Having already released a grip of singles prior, the expectations for Schoolboy Q‘s major label debut Oxymoron were high. After all he’s arguably the second-most talented lyricist on TDE next to of course Kendrick Lamar. Unfortunately for him, the gap between Lamar’s skills and his are vast and too much to overcome. Q’s first steps into establishing himself on the main stage is full of over used, predictable, rap hum drumming all of which is delivered in the usual prescribed manner.
As the opener, “Gangsta” sets the tone for the album, and it couldn’t be a bigger let down. Having his daughter curse on wax is one thing, but having a song go in mindless concentric circles is another. Schoolboy Q is blindly pulling from rap’s big bag of cliches, and in a world where there are a dozen or so rappers out there doing the exact same thing, he’s setting himself up for failure. Mostly because there’s an even larger contingency of rappers ready to replace him – hungrier, with the same style, and willing to work for less. More than anything his introduction is telling us that leaving a mark isn’t a priority, he’s just happy he got an invitation to the party: [LISTEN]
For the first half of the album you can essentially interchange the order of all the songs and not lose a single thing. Furthermore you could swap out verses, and not hinder the narrative arc one bit – because there isn’t one. Schoolboy Q is reiterating what we already know about him: that he is a man of many vices. But it’s not about being ashamed of success or having to be humble, it’s about diversifying the pallet.
“Hoover Street” is about as close we get to something other than the various types of clappin’ – booty, gun or otherwise. It brings Q back a step, and when he’s not being so damn eager to talk about how much he has on his plate he’s showing just how good a storyteller he is, even if it is a little frayed around the edges. He even goes as far as to offer a vivid snapshot rather than relying on braggadocio and ballyhoo: [LISTEN]
The album continues at the same pace as it opened, with a few fleeting moments of greatness in between. But for the most part it stumbles across too many familiar pitfalls. The totem of unbridled excess has weighed down yet another talented lyricist and it’s a troubling, if not utterly boring trend.
Oxymoron had all the makings of a great album. But having already released the best material prior to the release it fizzled out before it could even take off – just like your average Hollywood blockbuster where all the juicy details are revealed in the previews, leaving the actual movie to unfold in very predictable ways.
It’s like he already lived the best years of his professional life, and the slim bit of success he’s tasted so far has already pacified him to sedation, an idea he ironically explores in “Man of the Year:” [LISTEN]