28 July 2016

REVIEW: ScHoolboy Q - Blank Face LP

It's no secret that 2016 has been another down year for hip-hop.  We are sitting uncomfortably within a completely new era of music led by a younger generation of uninspired trash.  The essence of true creativity is on life support and there is no need to continue to duck and dodge this fact.  Anyone looking for confirmation need look no further than the 2016 XXL Freshman list chock full of hot bumsauce.  We can waste time pointing fingers at who is responsible for the two-syllable-flow era we live in, but it really doesn't matter because there's a good possibility that it's here to stay for awhile.  Even street-centric artists have been shoved into a corner, with no one to blame but themselves for their overall lack of introspection and style.  So ScHoolboy Q's ascent to becoming one of this era's illest rappers in spite of his contemporaries should come as no surprise.  With his fourth studio album Blank Face LP, Q has effortlessly solidified his position within the culture by doing nothing more than remaining consistent.

You'll quickly notice improvement in ScHoolboy Q's flow and ability to tell a story on "Lord Have Mercy," where he takes you on a brief journey comparing the typical pitfalls of running the streets to how his life and relationships have been affected by fame over the years.  He speaks on how he chooses to meet his demons with a blank face to show that he is unphased by anyone from his hood that tries to tear down his success.  On the surface, this may seem like an excessively used topic in rap, but Q's clever ability to paint a vivid picture within such a brief window (1:44 to be exact) is nothing short of amazing.

"Shakin these broken hands and, meet em wit Blank Faces / Snake eyes keepin my back achin / Dirty habits of rappin and being savage / Still hangin wit niggaz that can't do nothin but cause damage / Guess I'm being a real nigga like I'm 'posed to be / but being real never once bought the groceries / and, Top told me Keep rappin, you'll make it hopefully." 

Gangsta Rap may sound like a played-out label these days, but Blank Face LP is a vessel of preservation for that long-lost art of storytelling due to the majority of Q's work paying homage to the big homies he grew up on.  "Groovy Tony / Eddie Kane" features an assist from Jadakiss whom Q juxtaposed his own career with in a recent interview stating that much like Kiss, he felt like an underdog despite still having a healthy catalog of great music.  "Dope Dealer" finds ScHoolboy Q aligning himself with E-40 who has been an ambassador for collaborating with artists from this  generation for several years.  Naturally, the groovy side of Q makes a few appearances as well throughout Blank Face LP on "WHateva U Want," and "Overtime," which may be the only two songs on the album that even come close to sounding like radio material.  Luckily, no compromises for the sake of appeal were made on any of these funk-infused tracks.  "Big Body" is the perfect blend of old and new LA flavor, with Tyler the Creator crafting a beat that recaptures that early 90s west coast bounce, and Kurupt and Daz Dillinger from Tha Dogg Pound absolutely slaying their verses.

While every song resonated with me in some way, I found myself revisiting three tracks in particular most often. "JoHn Muir," "Neva CHange," and "Black THougHts" provide a certain level of ingenuity and sensibility that shakes the soul in a way that I haven't felt in years.  Top Dawg label mate SZA's soothing contribution to "Neva CHange" was definitely a welcome change of pace.

It's really tough to find any weak spots on this album.  There's a good chance that every track will eventually take root and begin to resonate with you at some point.  It may be safe to say that Blank Face LP is at least Q's most cohesive project to date, but on the flip-side it still lacks that thunder found on most of his previous albums.  Luckily the omission of the typical radio-worthy banger doesn't detract from the overall body of work.  Blank Face LP is the type of album that long-term careers are built upon.  To quote local artist JDVBBS "In a time where artists are constantly throwing curve balls in hip-hop, Q pitches this shit straight down the middle and nails it."  While a cyclone of rap debris continues to revolve around them, TDE is like the eye of the shitstorm, managing to remain cool calm and collected while continuing to crank out nothing but impressive albums.

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