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Album Review: Schoolboy Q's "Oxymoron"

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Hip-Hop Album

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As a result of the hype surrounding Schoolboy Q’s Oxymoron, the comparisons to Kendrick Lamar’s "good kid, M.A.A.D city are inevitable. With its mix of radio-ready hits and Ice Cube-style, gangland L.A tales, it is well equipped to handle the comparison.

Many of the songs are built for the standard rap listeners and mainstream hip-hop fans alike. But on a closer listen, the stories throughout the album represent more similarities to Kendrick’s work than many would admit.

The one-foot-in, one-foot-out gang accounts are all things we’ve heard before but the verve with which Schoolboy recounts them are what separate the album from the standard west coast rap fare.

Q switches back and forth between solemn anecdotes about the inevitability of the introduction to gang life that many within his neighborhood and universe are unable to avoid and brash rhymes depicting his justification for such a lifestyle: his daughter (who makes frequent yet brief appearances throughout the album).

The features are all top-notch and fit within the general framework of the album’s bravura (save for an oddly off-putting verse from Suga Free near the end of the album). 2 Chainz is found on the kind of beat that suits his voice and style well. The same goes for rap legends Raekwon and Kurupt, who make appearance on the meatier section of the album.

All in all, the album lives up to the hype it has received on the back of TDE’s recent and quick rise to the top of the hip-hop label totem pole. What Q lacks in originality, he makes up for through the sheer power of his voice. The inflection and flow of his rhymes show that Q is worthy enough to be seen as Kendrick’s peer, rather than a simple subsidiary.

The Must Listens:

'Hoover Street': I’m a big fan of extra long tracks that take you through a variety of styles and sounds. ‘Hoover Street’ is one of the best tracks on the entire album, portraying gang life with a sobering reality we haven’t heard in a while.

We wasn't thinking of getting money then
Nor did I wonder why my uncle done sold his Benz

Cause he been tripping now, he sweats a lot and slimming down
I also notice moms be locking doors when he around

Studio feat. BJ the Chicago Kid: Easily the best song on the album. Crafted by TDE mainstay Sounwave (who also produced Kendrick’s “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe”).

Blind Threats feat Raekwon: If anything, this track proves Q can play the kingpin make-believe game with the best of them. Best line from Raekwon:

This is more realer, snatch you right up out of the Benz
The Wu wheelers who huddle up, coupes knows the truth
You know the whoopty-whoop, solo or group

His and Her Fiend feat. SZA: Innovative beat dripping with the Syzurp-style chorus and verses Q is known for. Another great hook under SZA’s belt as well.

Grooveline Pt. 2 feat Suga Free: It should tell you something that despite a lackluster verse from Suga Free and a pretty terrible chorus, this song is one of the better offerings from the album. The topic aside, Q shows a lot of versatility in terms of rhyme scheme on this track.

Fuck LA: The power in Q’s voice comes out in this track. This is the kind of 2014-Ice Cube that can take Schoolboy very far. Tough chorus and even tougher verses.

Yay Yay: Once he gets the first couple tracks out of his system, he really hits his stride. And by the end of the album he's in his best rapping form. Along the same lines of 'Fuck LA' but a better beat and stronger verses. Best Line:

"I'm a drug dealing nigga, cause them grades ain't get me paid
My agenda for today is to make bread or get laid
See my daughter need some shoes and my mom work overtime
So I'm standing by that stop sign with nickels and them dimes"
.

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