Schoolboy Q's 'Oxymoron' bringing back '#realtalk' rap

  • Schoolboy Q's latest album 'Oxymoron' comes out Feb. 25.
Schoolboy Q's latest album 'Oxymoron' comes out Feb.…
February 24, 2014|By Ernest Wilkins @ernestwilkins | RedEye Sound Board

‘Oxymoron’

Schoolboy Q

3.5 out of 4 stars 


From “Gangsta,” his album-opening declaration of self, to razor-sharp barbs like, “[Bleep] rap, my [bleep] real,” Schoolboy Q wants it known that he’s not here for any of the foolishness that’s become common in modern rap. On “Oxymoron,” the L.A. rapper’s major label debut, there are no fantasy-level stories of wealth and no boasts of living on a boat, where he wears tank tops from designers you’ve never heard of and a butler serves him croissants. He’s here for that #realtalk, thank you very much.

With his third album, Q deftly navigates the lane between having fun and wanting to [bleep] you up—making him a natural descendant of West Coast acts like DJ Quik and Kurupt from Tha Dogg Pound (who appears on Q’s “The Purge”), who interwove party tales with the rawness of life in the hood. Where labelmate Kendrick Lamar’s heralded “good kid, m.AA.d. city” takes a big-picture look at the neighborhood, however, Q’s unfiltered storytelling contains a pure, first-person perspective. He discusses roaches in his cereal and his uncle bribing Q to take his drug tests because the uncle was on crack on “Hoover Street”; on “Prescription/Oxymoron,” we hear Q’s daughter asking him if he’s OK and pleading with him to wake up. Throughout “Oxymoron” is woven a haunting reminder that drug addiction doesn’t just hurt the user.

It also should be noted that Schoolboy Q does a lot with his voice, switching from aggressive machine gun on “Break The Bank” to velvet pillow on “Grooveline Pt. 2.” Sonically, this is a well-constructed piece of work, with Chicago-native production duo Nez & Rio providing three tracks and holding their own alongside bigger names like Pharrell and Tyler, the Creator. Speaking of Chicago, BJ the Chicago Kid’s smooth delivery almost steals the show on “Studio.”

One minor quibble: the album’s sequencing. It can be jarring to switch from party song to depressed drug ballad to chest-thumping bravado. Then again, maybe that’s the point. With a lot of buzz behind him, Schoolboy Q could easily have made a bunch of poppy records catering to the suburbs. Instead, he made a triumph for the streets and the people who inhabit them—something more rappers should try once in a while.

In concert: April 22 at Metro

erwilkins@tribune.com

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