Album Review: #6: Schoolboy Q - Blank Face LP
by Sarah Muhammad
Earlier this year in April, TDE rapper ScHoolboy Q delivered a dark and gritty new track titled “Groovy Tony”, a track envisioning Q as drug lord Tony Montana of Scarface but also paying homage to fellow rapper Ghostface Killah, whom Q states that he was inspired by for his work this time around. Only a few short months later, we were introduced to one of the defining anthems of the year, “THat Part”, which includes a beaming feature verse from none other than Chicago rapper, Kanye West. The song itself is a hand to the popular Californian phrase which means to cosign boastful statements. But as if the beat is not mighty enough to make the single pop, we get a verse from Kanye which includes bars such as “Nigga with an attitude, I feel like O’Shea”, paying a witty nod to legendary N.W.A. member Ice Cube. With these two singles to carry the wave into the summer, we received the release of the Blank Face LP on July 8 and the rest was history. As in classic Q fashion, he took on many different styles and sounds on this album, as well as a variety of features, including the introduction of Anderson.Paak, Jadakiss, Kendrick Lamar, Swizz Beatz, Vince Staples, Candice Pillay, E-40, Tha Dogg Pound, SZA, Miguel, Justin Skye, Traffic and TF. Even with this vibrant spread of different sounds, Q was still able to make a cohesive project. Perhaps the most apparent thing about this project compared to past others, is the overt number of Crip references that we get and Q’s vivid reality of life as a Crip in L.A. The album does a brilliant job of skating this reality vs. romanticization of the gang culture, specifically in tracks like “Ride Out”, with fellow Crip Vince Staples and “Tookie Knows Part II” featuring Traffic and TF, a song named after the infamous Tookie Williams, known formative leader of the Crips of South Central L.A. Lyrics from this song such as “We might die for this shit, nigga, Uh, might go down for this shit, nigga, Gang, gang bangin' that Crip shit…” as well as the video depiction of a brooding life of crime, death, and incarceration serve as a metaphorical reality check for both the listener and Q, who has previously said that he was embarrassed of his past actions in relation to the gang culture, but also shows his allegiance to the men who raised him in the game, as is the culture for many. The song “JoHn Muir” also tells a very clear story of Q’s life growing up as a teenager, selling drugs at the age of 13 and owning a gun, which he states in the song as “I was thirteen with my mothafuckin' heat, y'all” and “I was out here sellin' dope at 14, what it do?...I was ditchin' class, fifth grade, yeah, I'm Groovy Q”, in a way boasting his status as a hustler at a young age and making a name for himself. The recounts of Q in his younger years always tie to the central theme of making it out of a life of endless despair, but also attract the listener to the seductiveness of a lifestyle of turmoil and street acclaim. On the opposite end, Q does a good job as always with providing the playful, upbeat sounds in “WHateva U Want” and “Big Body”, a funky song which features the sounds of Tha Dogg Pound. Q even delivers the sexy “Overtime” featuring Miguel, which he is credited for saying is a “bootleg ass” version of “Studio” that the label wanted for the album, but overall the song is more seductive and the lyrics are more blatant, with Miguel singing “I wanna fuck right now” in the chorus, making it not a bad choice to add to the bedroom playlist. Some of the more passable songs on the album include “Neva CHange” featuring SZA and “Black THoughts”, not particularly for the content, which is a great depth of specific introspective and retrospective glances into Q’s life, but rather the smoothed out sound that does not necessarily do the content justice and provides unnecessary dips in the album. Production on the album includes the likes of heavy hitters such as Metro Boomin, Swizz Beatz, and The Alchemist, but also frequent collaborator and friend of Q, Tyler the Creator, creating a blend of sound necessary to pull this project to the top. Overall, this album represents his major growth into the big leagues for Q, as both a rapper and having the ability to make a likeable commercial album without forgoing the message.
Best Tracks: “Tookie Knows II”/”THat Part”
Best Production: “Dope Dealer”