Posted March 19, 2014
By VICTORIA HERNANDEZ
ScHoolboy Q’s debut album, “Oxymoron” is raw gangster rap.
The title comes from the idea that the rapper does his best to provide for his daughter, which means resorting to dealing drugs and stealing. The theme is carried through the entire project effortlessly and draws audiences in with heart-wrenching stories laced with carefree moments to numb the pain.
ScHoolboyQ’s young daughter, Joy, makes many cameos on the album. The grade-schooler is on the cover of the standard album in her father’s signature bucket hat.
The project opens with her saying, “My daddy’s a gangster.” This track, “Gangsta” is the perfect opening to the album because it establishes bravado and utilizes Q’s trademark “Yawk.” Joy’s gentle voice also appears on “Prescription/Oxymoron” and “The Purge,” which are among the more intense songs on the album.
Her innocent presence has a complex effect on the tone of the work. She lightens the heavy mood but also contributes to the weight because of the reality that she is a little girl stuck in the hood.
“Hoover Street” is the song with the most storytelling. ScHoolboy Q discusses avoiding cops, finding roaches in his cereal and seeing his uncle as a role model for being a thug. Q grew up in Los Angeles on Figueroa Street, which he represents proudly. He joined the Crips when he was young, a choice that he is “embarrassed” about now. This track reveals the harsh realities that defined his upbringing.
The following track, “Studio,” is a pleasant surprise. The catchy love song, featuring BJ the Chicago Kid, quickly escapes from the dark world of “Hoover Street” and into the fantasies of Q’s head after a long day of work. Keeping true to the gangster rap style, there is no flowery language.
Q himself raps, “No metaphors, nothing like that, I’m keeping it straight.” Instead, the song is just a straightforward request to a pretty lady.
The title track, “Prescription/Oxymoron” is next and is the epitome of the struggle to do what’s right while fighting the stereotypical street lifestyle. Q describes how he is so deep in addiction that he can’t even answer the phone when his daughter calls. The beat changes from slow and melodic with a touch of violin to a choppy boom-bap and the message quickly jumps from sleepy addiction to the fast life of selling drugs. Q uses his unique nasal voice to show his hubristic attitude about his illegal, but very productive job.
There are many radio-ready singles on “Oxymoron.” Q tried to get some hype with “Collard Greens,” which features fellow Top Dawg member Kendrick Lamar, but it’s a song that takes a few listens to appreciate fully. And, arguably, the guest outshines the host.
“Hell of a Night” is a straight party track. The beat, by DJ Dahi, is fun and the hook goes, “Get up out yo seat, you can have my drink, let me see you dance.” It is very hard to not bob your head to this one. “Man of the Year” has earned some well-deserved radio play. This track, which originally was a teaser at the end of K.Dot’s “Don’t Kill My Vibe” video, rounds out the album appropriately, celebrating all of Q’s accomplishments, especially his freedom from the Crips and his new-found passion for rap.
A sad staple of hip-hop music today is the objectification of women. This is evident throughout the album, but especially in “What They Want.” It is no surprise that the most ignorant song features 2 Chainz. This track is a combination of “Blurred Lines” the smash hit by Robin Thicke and “Syllables” by Eminem. Q’s song assumes that women will just submit his and 2 Chainz’ will.
At the same time, it is ironic because a lot of girls will listen and find the track catchy without even knowing what it is saying. Ultimately, this song contributes to the theme of “Oxymoron” whether Q means it or not because this is a typical womanizing rap song, but Q is trying to raise his daughter right and probably doesn’t want her to turn out like the women he is portraying.
Anyway, the production on this album is amazing. The 808s are booming from start to finish. Each beat matches perfectly with the tone of the story Q tells. Pharrell produced “Los Awesome,” which has a frantic pace. Tyler the Creator produced the fight anthem “The Purge,” with sirens droning in the background. He sets up the hook and Kurupt slays the last verse.
This project was much anticipated. It has supposedly been done for a few years, but Q wanted to add a few tracks to make it perfect. There was a lot of speculation on the release date and Q addressed his own frustration on fellow Top Dawg member Isaiah Rashad’s “Shot You Down Remix,” released in October 2013. In December, ever true to the concept, Q released a YouTube video of his daughter telling the Feb. 25 release date.
Overall, this album is a lot to listen to. It is explicit, but full of heart. Is “Oxymoron” the next “good kid, m.A.A.d city?” No. Not even close. But it is a solid album that gets better with each listen. It is a humbling reminder that the streets are real.
- Album: “Oxymoron”
- Artist: ScHoolboy Q (featuring Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, 2 Chainz, BJ the Chicago Kid, Tyler the Creator, Kurupt, Raekwon)
- Genre: Rap
- Label: Top Dawg/Interscope
- Released: Feb. 25, 2014
- Digital: $12.99 (iTunes)
- Hardcopy: $14.99 (Deluxe) $9.99 (Regular) available at Best Buy, Target, Walmart
- Parental advisory: Explicit content