Schoolboy Q – “Oxymoron”
7.5 out of 10
By Charles Louis Dominguez ’14
It’s 2014 and all eyes are on Top Dawg Entertainment, the West Coast rap music label that houses the Black Hippy collective.
Fronted by notable rappers Kendrick Lamar, Jay Rock, Ab-Soul and Schoolboy Q, it’s no wonder that the label’s music reaches wider audiences every day.
Each of Top Dawg’s figureheads has developed their own identity in and approach to rap music.
Lamar writes conscious rap without the usual condescension. Jay Rock spits old school bangers with a modern twist.
Ab-Soul creates a hazy combination of cloud rap and the beast coast movement and Schoolboy Q’s music is a schizophrenic mix of old school style and modern production.
Although every member’s music is different both thematically and musically, they collaborate frequently.
While the collective works well together, Schoolboy Q, as the only member of Black Hippy who previously had gang affiliations, has always seemed like the outcast of the group.
Schoolboy Q released “Oxymoron” Feb. 25, the follow-up to his second independent album, 2012’s “Habits & Contradictions.”
“Habits & Contradictions” achieved well-deserved success, offering a mix of great singles like “Hands on the Wheel” and “There He Go” while also rewarding critical listeners with deeper cuts like “Gangster in Designer” and “My Homie.”
Although “Habits & Contradictions” wasn’t thematically consistent as a whole, it painted a picture of an up-and-comer on the verge of making something great.
Following “Habits & Contradictions,” Schoolboy Q has performed guest verses for the likes of A$AP Rocky, Kendrick Lamar, Danny Brown and Mac Miller. These special appearances have shown his development as an artist and a lyricist.
“Oxymoron” introduces the listener to a different Schoolboy Q.
“Oxymoron” offers a type of lyrical finesse and thematic consistency that was nowhere to be found on any of his previously-released solo material.
Although Schoolboy Q isn’t a technically proficient rapper like his friend Kendrick Lamar, on “Oxymoron” he has clearly honed his own style of rapping.
His style appropriately suits the themes he chooses to address on this album.
Schoolboy Q mostly raps about hard living—growing up in an underprivileged neighborhood and hanging around a lot of grimy places.
Although most songs are addressed with unequivocal braggadocio, “Oxymoron” also sports songs like “Hoover Street” that offer greater introspection and an interesting sense of awareness of self-destruction.
No matter the topic of the song, every verse is rapped passionately and with an energy that can only be described as infectious.
Outside of an awful 2chainz verse on “What They Want,” “Oxymoron” has little to complain about.
Besides 2chainz, none of the guest appearances seem out of place or break up the flow of the album. Lamar, Jay Rock, Raekwon and Tyler the Creator all offer verses that are conducive to the final product.
There are no real downsides to “Oxymoron,” but it’s not an album you could listen to every day.
The often grim subject matter makes it an unapproachable album to most, and it’s definitely music that you need to be in a certain mood to listen to.
Still, if you find yourself in that mood, Schoolboy Q’s “Oxymoron” is a musical adventure worth embarking on.