For those who have followed ScHoolboy Q’s music career, you will be aware that his life has been littered with its fair share of setbacks. He’s had to battle against his habits and contradictions, which has led Q to becoming somewhat of an oxymoron. Regardless of all the potential pitfalls, ScHoolboy Q has managed to navigate his way to the point where his fourth album – Blank Face LP – is one of the most anticipated Hip Hop projects of 2016.
The album is said to be based around the period in Q’s life just before he went to prison and beyond, which is made immediately apparent through the opening track, ‘Torch’, as he vividly describes his environment at that time. This intense imagery is common throughout the TDE rapper’s music, but his ability to do such has improved with every album he has released. The best examples on Blank Face LP are ‘Groovy Tony / Eddie Kane’ – that also features an outstanding verse from Jadakiss – ‘John Muir’ and ‘Tookie Knows II’, with all three among the most memorable moments on the album.
With this being ScHoolboy Q’s fourth project, listeners who are familiar with his work can pinpoint the archetypal sound that he excels on, and this project includes many typical Q cuts. In addition to the aforementioned tracks, the likes of the destructive ‘Ride Out’ with Vince Staples, the uncredited Kendrick Lamar supported ‘By Any Means’ and ‘Str8 Ballin’ are reminiscent of the sort of songs that caught the attention of many at the turn of the decade, while ‘Overtime’ featuring Miguel & Justine Skye is the Blank Face LP equivalent of ‘Studio’ from 2014’s Oxymoron.
This is not to say that ScHoolboy Q doesn’t come with new sounds and/or perspectives since his last album, with tracks like ‘Black Thoughts’ touching on subjects that are very relevant in the current social climate. ‘Neva Change’ (aided by a hook from TDE label mate, SZA) and ‘Blank Face’ (that is heavily assisted by Anderson Paak) deliver the opportunity of a smoother platform for ScHoolboy to express his views and opinions. Within this otherwise strong selection of seventeen, a few weaker tracks appear as mere blemishes, with ‘Whatever U Want’ and ‘Big Body’ being those that could have easily been left aside. ‘Big Body’ is especially disappointing considering the artists involved, as the Tyler, The Creator produced track is accompanied by Tha Dogg Pound, but is somewhat uninspiring despite the potentially catchy hook.
ScHoolboy Q has proved once again that he can create a “gangsta rap” album, but avoids alienating listeners who may not be aware of what most of his subject matter entails, which is a very impressive accomplishment, putting himself alongside Kendrick Lamar in that regard. Blank Face LP should be put alongside the top Hip Hop releases of the year for the improvement in Q’s lyrical ability and the overall quality of the project.