Specer Lane, Chattanooga Tenn. –
Top Dawg Entertainment, the West Coast label responsible for Kendrick Lamar’s rise,
has steadily been making a name for itself as one of the best forces in hip-hop today. Now the
label is bringing another LA-based rapper from the forefront of the indie scene to a broader hip-
hop audience. Schoolboy Q, after a solid start to his career marked by solid indie releases, has
come out with his TDE debut Oxymoron and is beginning to follow in Lamar’s footsteps.
The album’s strength definitely lies in its singles. “Collard Greens” began receiving radio
airplay over the summer of 2013 and was a fantastic introduction to Schoolboy Q with its
infectious beat and sing-song chorus. The fact that Lamar has a fantastic verse on the track helps
no doubt. “Break the Bank”, the album’s second single, is evocative of the 90s LA sound that
Schoolboy Q grew up with and was influenced by, hypnotic and driving. However, the best
single on the album is its second, “Man of the Year”. Although the beat is not sophisticated, a
sample of Chromatic’s “Cherry”, the mixing and Schoolboy’s infectious hook make this song an
instant West Coast classic and one of the best songs of 2014 so far.
Outside of the singles, the album is pretty experimental and has some highlights, but
lacks a flow from song to song. Most of the songs’ production is not as smooth as those on the
singles, but the ones that do stand out are very much worth listening to. “Hoover Street” is
probably the best song on the entire album. It covers Schoolboy’s childhood and all of the
messed-up things he saw and experienced. Marked by a beat with driving toms and an infectious
bass-line, followed by a more relaxed second half, this track will satisfy the fans who have
listened to Schoolboy Q since his beginnings.
There are no songs that are terrible on the album, but a few are below par. Although
“Studio”, featuring BJ The Chicago Kid, could be meant to be satirical, that does not mask its
over-ubiquitous production and unimaginative lyrics. Also “Gangsta”, while not a bad song by
any means, is a weak opener to the album and probably would have fit better in the middle
section. All in all, this is a very good major label debut for Schoolboy Q and could be a
darkhorse contender for hip-hop album of the year, but in the end, it lacks the end-to-end
brilliance that such a title requires.