The court of public opinion has always tried to make the rest of Black Hippy like the The Temptations and Kendrick Lamar as the group’s David Ruffin. Outside of Q’s Habits and Contradictions, Soul’s Control System, and Jay Rock’s 90059, there wasn’t much of a case to be made to disprove this.
I’ve always disagreed though. Although all members of Black Hippy are phenomenal rappers in their own right, Q has always been the Beanie Sigel to Kendrick’s Jay-Z to me. While they’re damn near equal in skill, they’re separated by one thing: star power. And as I stated before, Q doesn’t have an album run comparable to Section.80, Good Kid MAAD City, and To Pimp A Butterfly.
Well forget that thing about star power I literally just said. Blank Face LP squashes that. This album is proof that Schoolboy Q is a well-rounded MC who can go toe-to-toe with not only Kendrick Lamar, but any other rapper for that matter.
Here’s a great opportunity to post the video to the lead single “Groovy Tony”. Why? This album sounds exactly like this video. Imagine if your favorite action movie was a rap album. That album would be Blank Face LP.It sounds like those old Charles Bronson movies where he’s just breaking bones for two hours straight. This album would totally kick your ass in a barfight.
What Schoolboy Q has managed to do is craft an old school West Coast rap album with a modern aesthetic. Much like Vince Staples’ Summertime 06, he has remained true to his roots while adding a dense, even futuristic aesthetic. It has all the elements of the West Coast sound we’ve grown to appreciate without copying and pasting the formula verbatim.
This album is rich, yet extremely textured. It’s like a slice of chocolate cake from a swanky restaurant. Ok, this cake tastes like weed and gunsmoke, but it’s still delicious. This level of balance has been a nitpicky problem I’ve had with his albums in the past. With Blank Face’s predecessor, Oxymoron, decisions are pretty split. Either you think it’s just typical Q or you think it’s underwhelming. One this is for sure though, he sounded er…comfortable? On this album, there’s so much confidence in his voice and delivery.
Blank Face, clear everything out the safe
Crack the pig bank, robbin’ your kids too
My heart an igloo, the devil in all blue
Die now go to heaven or bring ’em through
Lot of brown ’round here, got that white girl for you
And she swimming in fire water, could be double digits
Piercing through your Civic
Most die before they hear it, turn a nigga to a spirit
The biggest testament to Q’s development as a rapper is the variety of songs on this album. True there’s a plateau of songs that sound the “same” but he’s taking more risks with production and even song structure. He’s had songs before that have changed instrumentals midway through but a song switch like “Eddie Kane” is really something he could only pull off. He collaborates with Alchemist often, but “Know Ya Wrong” is new territory for these two.
Then there’s a track like “John Muir” which is pretty simplistic as far as the hook goes but it’s catchy and has an infectious melody.Q hasn’t always been the most conscious or “woke” rapper either, but he takes time to focus on gang violence for “Black Thoughts”.
The only two tracks that stick out in a negative way are “Whatever You Want” and “Overtime”. I’m sure these tracks were forced by the label as he alluded to. They aren’t bad by any means but they kinda throw the albums vibe off. Without them, this album would sound as close to perfection as possible.
Because I can rant endlessly about this album, I’ll just conclude by reiterating that Q is for real. He can definitely be tossed into the best rapper conversation and it’s now unfair to call a rapper with such a distinct style a Kendrick Lamar knockoff.
Blank Face gets a 4.25-5 for me. If there ends up being a better rap album released this year, I’ll buy you a chimichanga.