Loved “Collard Greens” when I first heard it in 2013 and love it now. Love how banging the drums are when they’re on, served on a bass bed that could fuck someone senseless; love how dreamy the keyboard melody is when it’s on; love tiny details like machine gun drum bursts (during the second instance of the chorus) and drugged out harmonies (during the second half of Lamar’s verse). Love how Kendrick Lamar’s flow switches depending on the beat from raw to drugged out, whereas ScHoolboy Q is essentially motionless in comparison (which shows the latter’s limitations). Love ScHoolboy Q’s “No, it’s not the Westside / Stick it up your Southside” – clever couplet, that one.
Liked “Man of the Year” when I first heard it and like it now, though I think repeating the chorus three times in each instance was one time too many (though I like how ScHoolboy pronounces “year” as “yeah”) and I’m aware that like “Raymond 1969” and “Gangsta in Designer (No Concept)” from ScHoolboy Q’s Habits & Contradictions (the tracks that sampled Portishead and Genesis respectively, you recall), “Man of the Year” rides its Chromatics sample all the way to the bank.
And speaking of, liked “Break the Bank” when I first heard it (mostly thanks to Alchemist’s piano loop) and hate it now. Oxymoron being ScHoolboy Q’s debut on Interscope, he does the same thing that Kendrick Lamar did on his own debut, that is, spinning simple phrases into mantras. Except the mantra on “Break the Bank” sucks the biggest bag of dicks you can find – ScHoolboy Q singing “La-de-da”’s does nothing but stretch a modest 3 minute song into unlistenable 6 minute territory.
Those are the singles. The rest? The same criticism I leveled against “Man of the Year” carries to “Hell of a Night”; though DJ Dahi (the same producer that did “Money Trees”) cooks up a really catchy beat, the rapper does absolutely nothing to make himself known over top (as opposed to “Money Trees”). Elsewhere, Tyler, the Creator’s typically lo-fi-sounding production for the Black Hippy-meets-Odd Future “The Purge” sounds awkward on an album full of hi-fi production (and though Tyler doesn’t get a verse, he still remains the most obnoxious person in the world by repeating “Yeah, nigga, uh, yeah, nigga” to compete with “Break the Bank” and “What They Want” for worst hook on the album). Personally, the two biggest draws on the album are “Studio” and the East Coast-meets-West of “Blind Threats” (love the thin string line in the latter). On the former, it most definitely is not the token R&B track as some people would have you believe; the wailing cries provide a really dark undertone that you never see a lot of in “token R&B tracks” (though I’m aware I heard something similar being used on “Blessed” and ScHoolboy Q’s “Na-na-na, la-la, la-la, you get what I’m saying / No metaphors, nothing like that / I’m keeping it straight to the point with you / I’mma put this dick up all in-side-of-you” is a terrible, terrible way to end the song).
2012 was the rest of Black Hippy proving that they weren’t just Kendrick’s crew after the success of Section.80 and ScHoolboy Q was the worst of its three members (Jay Rock, who didn’t pull together a full length anything, still dropped a better verse on “Money Trees” than anything ScHoolboy Q has managed). He simply doesn’t have the versatility or arresting power of Kendrick (see: “Collard Greens” or “Blessed” respectively) nor Ab-Soul’s – er – soul (see: “The Book of Soul”), and his lyrical content is hilariously limited in comparison to either. Habits & Contradictions was still a success, however, because of its beats and ScHoolboy Q’s YAWK-ing, ICKY-ing and VROOM-ing charisma (see: “There He Go” and “Hands on the Wheel”). On a couple of these tracks, he trades that charisma for the same Serious Artist vibe that Kendrick Lamar built his name on (and why not compare them? ScHoolboy Q clearly wants us to, “my music is better than Kendrick’s – thank God for modesty). Sometimes it works (“Prescription / Oxymoron” and hmm, where have I seen multipartite tracks on a hip-hop album, recently?) (though I think that “Oxymoron” drags on for a little too long, “Prescription” is arresting) and sometimes it doesn’t (“Hoover Street”). Meanwhile, a lot of these beats are typical of a big label; big sounds for a big audience. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t; you’re either going to hate Pharrell’s beat on (that overpowers both rappers) or completely submit to it (“Los Awesome”) and when the trap rap phenomenon finally joins the dodo bird, this world will be a better place (“What They Want”).
Anything else? I vaguely like “Grooveline Pt. 2” on the deluxe edition thanks to the airy female vocals in the background (and hmm, where I have heard that trick before?) (also again, obnoxious hook). And while I’m on the deluxe edition, “His and Her Fiend” just sucks and “Fuck LA” sounds like it belongs on Habits & Contradictions as one of the less-memorable tracks. Also, in case Mac Miller ever wonders why people don’t take him seriously, there’s this lovely quotation where he (in)articulates why Oxymoron is better than good kid: “It’s better than Kendrick’s album. My opinion doesn’t fucking matter. Q’s album is crazy. It’s just filled with so much. I don’t know, man. I think that Q made a better album than Kendrick. There is no such thing as a better album at the end of the day. They probably both are different. But I just wanted to say [that] because it creates more hype for [my] homie’s album. But I really believe that. Or do I? Or am I just saying it? Do I believe anything I say? What is life?”