I entered 2014 with TDE rapper ScHoolboy Q‘s Oxymoron right near the top of my list for most anticipated albums. His last project Habits and Contradictions had been in my top 3 favorite releases of 2012 and since that project I couldn’t wait to hear his growth and see what effect signing to a major label had on his music. As soon as the stream hit iTunes I plugged in my headphones and sat down for a first listen. I’ve had Oxymoron playing consistently for over a week now, working on my track-by-track review of the project. Hit the jump to read my review and rating of Oxymoron.
Oxymoron’s opener is an aggressive, hard hitting song dedicated to Q‘s gangster past and his newly found success. On the track, ScHoolboy raps about getting his first “nine” and how he worked out of poverty to the point where he can proudly boast “Yea I’m famous, what I’m famous, fucking famous, nigga I made it!” Packed with classic ScHoolboy Q ad-libs (“YEAH YEAAAH, YAWK YAWK, UHHHH”) parading back and forth in the background behind the gangster storytelling and a dark, Portishead influenced beat, the track throws the listener into the world of Q. An excellent choice for an opener, Gangsta proves to be a highlight of the album for sure.
Los Awesome (Feat. Jay Rock):
Coming off of the aggressive ScHoolboy track Gangsta, I am baraded by a dancy/dubstep/electronic beat with a hardly recognizable ScHoolboy Q repeating “coool cool witcha chillin cool cool witcha”. I find the beat annoying and Q‘s verses and hook do nothing for me either. Although Jay Rock comes through with a very solid verse at the end it is not enough to save what is the worst song on the album. This track has gotten a wide range of reviews, from favorite track on the album for some to worst ScHoolboy Q track ever for others. To me Los Awesome doesn’t fit in with the theme, production, or feel of Oxymoron and definitely could have been left off without a complaint from me.
Collard Greens (Feat. Kendrick Lamar):
The first real single off of Oxymoron, Collard Greens, is the song Q wanted to take over the radio. Despite its infectious chorus, clean, unique, production, and a verse from hip hop superstar and label mate Kendrick Lamar, the ode to weed has failed to create the buzz Q hoped it would. All is not lost however – their are certainly more great single choices on Oxymoron (more on that later.) Though not in my top songs on the album, Collard Greens is a great track that will get a lot of replays from me.
What They Want (Feat. 2 Chainz)
“THIS THE SHIT THAT THEY WANT, THIS THE SHIT THEY NEED, TELL ME WHERE IS YOU FROM, DROP YO PANTS TO YO KNEES”; This one passes the whip test. ScHoolboy taps 2 Chainz for the Mike Will Made It produced What They Want. The track brings Oxymoron back to the aggressive gangster feel that opened up the album and is another one that I can tell will be on repeat. Q raps about the life of a gangster and 2 Chainz lends a fitting, catchy, and surprisingly decent verse over the bangin Mike Will beat to make a very enjoyable song.
At this point Oxymoron is completely back on track with its gangster theme. Hoover Street, a reference to the Hoover Street Crips whom Q was a part of showcases his talent for vivid storytelling. The first minute and a half of the track is interesting, yet somewhat forgettable; but then the beat switches up, leading into a modernized boom bap 90s type beat. Q tells us about the influences his thieving uncle, gangsta grandmother, and friends had on him as a child and his entrance into the world of gang life in a vivid and emotional way. Listening to it I couldn’t help but think of Kendrick Lamar‘s The Art Of Peer Pressure in the way the beat switches up in the beginning, and the tales of what peer pressure does to you. Hoover Street definitely makes my favorite songs list.
Studio (Feat. BJ The Chicago Kid)
Without a doubt the smoothest song on Oxymoron, this one is dedicated to the ladies. I never thought I would hear a song like this from Q but it turned out incredibly well. The song simply sounds great, with high pitched vocals echoing in the back of the atmospheric beat (similar to Drake‘s Pound Cake), he mixes in r&b elements to his on point flows. BJ The Chicago Kid lends a great catchy hook, and I could see this one becoming popular. Q may have the same notion as it seems to be the first song he is promoting off of the album, performing it on Conan the other day.
If Hoover Street is Oxymoron‘s Peer Pressure, then Prescription/Oxymoron is Oxymoron’s Sing About Me/Dying of Thirst. Containing two connecting songs in one, Prescription/Oxymoron is the turning point of the album just as Sing About Me/Dying of Thirst is to GKMC. In the first half, Prescription, ScHoolboy details his Percocet/Lean addiction. “Prescription drugs, I fell in love” raps Q as his daughters voice wanders throughout the background; in a recent interview with NPR, ScHoolboy Q explained how his one year old daughter would try to wake him up out of his “Xan Comas”. Prescription captures Q‘s addiction to prescription drugs leading into him being a dealer to the drugs he is addicted to. After two verses, Prescription fades into dark piano chords to reveal the song that will have suburban white kids everywhere yelling out “I JUST STOPPED SELLIN CRACK TODAY.” The perfectly crafted emotional verses of Oxymoron detail Q‘s life as a prescription drug dealer, while in the hook he proudly proclaims “I just stopped selling crack today” and realizes he was a “moron” (Hence the album/track title Oxymoron,” for getting addicted to drugs and living his life the way he is. It is rare to see a rapper be proud NOT being a drug dealer, but here Q shows his maturity in deciding to take care of his daughter and do something with his life.
The Purge (Feat. Tyler The Creator & Kurupt)
Tyler The Creator lends a solid hook and one of his minimal/trappy/whacky NERD influenced beats for The Purge. ScHoolboy brings out killer flows and mic presence in this ignorant west coast track, showcasing his cockiness and aggressiveness, rapping about being a crip and generally doing “G Shit.” ScHoolboy must’ve been excited to get west coast legend Kurupt on his album, who spits in a less aggressive manner, but still pushes across the same message.
Blind Threats (Feat. Raekwon)
A standout on Oxymoron, Blind Threats brings a 90s feel featuring a 90s legend himself, Raekwon. An interesting note, Q got one of his producers from his 2011 mixtape Setbacks to produce this beat, and it definitely reminds me of a song that he would’ve made years ago (in a positive way.) The beat is simple yet could not have been made better, the small orchestra sections that cut in throughout the song bring it to perfection. Continuing with the GKMC comparisons, ScHoolboy asks “Lord, please forgive me all my sins” similar to Kendrick‘s Real. He is changing from the ignorant drug addicted father he once was. While he hasn’t done away with his gangster past (“But if God won’t help me, this gun will”), he shows his determination to “make it out this obstacle”, and support his daughter. Raekwon ends the superb track with a top notch braggadocio verse that is yet another example as to why he is one of the most highly regarded rappers ever.
Hell Of A Night
Hell Of A Night, is a clear attempt at a hit record for Q. The track (while good) does not fit in with the album and is one of the more generic songs on here. The thumping beat was without a doubt made for the clubs as is the theme of partying. The song is in no way bad though. The DJ Dahi produced beat is upbeat and fun, and ScHoolboy gives his all to bring himself into mainstream music fan’s music libraries. I believe this is his best shot at a hit song….if this one doesn’t chart on Billboard, maybe Q should just give up on trying to craft hits.
Break The Bank
My favorite song on Oxymoron at this time. A simple chord progression played on piano is backed by an upbeat drum on the Alchemist produced instrumental. Following Blind Threats, Q seems to now be on the upward trajectory, and Break The Bank represents how I assume he has felt the past year leading up to the release of his debut album. Break The Bank is the last step in his journey to the top, and with the release of Oxymoron incoming he is, well, “bout to break the bank.” On the track he remembers the struggles he went through to be successful and to create the best life possible for his daughter Joy, and the doubters who he told “one day my story gon pay”. Break The Bank is Q proudly proclaiming that his time has come.
Man Of The Year
ScHoolboy Q has made it. To finalize the GKMC comparison, this is to Oxymoron what Compton is to GKMC; a celebration, a victory lap. The track is a certified banger and is one most believed would propel Q into the mainstream (surprisingly, it has not yet.) it was super hyped after a snippet was placed at the end of Kendrick Lamar‘s Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe music video and I think it is safe to say it pretty much lived up to the expectations. The only negative I really have to say about the song is that the hook (although great) seems to extend a little too long. Overall though, Man Of The Year is a catchy, fun, banger that ends Oxymoron on a high note.
Final Verdict: 8.1/10
I give ScHoolboy Q‘s Oxymoron a rating of 8.1/10. The production is top notch, the lyrics (while not comparable to the top lyrical rappers) are improved from Q‘s previous projects, as is his talent for storytelling. His energy and mic presence continues to be 10/10 while his hooks do lack some. All of the features came through and did their thing and were great placements on the songs they appeared on. Though somewhat difficult to find without listening hard to the album, there is a concept/theme to Oxymoron, although it is no where near as well put together as GKMC. Though not the absolute best project that could have come from ScHoolboy Q, Oxymoron shows growth in many aspects of his style, and I’m sure his next album will enter my “most anticipated albums list” for the year it is released.