After one of the most anticipated albums of 2013 was pushed all the way back to February 2014 the unveiling of Schoolboy Q’s Oxymoron had fans exhaling a sigh of relief. Marking his second studio release, Schoolboy Q has the hip-hop community watching to see if Oxymoron will have earned its praise as one of the most anticipated hip-hop albums of 2014.
Schoolboy Q has been a notable member of the LA rap group Black Hippy since 2009, rapping among other Top Dog Entertainment rappers such as Jay Rock, Ab Soul, and the highly-celebrated Kendrick Lamar. After witnessing the praise Kendrick Lamar received for his album Good Kid M.A.A.D. City, Schoolboy Q was reported saying “Kendrick left me no choice but to drop a classic.”
At its core, the content in Schoolboy Q’s Oxymoron is what one would expect from an ex-gangbanger hailing from the streets of LA: an account of violence and drug pushing necessitated from poverty and hard-times. This subject matter is delivered by Schoolboy Q in a very animated manner, with forceful language and flows that demonstrates large jumps in tone and cadence.
This album opens with the song entitled “Gangsta”; a rousing track that serves to set the scene for the rest of the album. This opener introduces the listener to the world of an LA gangster, with gloating references to selling prescription drugs, pimping, toting guns, and smoking weed. As far as transparency goes, this first song does an excellent job of outlining what is to come on the album. It is not until “Prescription-Oxymoron” that we see a different layer to the story. This song is effectively the summation of two smaller pieces: Prescription, an introduction to Schoolboy Q’s personal struggles with prescription drug abuse, and Oxymoron, a hard-hitting number about his transition from selling crack to selling Oxycodone. The combination of these two pieces is an attempt to provoke the listener to understand the oxymoron that is Schoolboy Q’s lifestyle: pretentiously boasting about selling drugs to addicts while being an addict himself. Beyond this point the content remains consistent with the first song “Gangsta,” with more references to hustling, smoking weed and gang banging with his homies.
Seldom do people claim that Schoolboy Q is one of the more talented lyricists in hip-hop. He has become a staple in gangster rap, not due to his lyrical ability, but due to his proficiency in crafting interesting hooks and bridges as seen in “Los Awesome” and “Break the Bank.” With interesting inflections and exciting delivery, the quality of these chorus’ have the verses practically writing themselves. This album falls short when Schoolboy Q is unable to showcase this talent. When Schoolboy Q is replaced with a feature on the hook, either the feature overshadows his efforts, or the collaboration was ill-placed and the song falls flat in its entirety.
With the multitude of features on this album, it becomes hard to view Oxymoron as a cohesive piece of work. While some of the collaborations were classy and well-placed, such as Jay Rock’s verse on “Los Awesome” or Raekwon’s verse on “Blind Threats,” some features came off as a cry for attention as Schoolboy Q reached for currently hot commercial artists. The song “What They Want” featuring 2 Chainz exemplifies this tactic, resulting in nothing more than a tasteless advertisement for the album.
In spite of this criticism, Schoolboy Q’s showcase of unique delivery and gangster rap content has effectively cultivated his own sound. If Schoolboy Q is to reach the professional heights of his label mate Kendrick Lamar, he needs to stick to his guns and avoid diluting his albums with lackluster collaborations.