Possibly the most anticipated release to come from California Hip hop collective TDE, ScHoolboy Q releases Oxymoron. His first album released was entitled Setbacks, a chronicle of the various roadblocks and obstacles he faced while on the come up in the rap game all wrapped up in chilled and smokey production. His second was Habits and Contradictions, a prequel of sorts where Q delves intrinsically into what kept him from making it earlier, and explores the mistakes he made in the past. This was done through some of Q’s best bummer jams paired with some of his first and strongest steps into his hype domain. His third studio album, Oxymoron, is the strongest thematically, diving headlong into his story, regrets, and lifestyle, while his previous projects merely dodged quickly through them. According to Q, the project hopes to describe the duality of doing his best to be a caring and loving father to his daughter (who makes plenty of appearances on the project) but slanging oxy to make his bank. Oxymoron marks an important progression of ScHoolboy’s sound and message. It seems that Q has finally found the formula for painting a vivid picture lyrically while still producing a fun, trap sound that will turn up a party. This, ultimately, is where he is best suited.
One thing that makes ScHoolboy such an impressive rapper, especially in the scope of the rap game today, is the elasticity of his voice. The dude is so versatile vocally. He can cover all sorts of moods on his tracks. Whether it is chilled, hyped, depressed, or hopeful, Q breaths life into his lyrics and makes them hit whatever part of your emotions he intends them to hit. This is all to say that this project has joints that can play to all sorts of emotions. Midway through the project we get a track (“Prescription/Oxymoron”) that really makes you feel for ScHoolboy. We get some perspective that helps us to understand how difficult it can be for a rapper when you have to struggle with addiction before any music can be made. This is directly followed by “The Purge,” which makes us forget about this dark background with a return to his self-proclaimed gangster rap ways, featuring two other west coast rap greats in Kurupt and Tyler, the Creator. Sadness, depression, and struggle paired with ignorant, panty-dropping, pistol popping, “spark your apartment” lyrics really create a dynamic aura on this album.
ScHoolboy’s legacy as a rapper comes from his hype tracks, and Oxymoron does not let us down. The four singles, which include some of the best tracks of the album, satisfied all of his fans by showing off his supreme skill in the art of hype. Joints like “Yay Yay,” “Break tHe Bank,” and the suspiciously absent “Banger,” use trap-sentric, bass heavy instrumentals to play off of hungry and passionate bar delivery to create audible frenzy. Another note that pairs well with this skill is the development of his hook writing. If Oxymoron stepped up anywhere it is in this aspect. Just as Kendrick’s juggernaut Good Kid M.A.A.D. City did, the choruses on this project latch onto your brain. Some would say writing really catchy hooks just breeds lazy music and song writing in general, but I think, in this case, these hooks do all they can do. These are radio ready and still tough enough to satisfy Q’s college age “fuck the system” fans.
Above everything, and most importantly, ScHoolboy does not disappoint. You can really hear all the hours of tweaking that went into this project, and each hungry verse, banging instrumental, and addicting hook can attest to this. This is an album that could have so easily been over hyped, but Q delivered it quite flawlessly. Sure, would I have liked some songs to be more transparently depressing? Yeah, I thought “Sacrilegious” was dope, but that isn’t really what Oxymoron is. ScHoolboy is conveying a different message on this project than he did on Habits and Contradictions. Plus, I think that a track like “Prescription/Oxymoron” is much more subtle and dynamic, and truly doesn’t feel like it is overstaying its welcome at seven minutes. Oxymoron as a whole is just such a step forward into a really exciting direction for Q. Every aspect of his projects has evolved or further solidified. The production is extraordinary, Q’s delivery and flow are unreal, and the lyricism at play is extremely tight. There is not one reason why this album shouldn’t be on repeat in every Hip hop head’s headphones. I have a pretty strong suspicious that this will propel Q into the top spot as the premier rapper of LA, but the coming months will tell. All I can say is the ball is in Kendrick’s court, and he must be hurting from how hard that bounce pass was.
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– Charlie Johns