ScHoolBoy Q - Oxymoron | Album Review | By Volume

Gotta get out, before my heart explodes. Candy Says - Not Kings

ScHoolboy Q


Before, we were all, “there he go!” But now, it’s more like: “where are we, exactly?”

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Author: on March 14, 2014
Top Dawg / Interscope

Fuck rap, my daddy’s a gangster”, Joy Hanley excitedly declares to set Oxymoron off. Schoolboy Q employs his daughter again later in the record but it is Oxymoron’s initial utterances that deliver a weighted punch. Q has stated on many an occasion that the happiness of his existence is tied to the quality of his daughter’s life. It feels only fitting that she inaugurate an album she dons the cover of – one, also, which he has explicitly described as rife with contradictions (no shit) and villainy, all for the sake of genuine need – in this case his daughter’s wellbeing. An album he’s touted as a throne-snatching coup within TDE, where he knocks Kendrick Lamar off his apex after scaling the summit à la Ice Climbers to the tip-top.

No, this doesn’t happen. But I don’t think that at this point in their artistic evolutions ScHoolBoy was ever going to eclipse Kendrick. “Control” still sits in the back of a lot of people’s minds. The Rise of Macklemore over the last year certainly hasn’t helped either – bluntly put, no one was questioning if Q should be slugging it out with Mack for the true-crown via Grammy-adoration. Q is easily one of finest rappers on the planet but he couldn’t kill the good kid, m.A.A.d city behemoth. It just wasn’t going to happen, as sad a reality as it is.

What we do have with Oxymoron, though, is an album that’s advertised as its namesake and amounts to just that. It’s a record that’s challenging albeit easy to settle into; deliberately rough but also touching; crisp but also more than a bit jagged. “Seen my uncle steal from his mother / Now that’s that money I’m talking bout / Think about it / A smoker ain’t got shit / And everyday he still get a hit / Whether jacking radios or sucking dick”, he jarringly paints on the excellent “Hoover Street”.  He rattles out glimpses of his childhood where his uncle succumbed to emaciating, life-ruining addiction that led to stealing from his mother and sister all the way to tricking his young nephew into giving him clean piss in exchange for some whiskey – which promptly earned Q a whooping. His mother reminds him to remember who he’s trifling with when it comes to her wrath and her brother’s plight. Following “Hoover Street” is “What They Want”, a grim, brooder of a song that at first can seem a bit too unforgiving – it’s brash, dark and certainly not some fucking uplifting party jam. The song is a stark in comparison to “Hoover Street”, but it’s the perfect example of Oxymoron’s fractured variety. When a weirdly soulful ballad like “Studio” follows “Hoover Street” and “What They Want”, one could question who thought this was how Oxymoron should be tracked.

Concerning “What They Want” though, I feel the 2 Chainz-assisted song is deceptive in its imagery. Taken by itself it can seem like nothing more than a weird-ass boast of a song where Q explains how rich he is, how much of a p-i-m-p he sees himself as, and the lengths to which he’s getting laid. Couple this song with the opener “Gangsta” and introspective “Prescription Drugs-Oxymoron” and we have a triptych of Q’s violent pill addiction. He had earlier explained how all the evil, the grime of Oxymoron was performed in light of furthering his daughter’s place in life – he’s literally killing himself to provide. Now in truth there’s a certain level of selfishness and delusion that goes into making yourself believe that abusing addictive drugs is for the better of others, but addiction doesn’t squabble with specifics. “What They Want” is the height of the cataclysm, where all the bullshit still seems acceptable; “Perscription Drugs-Oxymoron” on the other hand is the climax then the fall.

A flighty synth line and a few violins accentuate a prodding beat as Q begins illustrating a world spent waiting on his man, crying for no reason, ignoring his mother and daughter, only accepting calls if it’s his dealer or someone looking to score. The song peaks as the beat gets foggy and his daughter’s voice drifts in once again: “What’s wrong? / You tired? / You mad? / Okay, I love you, Daddy,” she concludes as Q cuts into his own regrets of neglect at the hand of pills. The “Oxymoron” half is a different beast all together though. Q emphatically declares along a vicious beat “I just stopped selling crack today!” repeatedly before reminding us: “o-x-y, I’m moron” – he didn’t stop selling drugs, he’s just stepped up his stock.

Oxymoron isn’t all intensely personal, unapologetically violent music – but unlike Q’s last two albums, it’s not a toss-up between which ScHoolboy is preferable. The lyrically harsh storyteller is definitely more defined and profound than the party-with-everyone and every drug Quincy. There’s no “Gangsta In Designer (No Concept)” or “There He Go” on this record. Oxymoron’s gems are to be found within its more progressive tunes and jagged bangers as opposed to attempted anthems. Songs like “Collard Greens”, “Hell Of A Night” and “Man Of The Year” are stuffed in the back and sadly don’t really hit the same heights as the album’s more vivid and dastardly first half. Thing is, I feel like if one were to take a pair of scissors to Oxymoron’s tracklist and rearrange the tunes with some assertive tape application (or like, a playlist), this record has as much to offer as A$AP Rocky’s offbeat-and-excellent Long.Live.A$AP. But as of now ScHoolboy Q ain’t grabbing any crowns from anyone. Though I feel like there’s too much of a singular emphasis put on thrones and crowns when it comes to hip hop. Q may not be the king, but he’s certainly in the court. Which is exactly where he should be — makes it easier to slip that cold steel into royal backs unbeknownst.

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