ScHoolboy Q is a bum. Or to put it in his own words, “…a gang-banger, deadbeat father and drug dealer.” In fact, this quote couldn’t sum up the themes of Q’s music better. From selling oxycontin, to gang-banging in the name of the Hoover Crips, Q has always brought his reality to life through unapologetic verses and raw production. He is apart of the new, alternative, grimier West Coast sound that is emerging from Southern California (other members include Vince Staples (who is featured on this project) and Earl Sweatshirt). His 2012 album, Habits & Contradictions, is a good example of a solid West Coast gangster rap project that refuses to appeal to any mainstream audience. On Blank Face LP, Q attempts to draw in a loose concept while still bringing grimy lyrics and tales of gang-banging. What resulted was a very hard, yet cohesive, project that has some of Q’s best work to date. With excellent production and unapologetic lyrics, Blank Face LP is a must listen for any gangster rap fan.
When I said this project is hard, I meant HARD. Songs like “Dope Dealer” and “Tookie Knows II” are living proof of this statement. Metro Boomin and Southside come through on the beat for “Dope Dealer”, and boy do they deliver. With a beat that sounds like something out of a horror movie, Q and E-40 (featured on the track) ride it perfectly to make it a certified banger. Another track I HAVE to mention while we’re on the topic of “hard” is “Ride Out” featuring Vince Staples. My god does this track bang. The utter chaos of this beat is amplified even further with similarly chaotic verses from Q and Vince Staples. There are many moments on this project that share these vibes. One of the most exhilarating moments on the album is on “Groovy Tony/Eddie Kane”. This track starts out as a grimy, boom-bap banger and turns into what I felt was a cinematic adrenaline rush. The beat switch from “Groovy Tony” to “Eddie Kane” is absolutely glorious. It picks up on the momentum from an excellent Jadakiss verse and sends the whole track into overdrive with a fast paced beat accompanied by some killer vocals in between. This was certainly a stand out track. However, nothing takes the ghetto cake like “Tookie Knows II”; a song that, in my opinion, is one of the best representations of gangsta rap I’ve heard in the last five years. The surging sub-bass and the dreary piano loop instantly make you feel that your experiencing Q’s lyrics first hand. And thanks to solid guest verses from Traffic and TF, you can practically picture the gang violence. Songs like this may be frowned upon due to the misinterpretation that they are glorifying the violence and drug trafficking. In reality, these artists are simply painting the portrait as they see it from their very own eyes. In fact, its tracks like these that are the best. Tracks that capture the mayhem that sometimes takes place in areas like LA. Its tracks like these that help listeners who can’t exactly relate to the content understand the reality that some of these people face.
With all this being said, there are also some tracks on Blank Face that recognize these many issues, and at times, offer solutions. Tracks like “Black THougHts” and “Neva CHange” are examples of these. While “Neva CHange” obviously implies that these problems, no matter what attention they garner, may never be solved, it still manages to bring about emotions of regret and disbelief of the many problems in the ghetto. These songs got my attention because Q doesn’t tend to make many songs like this. In fact, Oxymoron (his debut studio album) was one of the first times I have ever heard Q bring up personal issues and reflect upon them. He continues to make strides toward those topics on these songs. Part of the reason for this certainly can be attributed to the fact that he has a daughter, Joy, whom he has to raise. Things like this can make you realize the consequences of your actions, and realize how your decisions may affect others. The other in this case being his daughter. On “Black THougHts”, Q takes time to call out the grim reality of gang-banging: “I wrote these rhymes days apart, most of us caught before we can expand our thoughts, how your grandmother see your corpse?” On “Neva CHange” Q compares the violence on the streets to a vicious circle of life that never seems to end.
I think that’s what struck me most about this project. The utter chaos it depicts so vividly, yet, there are still glimmers of hope scattered in between. One simple line in the very beginning of “TorcH” (another EXCELLENT track) stuck with me. In fact its the first real line in the entire album, and I believe that it sums up Q’s views perfectly (even though its actually said by Anderson .Paak). “I’ll trade the noise for a piece of devine.” The noise in this case being the chaos of Q’s experiences on Hoover Street and Figueroa Avenue. ScHoolboy Q is not trying to be a prophet or the knight in shining armor who has come to save the ghetto. He is simply reporting his reality while simultaneously trying to right his wrongs. There was depth on Blank Face that I haven’t really experienced from Q before. He took the “blank face” concept and ran with it, and in the process, managed to make what is a very chilling, yet very emotional album. Not bad for a guy who describes himself as “…a gang-banger, deadbeat father and drug dealer…”