Schoolboy Q | ARTIST
Oxymoron | ALBUM
Top Dawg / Interscope | LABEL
25 February 2014 | RELEASE DATE
8.1 | 10
Schoolboy Q is responsible for some of the best rap songs of the past couple years, surprising for such a relatively unknown commodity in the hip-hop field. His peers, including A$AP Rocky and Kendrick Lamar, have all benefitted from Q assists, while surpassing his notoriety in the process. “Brand New Guy,” from A$AP Rocky’s Live.Love.A$AP, was that mixtape’s undeniable highlight, with the two rappers trading lines with a playful exuberance impossible to deny. “Biggie and Nas put they ass in a blender / Sprinkle some 50 and came out this n——,” Q rapped on the cut, in the most braggadocio line in a rap song on the other side of Lamar’s proclamation of being 2Pac and Biggie’s offspring on “Control (HOF).” Oxymoron is the sound of Schoolboy Q swinging for the fences. With all that power, there are the inevitable home runs, while also the occasional strike-out.
The off-kilter “Collard Greens,” featuring Kendrick Lamar, is Oxymoron in capsule form. It’s equal parts old-school rap and new-age hip-hop, with a certifiably recognizable chorus. It’s a lot of fun while seriously flexing both rappers verbal muscles. Other collaborations, such as the 2 Chainz-assisted “What They Want” and “Blind Threats,” featuring Raekwon, don’t work nearly as well. Both are exquisitely produced, but ultimately insubstantial offerings.
Arguably the best moments of Oxymoron (if not the most consistent) comes during the album’s back half, which features previously released tracks “Break the Bank,” “Man of the Year” and “Hell of a Night.” “Night” was first released in late 2013, but it really shines on Oxymoron. It begs for radio airplay, and it just might get its wish. Like the two songs that follow “Night,” what makes the song work is the juxtaposition of the joyous words Q spits and the foreboding, ominous productions. “Man of the Year” achieves this quality to perfection. The song samples the fantastic Chromatics’ single “Cherry,” using that song’s heart melting guitar riff as its backbone. It’s an otherwise celebratory tune, yet the use of “Cherry” creates a fascinating gap between the words he says and the music behind those words.
While that stretch could be considered the most consistently rewarding of Oxymoron, the album’s unquestionable opuses are “Hoover Street” and “Prescription-Oxymoron.” On the former, Q raps on the hook, “2012 ain’t really happen / So I guess it’s back to trappin’,” and in the process offering up an explanation for why the majority of Oxymoron is cloaked in darkness. But instead of bogging down the album, the dark sonics help define Schoolboy’s worldview, while lyrically he constantly showcases what makes him one of the more easily identifiable and compelling rappers in this era’s new crop of MCs.