ScHoolyboy Q is a German born rapper who has spent the past 5 years building his reputation as one of the world’s biggest rap names. He is a part of the California rap group known as ‘Black Hippy’ which involves such rappers as Ab-Soul, Jay Rock and, most famously of all, Kendrick Lamar. At the young age of 29 years old he has already had a largely successful career which is only due to get better, and after the huge commercial success of his last album ‘Oxymoron’ which featured huge hits such as ‘Man Of The Year’ and ‘Collard Greens’ there has been a huge amount of hype around this album. I for one, can’t wait to review this album and see what direction Q decided to go in now. Blank Face LP.
TorcH – 6.5/10
Song starts with repetition of about 10 people saying ‘Blank Face’ which is the theme of the album as a whole. We then begin to hear a faded jazz instrumental and a cameo line from Kendrick Lamar, a fellow member of rap group Black Hippy and his influence really is felt not only on this song but on the album as a whole. The dynamic of the song then changed with a gradually built up electric guitar chord which begins to take over the track until Q wrestles it into place and begins his opening verse. The song struggles to find any form of rhythm or flow until the actual beat is brought in about a minute in and once that happens we see the song take a bit more of a place. This doesn’t mean the whole thing isn’t just pure insanity, it leaves you scratching your head as to what you had actually just heard. It’s full of distorted tones, voices and harmonies but somehow it works well, it’s just ScHoolboy Q and if you don’t get that then you won’t like him or his music. It’s an okay start to the album but it just lacks that spark, hopefully he finds it later on.
Lord Have Mercy – 7/10
Groovy little interlude section into the next song which has real soul and attitude mixed in together, it’s a fantastic beat with those glorious backing vocal harmonies along with the strategic and astute snares which mould the song into the best possible form. A religious aspect to Q which we haven’t seen before and the title would suggest him asking for forgiveness for not only things he’s already done, but for things he’s going to do in the future so the seriousness of the statement really is questionable considering what we already know about ScHoolboy Q and how he acts. Irregardless, this is a good addition and can offer a decent set up to the next song.
THat Part – 8.5/10
This is a crack den of a song. An absolutely disgustingly hard beat which is absolutely impossible to not bounce to and hit a trustworthy dab. It is, for me, an outstanding track and a proper ScHoolboy Q song with all the correct ingredients which have made him successful before: energy and aggression with a slightly twisted and sadistic undertone. I’m going to amaze you all here, there is one thing which ruins this song for me, and it’s name is Kanye West. He hands down quite possibly the biggest heap of trash I’ve heard all year from a rapper on this verse, and I’ve listened to Desiigner’s mixtape and the bars on that are still better than this out of sync, out of touch and quite frankly out of depth verse. Saying “ok” 6 times isn’t going to set the tone for the verse, especially not when the next line involves the word “chipotle”. Other than that, the song is fantastic, Q’s verses are on the mark and the beat as I’ve said is as filthy and hard as you can get.
Groovy Tony/Eddie Kane – 9/10
This is a song everyone who listens to Q has already heard for quite a while and it gets better every time you hear it. Aggression, arrogance, violent, harsh, you name it this song has it. I love the way this song feels like it’s about to go too far with Q’s lyrics and the delivery getting sharper and then he snaps back into action with either a rendition of the line “blank face” or by perhaps elongating a tone and starting from scratch. This is a strategy which works very well on this song and gives Q numerous opportunities to showcase his fantastic rapping talent. It’s the song where this idea of “Blank Face” becomes all the more apparent as the theme of gang violence, gun crime and murder in rough areas come into prominence and the “Blank Face” is in fact somebody disguised while partaking in these crimes, to increase the intimidation factor. The transition from Groovy Tony to Eddie Kane is just brilliant as its almost at the snap of a finger and we have a new beat and new bars to follow suit. It really follows the stereotype of driving down a gang fuelled area with the car stereo blasting to a song like this. That doesn’t take anything away from the quality of the flow and the lyrics, which highlight his rise to fame and how people have gone a different way to him and so he brags about his fame.
Kno Ya Wrong – 8/10
Love the teasing out of sync piano at the start, it just gives you a flavour of what the song is going to be like. It’s not your every day Q track, if anything it sounds like a Tyler, The Creator ballad with Q’s occasional flow. This doesn’t mean it’s bad at all, it’s a really cool and funky beat with those horns and the smooth piano, the switch once again halfway through the song is an absolute blessing and adds yet another dimension to an already highly experimental song. It drags a little bit but its impact on the album as a whole doesn’t go unnoticed, great song. Once again seems like a drug influenced song and that gives it extra flavour and sound.
Ride Out – 5.5/10
And we are back to the ScHoolboy Q we know. Hard snare heavy beat but not to the extent where it sounds like a Future song or like it’s been given Metro Boomin’s treatment, this is more well thought out and has far more depth to it. It also sets up the flow brilliantly, especially in the chorus which is decent but really not worth shouting about which is a shame really. Verses are strong though and do everything they can to save the song. Unfortunately it is very easy to grow tired of this song and that’s what happened in my case, okay song but the worst on the album so far. Not even Vince Staples can save this.
WHateva U Want – 5/10
Swayed beat which rolls fully out with attitude and one hell of an ego, one of my favourite beats on this album but it does get ruined for me by Q adding more and more to it and eventually drowning out the better part of the song. Catchy chorus though with the lyrics such as “Dolla Dolla bill yo” used regularly in a high key. The song loses my respect when it starts tempting itself into more of a trap/house beat after the chorus is done and it seems to just get lost and stand out as an irritating part of the song. By the end it left me angry, it sounds like Skrillex has gone in and had his awful way with this originally fantastic beat and tried adding all this electronic bass heavy tone to it and it doesn’t work. The backing vocal is creepy at best, especially at the end but I think by the end that’s what it’s going for.
By Any Means – 5/10
Underground vibe and a little help from his friends. Kendrick shows up again on the hook which is always nice to hear but again it’s hardly memorable, would rather he sack it all off and give us one verse on a song rather than all this teasing. In fact Q, put Kendrick’s black hippy remix verse of THat Part on the album instead of Kanye’s piece of agony. Anyway, back to this song, that just about sums it up, not a lot to it and it passes you by very very quickly. For me, the highlight is the deep tones of the man who’s name I’ll never know, but he shows up on songs from A$AP Rocky and Kendrick Lamar regularly, and here he provides the “By Any Means” line for us. The fact that guy is on this song is good enough for me but as mentioned, him being the highlight says it all.
Dope Dealer – 5.5/10
Oh hi, Metro Boomin, I was just talking about you. In fairness, this beat is twisted and brilliant, it has so many layers to it and can forgive some of the pretty poor lyrics. Love the feature of E-40 though he has a great verse and shines through an otherwise questionable vocal performance. The chorus is draining and the fact he says “dope dealer” around 574 times is slightly irritating to say the least. Annoying because I really like the beat and it deserves so much more than what was given in my opinion but the lyrics have let it down massively.
JoHn Muir – 8.5/10
This is some 90s gangsta rap type track and my god I love it. The beat is once again unique and groovy, which seems to be the word to epitomise this album and the lyrics are hardcore with a mix of arrogance. The chorus is as cool as anything you’ll hear in the next couple of months and it clicks straight back into a powerful and quite frankly top quality verse. I live for the addition of what I’m going to call ‘The Kendrick horn’ in the bridge as it gives the song even more than it already has. Well done Q, very very well done.
Big Body – 3/10
What in god’s name is this? It fully sounds like something you’ll hear in a Super Nintendo game from 1994 or in some 20 year old arcade game. I just don’t get it, sorry for this but I’m so confused at this song, I just don’t know what it’s trying to do. It genuinely sounds like he isn’t taking it seriously, like he’s going to record this for a laugh and then bin it after, but somehow it’s made it on the album. Saying people aren’t hot or cold all the way through the chorus is just awful, it’s not how a good song will go. Speechless, and not in a good way, more a how the hell has somebody allowed this onto the album kind of speechless. Ah well, moving swiftly on…
Neva CHange – 6/10
I had to listen to this one a couple more times to give it a proper rating and here’s why, it’s another cool and smooth beat and that’s all well and good but look who’s rapping over it, ScHoolboy Q. This is a rapper who is renowned for his aggressive and deep toned voice so his area of expertise is high octane hype beats, not ride out funk vibes. Nevertheless it’s still a good song and it’s apparent to see Q has calmed it down with the anger on this song but with that comes highly passionate and angry lyrics regarding child support, police brutality and gang violence which are all extremely serious issues over a beat like this? It all seems odd. I quite like the song but it’s not one I’ll be saving onto my phone for future listens unfortunately, much like the rest of this album, it’s good but lacks something and I don’t know what.
Str8 Ballin – 5.5/10
Stuttered beat with much more of a hype feel to it, the way he moves onto this song as if the last couple didn’t even happen really is baffling. Ignoring that, it’s what we’ve all come to expect from Q nowadays and it is ok but it won’t be one of his classics, the song loses its way completely in the chorus and sticks out like a sore thumb until the second verse kicks in and it’s very hard to ignore that part. It passes you by very quickly with very little to say about it other than really the meaning of the lyrics in which Q explains why he lives this lavish lifestyle, mainly down to him coming from nothing and so he wants to enjoy this fame and level of wealth as it is something he never thought he’d achieve. That much is admirable but he only really touches upon it as subject matter once or twice throughout the song which is a shame really. Meh.
Black THougHts – 8.5/10
Starts off with a phone call in which one of his friends speaks about the issues of black culture at the moment, much in fitting with the title of the song. It moves into another drug infused slow jam which sounds like a B-side to A$AP Rocky’s last album but is used to maximum effect by Q as he does a much better job here. I love the change of pace on this song as Q takes his time with his bars and makes it seem like he’s speaking to you rather than rapping at you. It really does seem like a monologue of thoughts that have been running through his head and that much is fantastic. He doesn’t shy away from matters that could offend, such as drugs, sex and racism. A late return to form on this album perhaps? Either way this is the most inventive thing I’ve heard from Q in a while, certainly on this album and I really like it.
Blank Face – 7/10
That bass guitar is as funky as it gets, I love it. The whole atmosphere of the song is beautiful and makes you want to snap your fingers and sway your head from side to side, imagining you are floating on a cloud without a care in the world. However, it does just seem like a 3 minute introduction in some sense, you’re sat waiting for something to happen that’ll blow your mind and it never really makes it. Despite this its a cool track with impeccable use of instrumentals and backing vocals, of which there are many. I had to chuckle at the 25 mini ScHoolboy Q voices saying ‘Blank Face’ too, that was brilliantly satirical. Yeah, I’m not mad at this song but it did feel slightly along the lines of an interlude sometimes.
Overtime – 5/10
Anderson .Paak does a great job on this song with his soulful R&B sound on the chorus and hook. This is a very sexually driven track but to be honest the lyrics are very very boring and have a smattering of dull arrogance and rapping about sex for the sake of it. The chorus is unoriginal and a repetition of a weird and quite frankly big headed line. It also drags on unnecessarily longer than it needs to. The song is borderline futile lyrically but the hook and the beat boost the rating slightly.
Tookie Knows II – 7.5/10
The piano works a treat on this the album closer and gives it a really fruitful and inventive sound which is great to hear from Q as I was really starting to lose faith in him here. The beat is simple but wonderfully effective and again allows the song as a whole to challenge cultural issues, predominantly gang violence in which the catchy and worthwhile lines “me might die for this shit” and “we might go down for this shit” are repeated and of high importance for subject matter. The features are good and add something new to the song but Q stands out with his verse as the best, it’s not often he does get outdone in all honesty and it’s no different here. Good ending to a head scratching album.
Overall – 6.5/10
This really is an irritating yet enjoyable listen. As a ScHoolboy Q fan you’ll listen to this and enjoy it for numerous reasons, many of which involve his daring attitude to persist with music which he seems good rather than what the mainstream public deem good and that in itself is admirable. Not only that but he has stuck to his ways in some songs which is great but also shown his variety and his softer side, opening up to his thoughts and his more emotional attitudes to cultural appreciation. With all this in mind, it’s an okay/good album but the reason it isn’t great will remain a mystery. It’s missing something, that something was on his previous album ‘Oxymoron’ which many believed was one of the best albums of that year (2013). We don’t know what it is that’s missing but it’s something, that spark which makes a good album a great project. Either way I enjoyed it but will feel a bit downhearted that it hasn’t smashed all expectations due to the quality of hip hop already this year.