An enjoyable collection of hip hop songs that any rap fan will enjoy: ScHoolboy Q’s latest album is a bold, passionate work of art.
2014’s ‘Oxymoron’ saw ScHoolboy Q admirably lock horns with the darker side of hip hop. The album was dreary, reflective and beautifully West Coast. A key aspect of the project was ScHoolboy Q’s ‘casting’ ability, whether it be the numerous producers he worked with or the numerous guest rappers that he shared the spotlight with. The rapper has carried this skill onto ‘Blank Face LP’, and the result is another pretty special record.
Let’s start with the album’s guest verses. If you’re living in 2016 and you’re not digging Anderson .Paak, you’re a real wisenheimer. Paak makes with the soulfulness on opener ‘TorcH’ and ‘Blank Face’, the latter being a pretty remarkable example of his talents – the vocal talents that made for some of the highlights on Dr. Dre’s ‘Compton’ and Paak’s own ‘Malibu’, released earlier this year. The likes of Kendrick Lamar and Vince Staples also present themselves well, Staples especially; his performance on ‘Ride Out’ is powerful. Also, shout-out to E-40’s appropriately humorous performance on ‘Dope Dealer’, a real highlight of the album.
Still, that’s not to say there aren’t one or two ill-advised features on ‘Blank Face LP’. Not to say Kanye West’s vocals on ‘THat Part’ aren’t welcomed; they’re just not that rewarding. One could easily get irritated by his “Walkin’, livin’ legend, man I feel like Kobe”, and not for the lyrics, but for his over-the-top, scenery-chewing delivery. Though you could argue that the delivery makes for an entertaining listen.
Now let’s talk about the production; Anthony “Top Dawg” Tiffith is once again at the helm, on the top rung of a ladder that includes The Alchemist and Swizz Beats. A very enjoyable aspect of ScHoolboy Q albums is that they have a lot of diverse, modern nuances in the beats, but still often stay true to Q’s influences. ‘Neva CHange’ in particular has that introspective, ‘90s west coast quality, the kind of production that boasts a nostalgic feel, even if you weren’t around for ‘90s hip hop. Nez & Rio’s contributions also cannot go unnoticed; ‘TorcH’, ‘Str8 Ballin’ and ‘Tookie Knows’ are all incredibly hectic, utilising computerized percussion, string sections and other subtle instrumental inclusions beautifully.
Finally, let’s talk about the man himself. ScHoolboy Q once again shows off his lyrical prowess on ‘Blank Face LP’, somehow managing to couple comedic with psychotic, merge political with disparaging, and, in old-school fashion, breed stoner with sexual. Nothing is ground-breaking, nothing is innovative or even noticeably clever – but it’s all purposeful, and delivered quintessentially by Q’s punishing, nasal vocals.
At the most, ‘Blank Face LP’ is a bold, passionate work of art. At the least, it’s an enjoyable collection of hip hop songs that any rap fan will enjoy.
‘Blank Face LP’ is out now via Interscope Records
This Schoolboy Q review was written by Ben Malkin, a GIGsoup Contributor. Edited by Stephen Butchard.