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Blank Face (7.8/10)

Another NWA inspired MC from the West more specifically South Central, Los Angeles, Schoolboy Q is Kendrick’s right hand but he’s also talented enough to put out quality on his own. His last album Oxymoron had breakout singles Studio and Man of the Year, and along with the music Schoolboy is also celebrated for his style, in which case his image is just as recognizable as his actual raps. In fact the content of Schoolboy’s raps can at times feel repetitive considering that we’ve already heard that same story come out of the Los Angeles area so many times before, yet the reality is that Schoolboy can actually rap about that life better than most, though sometimes that gets overlooked for his persona as a street soldier - who once aspired to be football player - who’s now the most critically acclaimed rapper’s second in command.

With that being said his latest album has many highs and many lows, all detailed and broken down extensively in the track by track album review below:

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1) TorcH ft Anderson Paak

“A minor pitchin in major, stay serving dope but we cater, take you back to my Sega, slammin bones on that table” Good introduction for what’s to come, an incredibly vivid portrayal of his life within better than decent raps and fire instrumentals. For good measure Anderson Paak opens and closes the record; a formula that works every time.

2) Lord Have Mercy

“Never ever got caught tellin on my *****, I’m a gangbanger, dead beat father, and dope dealer” Schoolboy is spittin on this!!! Records like this suggest that Schoolboy is not to be fucked with behind the microphone, and really does have the potential to fuck up your rewind button more than I originally gave him credit for. It’s a shame the song only clocks in at 1:40 tho and 30 seconds of that is Swizz Beatz smh.

3) THat Part ft Kanye West

“okay, okay, okay, okay, okay!, beggars can’t be choosers bitch this ain’t Chipotle!” Nope… this is not a very good record, the hook is trash and Kanye’s verse is borderline disgraceful - and I’m not even mad at how he closes this record with the freestyle - but he clearly phoned it in from the jump and I don’t like that look from Kanye no matter how many of you hypebeasts co-sign that.

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4) Groovy Tony/Eddy Kane ft Jadakiss

“Pistol through your Civic, most die before they hear it, turn a ***** to a spirit.” Schoolboy snaps on this… 2:00 minutes of straight fire and it’s all him - real raps about his South Central lifestyle with a delivery that would do damage to most rappers of any time period. Schoolboy also knows how to pick the right music to accentuate his flows, with hypnotizing arrangements of production that in this case flips over at the 3:40 mark, but not before Jada spits a light 12 with a hot 4 followed by Eddie Kane/Five Heartbeats raps from Schoolboy that are only as cool as how much you like that movie.

5) Know Ya Wrong ft Lance Skiiwalker

“Say girl jump in my bank account, so I can deposit you, I’m goin through withdrawals, and I can’t afford to lose.” this is where the album goes left for a minute as it’s nice production from Alchemist and J.LBS even though it has that famous but overplayed rising octave that we’ve heard in a million songs and commercials already - and as far as the vocals Schoolboy and new TDE member Lance Skiiwalker trade verses in a moment that is far from memorable. Good saxophone work from Terrace Martin however, who’s also on the keys and bass and delivers the funkadelic vibe they were going for.

6) Ride Out ft Vince Staples

“Bitch I think I’m dolemite, bitch I’m goin Poltergeist, who said this was overnight, album four it’s really like.” I like those bars but this is the definition of filler and honestly it gets the quickest SKIP on the album, the verses from Schoolboy and Vince sound like throwaway raps that they could do in their sleep, in which case it shouldn’t be on the album, Again it’s content we heard a million times before but this time there’s no good music to save it.

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7) WHatever U Want ft Candice Pillay

“Tryna give you an upgrade, Cherry bottles Dior shades, take my debit and go cray, spend spend every dollar, all way” this is cool enough to ride out to, smooth production and a fly hook with decent enough raps that overall makes it a good listen, and one of the most complete records on the album.

8) By Any Means

“You can fuck my bitch, you can have my hoe (get yours, get yours, get yours, by any means) you can smoke that kill, you can push that dope (get yours, get yours, get yours, by any means)” yea… the internet will cry but this is not a noteworthy record by any means imaginable, and the fact that Kendrick lends himself to the hook makes it that much more of a disappointment. Schoolboy is actually alright on this but the concept lacks in every way, especially if it indeed invokes Malcolm (as suggested by RapGenius) who used the phrase far more impactfully and for much better reasons before him.

9) Dope Dealer ft E 40

“Me personally I’m a rapper, and I’m spectacular (remarkable), got a way with words, my lingo and vernacular (marketable)” smh... another throwaway record, as I fail to see how Schoolboy and E 40 trading verses about dope dealing is appealing... it is E 40 after all... but to each their own……….. still tho… skip this one…

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10) JoHn Muir

“I was out here sellin dope at 14, what it do? I was out here fucking hoes at 14, what it do?” Named after his middle school in Los Angeles, this song is about Schoolboy’s upbringing, and as he put it at his listening party “the beginning of me stealing, robbing, getting beaten up, jackin *****, getting jacked, the whole nine,” thus although it’s stories we’ve heard all before the idea is that Schoolboy is authentic, so it shouldn’t be difficult to take it for what it’s worth it and enjoy it all the same. This joint has good production from Sounwave, who showcases his talent throughout the album and this is some of his best work.

11) Big Body ft Tha Dogg Pound

“Money makes the world go round in case you didn’t know, in case you didn’t know about these bitches and these hoes” Produced by Tyler the Creator honestly this song ain’t that crazy, it’s cool tho… but honestly it needed more of Kurupt and Daz, as Schoolboy has the hook plus the first 2 verses, and with Tyler’s production (which is cool) the high profile feature here is more of an afterthought.

12) Neva Change ft SZA

"Paranoid, the cop that keep my gear in park, pull me out the car to give me Black Thought, but fuck it, this shit's all kinda player, this shit my mama flavor, this that raised by your granny, pistols and Now & Laters" Now Schoolboy is snappin, this one of the best records I've heard with his name on it as not only his delivery A1 but the content feels more significant as well. Furthermore crazy production from Lawrence Dopson and DJ Dahi help potentially make this the best record off the album.

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13) Str8 Ballin

“I went from the king of the corner, to breaking down weed on my diploma” No matter how conventional the content may be it’s still there all the same (in all it’s glory and all it’s routineness), however it’s not delivered in bars per se, but just vivid narrations from the street - which often lends itself to good music and I can’t penalize Schoolboy for that at all - he’s good in his lane and his passion is always evident if nothing else. The Picture Me Rollin hook I could do without however...

14) Black THoughts

“Pissy sofas, sharing food with roaches, on gangsta crip, my poppa was a bitch” Schoolboy at his best… where once he allows the production to calm down for just a moment… he goes into his introspective bag and raps about the big picture in regards to his community and he does it well. I vote for more records like this, separate from his All Lives Matter inference that is relatively cryptic and doesn’t explain his position on the controversial subject. Either way this is a record where the raps come first, before the persona, before the fashion influence, before the production… this is a record that shows what Schoolboy can really do, and we need more of this.

15) Blank Face ft Anderson Paak

"I should be flyin' home without a care, my baby don’t want no toys, she want me there, I trade the noise for a piece of divine, I savor my coins for a piece of the land" Anderson Paak is just about obliterating every single instrumental he touches at this point, as he’s one of the most talented artists in all of music and he flexes again on this record with Schoolboy (who simply adds his voice and 12 light bars as the co-pilot to Paak who really is the one who takes this record home)

16) Overtime ft Miguel, Justine Skye

“Netflix and chill when it’s after hours, I should be in your room when you leave the shower.” What Schoolboy himself calls a “bootleg version of his own Studio record” and that Interscope “made him put this on his album,” - yet he also said they were right in the long run, and I happen to agree as this record is pretty good… although it’s certainly short of spectacular as well. Miguel has a relatively uninspired hook and Justine Skye’s moment is arguably the best performance on the record.

17) Tookie Knows II ft TF & Traffic

“My ***** gonna ride for this Crip, no lie, but I ain’t dead, yea *****, thank God” I fux with this outro, not mad at this at all… but again I hope Schoolboy can branch out with subject matter, as all of this has been said so many times before it’s ultimately lost some of it’s effect. The features here are for the most part forgettable (although TF does his numbers on this), but the sound personifies the album altogether and does give it relative closure - so if you like listening to Schoolboy’s stories then this one will fall right in line.

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Overall this critic really wanted to score this album higher, considering it’s best moments are undoubtedly some of the best music that’s come out this year, yet in the end he too often raps about the gangster life just because, thus without really any insightful perspective to go along with it, and not quite with the same efficiency as the likes of Game, Ross, or Pusha in comparison (and you also don't just get points off being abstract off the strength either, I don't pop pills so you can't sell me on the bullshit). Still however he raps far better than all the trap MCs that are championed on the internet and played on the radio ad nauseum, and with eccentric production that’s consistent (although it sometimes overshadows the raps) he has the potential to have a lot more good moments in the years to come. Hopefully on the next go-round he taps into his best qualities more (Lord Have Mercy, Groovy Tony, Neva Change, etc) and omits the filler (THat Part, Ride Out, Dope Dealer, etc. etc.) that took alot away from an otherwise very good album.

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