Oxymoron (to be released February 25, 2014)
All eyes are on ScHoolboy Q and the homie doesn’t lack confidence.
Q’s third album Oxymoron, his first major-label release, also happens to be Top Dawg Entertainment’s first LP release since labelmate Kendrick Lamar conquered hip hop with good kid, m.A.A.d. city.
Q has confidently claimed that his new project would be an instant classic, surpassing both the heralded GKMC and even fellow TDE cohort Ab-Soul’s fantastic Control System.
And if you believed that, you must smoke as much as Q does.
Oxymoron is nowhere near the masterpiece we were promised but it definitely has its moments.
That biggest moment is probably the infectious “Man of the Year.” The bouncy single has one huge advantage over anything on the aforementioned GKMC and Control System – it’s tailor-made for radio. That success is replicated with “Collard Greens” and “Los Awesome.” Q doesn’t set a high bar for wordplay – Kendrick does the heavy lifting lyrically on the former and Jay Rock on the latter – but what Q does bring his is frantic energy. His flow and style is truly unique – no one sounds like Q and that helps him stand out even when sharing the mike with superior lyricists.
While Q’s energy is certainly his strong point, surprisingly, Oxymoron shines when the tempo slows to a crawl. On “Blind Threats,” Q shuns spirituality to put his faith in what he knows – firearms and pharmaceuticals – while riding a subdued, smoky track. “Hell of a Night” and the soulful “Studio” also succeed because Q is forced to slow down and stay focused.
As for the rest of the album … that’s not the case.
On many of the remaining songs, Q is like an out-of-control 11-year-old with PCP in his Pixy Stix. Practically every bar on “Grooveline Pt. 2” starts with the line “N*ggaz already know…” Every. Single. Bar. It gets old REAL FAST. Nez & Rio’s rock-hard production for “Gangsta” is ruined by Q’s repetitive and overbearing hook; “Man of the Year” proves that dude doesn’t have to yell to get us hyped. And his punchlines are downright laughable on “What They Want”: “Imma keep on eatin’ till my ankles fat.” That’s Rick Rawse-level buffoonery.
With more focus and a stronger commitment to lyrics, Oxymoron could have been so much more. “Prescription/Oxymoron” is brimming with potential – Q starts out introspectively as he examines the impact of drugs in his life before he falls back into his comfort zone of screaming all over the track. And “Hoover Street,” a heartfelt portrait of Q’s tumultuous childhood, lacks the lyrical chops to push it to the next level.
Don’t get me wrong, Oxymoron certainly isn’t a bad record. Q just tries too hard to fulfill his promise of a classic album and winds up overextending his reach. But when the ScHoolboy plays his lane, he’s on track to reach Kendrick’s throne someday.
Best tracks: “Man of the Year,” “Blind Threats,” “Hell of a Night”
3.5 stars out of 5