of others provide respite for the more serious sections of the album.
Following up a Grammy nominated album is not an easy thing to do. Fans want an artist to retain the same sound and substance which attracted them to the artist in the first place, whilst elaborating and expanding their sound to keep things interesting - it’s clear that’s something Q has strived for on this album.
Overall it’s a strong step in what definitely feels like the right direction, both lyrically and musically it’s a step up from his major label debut.
Coming up as Kendrick’s hype man, ScHoolboy has always had a point to prove, but the ‘Blank Face LP’ moves past that and establishes Q as the anti-hero in a TDE good cop-bad cop routine alongside K.Dot.
West Coast rap has a rich history of story telling - a history which Schoolboy Q adds to on this album - and as it concludes, you get the feeling Q’s observing his past life from a distance, new perspective in mind, squinting to make out the faces of people he once knew.