Following the release of Kendrick Lamar’s debut album, good kid, m.A.A.d. city, much hype was built around the West Coast hip-hop collective Black Hippy, and for good reason. With Kendrick’s concept album proving a commercial success, alongside a rise in reputation for fellow Black Hippy cohorts Ab-Soul and Jay Rock, ScHoolboy Q’s follow up to the impressive Habits & Contradictions has been the cause for a great deal of buzz in the hip-hop world.
Packed with bass-heavy beats and brilliant production from the TDE team (Top Dawg Entertainment, the incredibly selective label Black Hippy are signed to), Oxymoron is very much an album that’s easy to enjoy. Couple this with his solid flow, and the different sounds thrown in by guest producers Pharrell and Tyler, The Creator, and the appeal of the album becomes very clear.
However, Oxymoron completely threw me lyrically. On the surface, it seemed like nothing more than an album about gangs, drugs and partying, in a bland way that couldn’t quite match the rest of Black Hippy. During my first listen to the album, it was very tempting to discard it after hearing ‘Gangsta’ shouted at me numerous times, and choose to put on some Ab-Soul instead. However, the more I listened, the more I realised that there was much more to it.
Throughout he raises the difference in lifestyle from what he’s grown up with and will never forget (On twitter he revealed the capitalisation of his H’s is to pay homage to the Hoover Crips he was a part of), to the new lifestyle brought in by money and fame. On ‘Los Awesome’, Q’s talking about the gangbanging lifestyle he was a part of during his times struggling for money and selling Oxycontin. In comparison, on tracks like ‘Hell of a Night’ we see Q talking about the insanity of his new life.
One of Q’s more introspective tracks, ‘Prescription/Oxymoron’ is a standout track on the album. With the first half centring on Q’s addiction to prescription drugs, he brilliantly sheds light on the destructive nature of drug abuse and how it affected his personal relationships, including his relationship with his daughter whose vocal samplings feature on the track. In the latter section, Q switches it up to rapping about his time on the streets selling Oxycontin to get food on the table for him and his daughter. The change of style only further displays what Q has shown throughout the album: how easily he can switch things up without any disruption the experience of the listener. A trait shown again with ‘Studio’ where Q pines for the affection of a certain lady when he’s recording.
The definition of an oxymoron is: “A figure of speech in which incongruous or seemingly contradictory terms appear side by side; a compressed paradox.” On that definition, an oxymoron is exactly what ScHoolboy’s created with this album. From describing how he always done bad things with good intentions, to shedding the bad things that come with good change and an increase of money, the choice of album title is clear. Oxymoron might not be another good kid, but it stands as a fine hip-hop album in its own right.By Elliott Ball