Words About Music
Schoolboy Q “Oxymoron”
Perhaps the most exclusive club of rappers these days is the Top Dawg Entertainment/Black Hippy collective fronted by contemporary hip hop god Kendrick Lamar. He’s joined by Ab-Soul, Jay Rock, Isaiah Rashad, SZA, and probably one of the more eccentric members of the group Schoolboy Q. Schoolboy hit it big with his sophomore independent album “Habits & Contradictions” in 2012, and he announced his major label debut “Oxymoron” that same year. Though it’d be a year and a half before “Oxymoron” was actually released, the hype materialized steadily with the release of excellent songs like “Collard Greens” and “Man of the Year.” While Schoolboy isn’t the world’s greatest lyricist, he represents a little bit of all my favorite styles especially so on these 12 songs.
On “Oxymoron,” we get quite a bit from Schoolboy Q. Imagine a combination of Danny Brown, Waka Flocka Flame, and Dr. Dre. It’s a strange combination of drug rap, trap, meaningfulness, and haziness that keeps Schoolboy from sounding at all derivative. Though I can understand one particular song sounding kind of boring when taken out of the context of the album. Though I wouldn’t call it a strict concept album like Top Dawg Entertainment’s great accomplishment “good kid, m.A.A.d. city,” the songs definitely share similar themes of indulgence, bettering oneself, and arrogance. I feel like Schoolboy Q is a level-headed, self-aware individual who no longer partakes in the dangerous drugs he raps about.
Equal parts violent, fascinating, and catchy, “Oxymoron” represents a fairly typical hip hop album. It seems like Schoolboy still has a strong attachment to the Crips, or at least his hip hop persona does. But he raps about the gang activity of drug-doing and drug-selling almost like it’s enjoyable, which makes sense that “the game” is something that can be enjoyable to those who are involved in it. If anything, “Oxymoron” doesn’t really allow for growth or a ton of thought. It’s a very straightforward album. Which is okay! Not every album needs to include extended metaphors and meta-narratives to get their themes across. Schoolboy is a surface level rapper who’s nailed some great production and is a very capable hook-writer.
The simplicity of “Oxymoron” is what I think makes it so accessible. I mean, “Gangsta,” “Los Awesome,” “Collard Greens,” “What They Want,” “Prescription/Oxymoron,” “The Purge,” “Break the Bank,” and “Man of the Year” all have some excellent hooks. They really do show that Schoolboy is capable of utilizing different techniques in getting the songs to stick in people’s heads. “Oxymoron” is a really good album that I think lives up to the expectations I had for it. It’s not as complex or emotionally visceral as a Kendrick or Ab-Soul album, but it’s more fully formed than Schoolboy’s previous albums. It feels more like an album. Sure, it’s kind of repetitive and doesn’t require a ton of thought, but Schoolboy is a charismatic narrator that tells his loosely connected story with confidence and vigor.
SCORE – 8.2
FAVORITE TRACKS – Gangsta, Los Awesome, Collard Greens, What They Want, Hoover Street, Prescription/Oxymoron, The Purge, Break The Bank, Man of the Year