Here is the thing about releasing an album or a film in the summer – there only seems to be two extremes. Either it (a) captivates the entire nation and becomes a cultural sensation; or (b) it falters and falls into oblivion. Is that entirely a fact? I have no idea. Shout out to the I Am Rapaport Podcast with this quote: “we don’t fact check around here.”
But I think it’s true because during the summer people are crazy busy. Everyone is out and about – there is no time to hit a movie theater or… wherever people buy music now… unless it is raining and you got to entertain the kids. I know how it goes – I was that little punk that was going to eventually break something in the house if I wasn’t preoccupied immediately during bad weather.
So, my point is basically that, here I am one week after Schoolboy Q’s fourth release, Blank Face LP, and I am just getting around to listening to the album because I have been all over the map. Had I waited any longer, I probably would have forgotten this album dropped. But I am glad I didn’t do that. Oh my goodness, this album. Buckle up.
I finally gave the time to Blank Face LP while driving to a softball game the other night (is that the whitest thing I have ever said? That’s probably the whitest thing I have ever said), and it started out much like other recent “New” West Coast albums have sounded. TorcH comes on with the deep, lingering drum beat, while haunting piano riffs are layered on top. It is the sound that Dr. Dre championed during the 90’s. But in Dre’s 2015 album, Compton, he experimented with guitar solos over his old recipe for success, and it has caught on. This seems to be the standard in West Coast hip hop at the moment. I dig it.
Additionally, the artist that utters the first lyric on the album is Anderson .Paak (these are not typos. Anderson really puts a stupid period there, and Schoolboy really capitalizes all of his “H”s). This only adds to the New West sound. Beginning once again with Compton, Dr. Dre introduced the world to .Paak and he has skyrocketed to the top of the game. Now you have to have Anderson .Paak on your album. Funny how it always seems to be Dr. Dre that starts a massive musical movement. Hmm.
But with what started off as a familiar sound turned into an hour and 13 minutes of one much different ride. Schoolboy, who plays the role of the jester in one of hip hop’s premier quartets, Black Hippy (along with Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, and Ab-Soul), channeled some serious emotion throughout BF. Indeed, Schoolboy has been introspective in the past when it came to his drug dealing and drug addicted past, but on this album it is much more mature and focused. But here, whether he is addressing incarceration (Tookie Knows II), or past relationship troubles with his family and friends (Know Ya Wrong), or even slipping back into that life (Groovy Tony), the message he is sending doesn’t just sound like an angry young, black kid lashing out.
He can’t lash out anymore. I mean, he probably could, but the guy is in a new stage of life. Anyone who follows hoovaq on Snapchat knows this guy seems like dad of the year. There are new priorities in his life, and he is certainly not afraid of addressing them. This isn’t the same guy that rapped about his hands on the steering wheel with weed and brews back in 2012.
Let’s put the rags down and raise our kids
Let’s put the guns down and blaze a spliff
Let’s do it now, ain’t no buts or ifs
It took a Blood to get me Pringle chips
You can learn to fly or take the ladder
Real n**** shit, all lives matter, both sides
But when he does lash out, whoa boy. In an unfortunate but extremely relevant situation, considering the album dropped right at the same time as some psycho took out five cops during a peaceful protest about race relations on July 8th, Schoolboy takes on modern social issues as well. Neva CHange, for example, has Q screaming about the racial struggles between black men in the streets and police officers. The vivid pictures he paints are sobering, in one word. And for Schoolboy, the bucket hat wearing, weed smoking goofball, this was a real mature step forward, artistically.
The production also changed throughout the album as well. BF doesn’t just thump out the Dre beats I mentioned earlier. All the stars came out on this album, including Metro Boomin, Tyler, The Creator, The Alchemist, Swizz Beats, and of course Top Dawg Entertainment’s in-house production crew. The diversity is perfect for the flow. It was a perfect combination of West Coast influence with trombones and trumpets, boom bap drums here and there, and more modern-sounding styles.
Schoolboy Q’s 2014 album, Oxymoron, which exploded Q onto the scene and even got a nod with a Grammy nomination, seemed like a dozen radio singles. Don’t get me wrong – I still listen to it often. But those were individual songs that each blew up on their own. The cohesiveness of Blank Face, however, is a completely different direction. This feels the exact opposite. Q was putting a project together with this album, rather than trying to get one song into everyone’s headphones.
Sure, there are still stars all over this album (Kanye West, Miguel, Vince Staples, SZA, Anderson .Paak, E-40, Jadakiss, etc.), but other than THat Part, the tracks feel like they are part of just a piece of a much bigger plan. And what is even more interesting is who is not featured on this album. No Kendrick, Jay Rock, or Ab-Soul. There are hints of Kendrick’s voice in some of the background vocals here and there, but other than one song with SZA, Schoolboy’s record label mates are absent. He went rogue on this one, and it paid off. This wasn’t just more of the good old stuff – this was some new great stuff.
Schoolboy Q has also always had the talent to mix and match rhyme schemes with diverse deliveries on his songs, but on this album he takes it to the next level. The first verse and third verse of Dope Dealer, for example, sound like two different people. He is all over the spectrum with his delivery, sometimes riding the beat as smooth as silk, and other times plowing through the rhythm with his growling, choppy style, with no regard for the production.
Blank Face LP better turn into a smash hit, because Q deserves that with this one. I can’t give a favorite song yet, because I don’t have one. But I also can’t give you a least favorite song yet, either, because they are all tremendous. I’m glad Q took his time with this one, rather than ride his Grammy Awards wave into some C+ follow-up to Oxymoron. This was way above my expectations.
I was thoroughly impressed. This album has the chance to raise Schoolboy up to a new tier in the current rap game. I now have a summer rap album to go alongside Chance the Rapper. Please go listen to this album.FOLLOW THE OPEN FIELD