Said I ain’t minding if the world stops, we be living up in Hell’s shop /… So I’ma live it to the top notch, so I’ma take it to the top notch.”
Quincy Hanley, otherwise known as Schoolboy Q, draws us in to Oxymoron and takes us through one prolonged moment of suspension. A chafing, disheveled 19-track moment, to be exact.
From the single “Collard Greens” to the hyped “Man of the Year” (shown below, featured in NBA Live 14) to the slow and swanky “Studio” and the patient and droning “Hoover Street,” Oxymoron engage a full span of sensibilities, and it is quickly rising to the top of the Billboard charts.
In the face and heart of commercial rap’s rampant hypersexual, drug-friendly and money-driven atmosphere, Schoolboy Q exposes these themes with a raw, unrelenting tenacity and forceful clarity, pushing them nearer to their limit, well beyond the brink of irony. He opens the album with a repetitive hook—Gangsta, Gangsta, Gangsta—both desensitizing and piercing, a word far from, yet still very near to, its initial upbringing—a certain lifestyle, a particular individual’s life lived, an industry’s capitalized trope, an allegory for all of hip-hop.
In the bleak anthem “What They Want”—This the s*** that they want / This the s*** that they need—Q counters the escapades of his verses with this mocking hook. On Oxymoron, he does not deny our propensity for violence, nor our ability to womanize—outlining crisp and gritty details, grounded in reality, only to destabilize with interspersed voiced (gunshot) sound effects, ad-libs twisted and turned. While employing these modes to the point of nihilism, having [caught] on to they formula (on “Hoover Street”) in reference to the police, in the context of the whole album, “they” could easily be the music industry and its consumers. Of course, they don’t come at the expense of his confidence or his style. This that car that won’t park, pedal to the floor, it won’t stop, he continues. Throughout the album, Q’s sucker-punch flow, fiendishly fast or stupefyingly slow, as with this telling tale—This little piggy went to market, this little piggy carry chrome—his delivery rarely fails to incite the listener.
Lines and juxtapositions like Looking like the reaper in your driveway alongside Stop a dream in its tracks beam down / Little boy, now dream, little boy dream on “Los Awesome” (which Q said is meant for his select few), create a verifiable sense of Tee off like Tiger Woods-propulsion—cool-cool at first, but turning tense.
During “Prescription/Oxymoron,” featuring his daughter’s voice, Q admits to having an Oxycontin addiction—watch it glide like Dr J; Let the truth be told, let it crush your goals. He also recalls his rocky childhood and shares his past struggles to provide for his daughter. My mommy call, I hit ignore. My daughter calls, I press ignore—taking responsibility and not excusing himself. We hear his daughter’s voice both trying to make sure he’s still breathing and spurring him on to lyrical prowess, ensuring he will spit harder than concrete. The crux of the entire album can be summed up in the line In fact We Living to Die is a contradiction, echoed in “Blind Threats,” we living to die/oxymoron.
Regardless of whether you find Schoolboy Q’s specified endeavors redeemable, he ultimately is the self-proclaimed Baller futuristic, groovy gangster with an attitude. Describing his Heart filled with octane (on “Break the Bank”) and Heart big as my ego (on “The Purge), he is appropriately unapologetic for his success and for how he overcame obstacles to get to the top, and raise[d] the stakes even higher.
At this point, his only question remains: What’s fly to a bird?
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