On the occasion of ScHoolboy Q’s latest single…
The first major album to be released in 2012; following the success of Section.80, an attempt to show the world that Black Hippy is more than Kendrick Lamar’s crew. And with Ab-Soul’s also flawed-but-sometimes-great Control System later that same year, they succeeded. Of course, two years later, Ab-Soul regressed into stupidity and ScHoolboy Q made an awkward attempt at being more serious and being a pop-star both at once, even though he was none of those things, while Kendrick Lamar’s ambitions and executions only became loftier.
The main issue here (like Control System or Jay Rock’s Follow Me home) is that it’s 17 songs totalling near-70 minutes, when ScHoolboy Q’s subject matter is hella limited (he does drugs, he fucks bitches, and sometimes, he enjoys both simultaneously; only “Blessed” really aims for anything different, and he gets overshadowed by You-Know-Who) and the songs are sometimes really lazy, often relying on a solid hook (ie. “NiggaHs.Already.Know.Davers.Flow”) or a groovy beat. For example, “Sex Drive” and “Gangsta in Designer (No Concept)” are lazy in the sense that there’s very little going on musically – a jittery keyboard line and a sample from the flute bridge of Genesis’ “Fifth of Firth” (one of Genesis’ best, you know), respectively – but regardless, they groove for days. (The latter is surprisingly groovy, since the driving mechanism is a flute, which sure as shit ain’t really the first instrument to spring to mind when people think groove.) “Raymond 1969”, sampling Portishead’s “Cowboys” (one of the few good songs on Portishead’s most overrated album), achieves a similar nostalgic vibe as does “Gangsta in Designer.”
The sometimes great stuff, arranged in order and in one big paragraph: the insistent beat and dark undertones (ie. at the 1:04 mark) of “Sacrilegious”; Sounwave (a very jazz-minded artist)’s buried horns on “There He Go,” and how ScHoolboy modulates his voice to deliver one of the catchiest (or annoying; YMMV) hooks on the album (recalled later on Mike Will Made It’s “My Hatin’ Joint”); the house party of “Hands on the Wheel,” which samples the rare instance of someone else not named Kanye West exhuming some use out of Kid Cudi (the sample is a live version of Lissie’s cover of “Pursuit of Happiness”), replete with lines like “If I fucked her once, then I could fuck her twice / If I fucked her twice, I might change her life”; the surprisingly gorgeous night-time beat of “Grooveline, Pt. 1”; the disorienting bass of “Druggy Wit Hoes Again” even if Ab-Soul’s verse is beyond stupid (“Them niggas thought I had a laxative, now ain’t that some shit?” and “Now that’s gangsta, bitch / Rolling through the city with my gangsta bitch / I’m a gangsta, bitch”); “Nightmare on Figg St”, which sounds like “Niggas in Paris” if it were in a haunted house; Jay Rock’s closer verse on “2 Raw.”
Oh, and Kendrick Lamar’s verse on “Blessed,” which is one of Kendrick Lamar’s top 10 features of all time, regardless that it’s 2016 and Kendrick Lamar’s still early in his career: check out the rhythm of his entrance (“Living in a premature place … wait / Never grow to see the pearly grates … break”), the syllables shooting out like a machine gun, punctuated by the final rhyme. And that’s saying nothing of the second half of the verse, where his flow becomes knottier (“You reject these niggas that neglect your respect / For the progress of a baby step, my nigga / Step-step my nigga, one-two, skip-skip / Back-back, look both ways, pull it off the hip / Blast at, anybody say that you can’t flip…”).
Throw it on a shuffle and enjoy until the high passes.