Artist: Schoolboy Q
Hip Hop has changed a lot over the last 20 years. The deaths of Tupac and Biggie in 1996 and 1997 created a void in the industry. While this allowed the influence of southern hip-hop to grow, primarily through OutKast, there was still a vacuum. This was eventually occupied by two divisions: artists such as DMX and Eminem, who attempted to emulate the emotion of Tupac, and more pop-influenced rappers, such as Jay-Z and 50 Cent, who represented the looser flow of Biggie Smalls.
In the background, however, another small group was rising. These were more socially conscious rappers who attempted to break away from prior notions of hip-hop with modern production and a wider variety of lyricism. With Kanye West’s Graduation defeating 50 Cent’s Curtis in sales in 2007, the dominance of gangsta rap was symbolically ended, opening the door to an entirely new generation of rappers. J. Cole, Drake, Wiz Khalifa, and Lupe Fiasco are just a few examples. Groups such as the A$AP crew and Odd Future, in turn, provide some throwbacks to earlier rap influences.
The evolution continues with artists such as Pusha T, Danny Brown, and Kendrick providing introspective lyrics influenced by time on the streets, while still being relatively accessible, not in terms of radio-readiness, but in terms of content and messages.
Schoolboy Q is obviously influenced by this newest evolution, while also having fully internalized his gangsta rap label. But he does not quite reach the level of his peers. In an interview leading up to the album’s release, Schoolboy Q stated, “The oxymoron in this album is that I’m doing all this bad to do good for my daughter. That’s why I’m robbin’. That’s why I’m stealin’.”
He is successful for the most part. Tracks focused on his lifestyle, such as “Los Awesome,” complement his more introspective feelings on tracks like “Prescription/Oxymoron.” However, these inward-looking moments are few relative to the more radio-friendly ‘bitches, money, and weed’ tropes.
While the production and Schoolboy Q’s overall flow is good, the lyrics can be extremely spotty. This does not help the theme of the album as these lapses are unintentional, purposeless, and unfortunately feel like filler. The overall message is muddled, and while still a great album to enjoy in individual pieces or songs, it simply cannot reach the level of more focused recent albums by other artists. This is not the complete album Schoolboy Q seems capable of.