Schoolboy Q maintains tough sound in new album, ‘Oxymoron’

Jake Aquino, music critic

“My daddy a gangsta.” With his 5-year-old daughter’s opening statement, Quincy Hanley, a.k.a Schoolboy Q, launches into the first song of his third studio album, Oxymoron, appropriately titled “Gangsta.” In this gritty opener, Q makes it very clear from the beginning that he is not trying to craft hits for the radio or trying to appeal to the current flavor of rap; he is pushing his brand of West Coast Gangsta Rap into the mainstream.

Signed to the California label Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE), which boasts rappers such as Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, and most notably Kendrick Lamar, Q has been waiting for his chance in the spotlight. With Kendrick taking a step back after his domination of the rap game in the past year, Q has emerged as the next great rapper to come out of TDE. On Oxymoron, which has been in the works for two years, he chronicles his upbringing, his experiences as a former gang member and his struggles with the consumption and selling of drugs.

Sonically, the album is extremely well crafted and mixed. In-house production from TDE members THC and Digi+Phonics, along with a variety of other big name producers such as Pharrell Williams and The Alchemist, gives the album its sleek sound. A nod to ‘90s-era West Coast hip-hop production, the album is unique in that it features elements of modern rap along with its obvious influences from the past.

The album’s masterpiece comes on the seventh track, “Prescription/Oxymoron.” A two-part song, it is a perfect example of Q’s unique sound and lyricism. The song demonstrates Q’s ability to evoke emotions from the listener while still remaining true to his hard, tough sound.

The first half, “Prescription,” is a sullen song about his troubles with drug addiction over a dark, cloudy beat. Lyrically, it shows Q at his most vulnerable, a stark contrast from his gangster leanings.

In the first verse, Q references the drugs that have got him at his current state. He says, “My mommy call, I hit ignore. My daughter call, I press ignore. My chin press on my chest, my knees hit the floor,” painting a vivid picture of his problems with commitment to his loved ones while on drugs.

Then, on the second half of the song “Oxymoron,” he raps from his current view as a former drug dealer, rhyming about his past selling and how he is done selling now. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the beat of “Oxymoron” changes to a bass-heavy dynamic beat while he speeds up his flow to match it, highlighting his versatility.

The album is filled with shout-outs to the Hoover Street Crips and to Figueroa Street in Los Angeles, Calif., where Q grew up. Though he stays true to his roots, he never glorifies the gangster life; he simply raps about its effects on him. All in all, Oxymoron is an excellent album with great lyrical content and well-produced beats.