ScHoolboy Q Comes Clean on OXYMORON (Album Review)


UPDATE: Click here to stream the album via iTunes

Last night (2/17), ScHoolboy Q held a listening session for part of his highly-anticipated OXYMORON album, and AFH was in the building. Compared to other listening sessions, it was a laid-back affair that perfectly suited Q’s personality. There were about 150 people in attendance during the first of two listening sessions, and there was a confident and relaxed vibe in the air that only comes with one thing: complete self-assuredness.

Q took the stage with an interviewer in what became a semi-interview and semi-listening format and kicked off what many of us had been waiting to hear for more than a year. He said that he did not have much left to say about the album that he had not already discussed and wanted to simply let the music speak for itself. With that, the big playback began.

First up was an intro from Q’s daughter, who, as his fans know, has been one of the biggest motivational factors in his career. In an incredibly precocious voice, she said a few words that effectively left no doubt that her Daddy was here and we were about to get SERVED. Immediately, following was the album first track, “Gangsta.”

In many ways, “Gangsta” was the perfect track to open the LP because the body of work Q has created is a very deliberately crafted modern day Gangsta Rap album. Before the bangin’ on wax and lampooning that overtook Gangsta Rap, it was one of the realest of Hip-Hop’s many genres. Artists like Boogie Down Productions, Schoolly D, Ice-T and N.W.A., served as commentators to what was really going on in the streets-aiming was to testify, not glorify. And, that is exactly what Q has done with OXYMORON. He has created a collection of songs that reflect his reality—Crippin’, slangin’, rappin’, Fathering and, ultimately, triumphing in this music game.

Next up, was the Pharrell-produced “Los Awesome,” which also featured his TDE label-mate, Jay Rock. As Q said in introducing the song, “This ain’t no melodic shit…this is some gangsta shit.” True to his word, what emanated from the speakers resembled the Pharrell/Neptunes of old—more “Superthug” than “Get Lucky.”

From there, Q played “What They Want” featuring 2 Chainz, revealing that he had just shot a video for the song in New Orleans during NBA All Star Weekend. This is a BIG record. Out of the 10 songs we’ve heard, it is the one most likely to explode and dominate radio waves long into the summer. Make no mistake, however, this is no paint-by-numbers collabo. It’s definitively a ScHoolboy Q track with 2 Chainz adeptly playing his supporting role. Q explicitly stated after the song concluded that he was not chasing hits with OXYMORON. However, the stars clearly still aligned to give him plenty, with “What They Want” likely being the biggest.

After turning up with the aforementioned “What They Want,” Q changed the mood with the deeply autobiographical “Prescription/Oxymoron.” He made a lengthy introduction to this double song, speaking candidly about his struggles with addiction to prescription drugs over the years—Oxy and Xanax being the primaries (“People were focused on the Styrofoam cups but didn’t realize I had a cup full of pills in the other hand”). He noted that while the songs depict the journey of someone who was addicted to Oxycotin and then began to sell it, his life was the reverse. He sold the pharmaceuticals for quite some time before eventually trying them and succumbing. Q also spoke wistfully of some of the “Xanax comas” that he experienced from which his daughter unsuccessfully attempted to rouse him (as alluded to Ambrosia For Heads back in 2012). It was unsaid but clearly intimated that his desire to be a better father is what ultimately helped him kick the habit. What followed his intro was some of the realest rap you’ll ever hear. Ever.

Q shifted gears (and skipped songs) again after “What They Want,” playing “Blind Threats” featuring Raekwon. This song, more than any played, demonstrates the diversity of Q’s sonic palette. Though he is clearly from the West Coast and draws his influences from the L.A. MCs before him, Q also had his ear to the street of what was happening on the East Coast during his formative years. “Blind Threats” has a dark and spooky sound that would allow it to nestle quite comfortably in the Wu’s celebrated catalog. After, Q confirmed that when he heard the track he knew he had to get someone from Wu-Tang Clan on it (namely, Raekwon or Cappadonna) and it came together through a chance meeting with Raekwon in an elevator. Q was reluctant to speak to The Chef at first, apparently having been greeted less than favorably by certain New York MCs in the past, but Rae opened up the dialogue and the rest will be history…

“Blind Threats” (Snippet) thanks to a Dope Boy:

Q finished the evening with “Studio,” his song “for the ladies.” This song featured ScHoolboy in “Groovy Q” mode, singing along with BJ The Chicago Kid. Don’t get it twisted though, while the song was smoother than most of the other material he played, it was still some Gangsta shit.

This was not a full listening session of OXYMORON from front to back. Instead, Q played some songs, explained some songs and generally seemed to enjoy sharing his years long labor of love with the audience. Based on what he played last night and what has been previously released (“Collard Greens,” “Man Of The Year,” “Break The Bank”), OXYMORON will have been well worth the wait.

Related: Can’t Wait for Schoolboy Q’s OXYMORON? Here’s a Best Of Mix to Get You Ready (Audio)