Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Live Review - ScHoolboy Q - Blank Face LP

Fuck my image, I need to drop, I need to blank face

At long last, we get a followup ScHoolboy album! It's been two years since Oxymoron, but tell me "Collard Greens", "Hell of a Night", or "Man of the Year" don't go just as hard. Try to tell me that "Prescription/Oxymoron" don't still cut you deep. It's almost like... you find yourself not even wanting new music from him that badly, just cause the old stuff is still so reliable whenever you're in that mood. But now that it's here? Finally? All 1h12m of it? Okay never mind I want it very badly.

It seems sort of arbitrary and maybe unfair to compare Q with his esteemed labelmate Kendrick Lamar. I mean, it's kinda unfair to compare any rapper with Kendrick, haha. They both exemplify the "TDE sound" in interesting and unique ways, though. They're both lyrically driven flow experts, rappers simply incapable of just churning out a verse - each and every one has to have some unique rhythmic element, some novel structure, some new climactic message. But where Kendrick adapts his Wayne-esque chameleon flow to more and more diverse genres, Q is a fundamentalist at heart, focusing on perfection and evolution of the G-Funk he was raised in. The same idea goes for their lyrical messages - although they both focus on the struggles and triumphs of their communities, and their greater implications for individuality, masculinity, family, community, race, America, etc, Kendrick narrativizes his memories into compelling ur-stories, while Q keeps his perspective tighter, more immediate, more similar to what you'd see in typical rap writing.

I think this leads people to say too often that Q is less ambitious than K. Dot, which I don't think is a fair assessment. If you take even his most straightforward party-banger and break it down, looking at each line, each syllable, each element of the beat and how it intersects with every choice he makes with his flow... it's dizzying the amount of work involved, and it's equally dizzying to think about how expertly he packages it into something so cohesive in sound and exciting and digestible. The vision he must have in his mind of the complete sound experience, in all these subtle ways, is simply Kanye-esque.

If you want something where the grandness of his ambitions and expertise in bringing it about is more obvious, check out his excellent 3-part movie series. The way he captures the intimate details of his lifestyle, the highs and the lows, captures perfectly the perspective and intensity of his music. But what captures it even more is... the music itself, lol. And oh man, hearing the segments of tracks at the end of each video, I don't think I can get any more hyped. So let's cut this intro here and get going with it!! Oh, I was gonna talk about the cover(s) too, lol uhh maybe later.

ScHoolboy Q - Blank Face LP
Live Review

1. TorcH
like as in he's being passed it, maybe? ahh the density of this blank face... this sick bass line, these harmonies, this is some untitled unmastered stuff here. oh snap and there was kenny lol. and an electric guitar? oh man oh man. this is gonna be a crazy one. ooh this beat... setting the scene of this intense g-funk environment, sonically and lyrically. oh snap it's so funky though. "cartoons and bubble soap", "this be the realest shit i wrote", the power of nostalgic. oh man when he extends his lines, "met the devil in disguiiiiiiiise", oh and the STUTTERING? oh hell yeah. this is the level of density i mean. "look through my motherfucking eyes", i'll do my best lol. "take it back to my sega", not the first time he's rapped about this lol. "lungs back as a crow, got banned from every hood store", this is our 'hero', "been alone since embryo". and the density of images and stuff! man! and this is all just like... straight up shit he actually saw, i'm sure, as a Hoover street crip. man i can't express how much i love the way he stutters the line over what sounds like kendrick going in a bed. unsure tho. there's no listed artists. really sounds like him tho. or maybe this is just YET ANOTHER brand new flow for Q and i'm totally ignorant... it sounds sorta like him too... damn man, if he can do THIS sort of thing TOO? "kinda like the cocaine on my fallen rose", haha i feel like everything i said about what kendrick did that he didn't is getting proven wrong immediately haha. but i am happy to be proven wrong cause god damn this shit, whew. "ain't this shit what you wanted to see?" hell yes. **

2. Lord Have Mercy
god damn what a cool title. wow. yeah man. he's really exploring his singing voice and it is GOOD. a little anderson paaky, a little ty dolla signy. that "damn" ad-lib was so good lol. meeting with BLANK FACES, i wonder if every track will have a reference of some sort to this ur-aesthetic. "Being real never once brought the groceries", brutal. woah, and that drum kit? so complex and yet it moves on such a singular triumphant arc. i love it. lord have mercy. **

3. THat Part
Awwwwwww yeah THAT PART. i've been listening to the black hippy remix a lot so it'll be refreshing to hear YE again. the way the "that part" is like a little aside is so good, they're so innovative with rhythms like this lol. i really want to see it broken down with like, sheet music or something lol. i looove the tiny little piano on the beat, it's so sinister... STYLE ON TOP OF STYLE, yeeeah. a chain that's worth the rolls. Q is good about unqualified hype bragging. Kendrick doesn't do that too often. but KANYE still the god of it. BEGGARS CAN'T BE CHOOSERS BITCH THIS AIN'T CHIPOTLE, line of the year every year. "wifey gonna kill me, she the female OJ", questionable lolol. the catfish line is hella clever tho. and catfish is hella delicious. i love that he says it TWICE, the best line of all time. the way it just goes back to the hook feels a bit less hype now that i've heard the crazy morphing remix. but Q's restraint is another of his high points... for all the complexity and density of his music, it's rarely overwhelming. oh man though the heavy drums near the end here, that's just the perfect level of evolution. man though the rhythm of "i just want the paaaaaaaper, that part", it's so good, so addictive. and YE AGAIN, i forgot, the beats even heavier, feeling like Kobe. LOL and talking about Scotty Pippen (sp?) at his wedding again, he's so happy about that. hahaha gotta get top on the phone! everyone's saying it hahaha. **

4. Groovy Tony/Eddie Kane
okay this song is basically PERFECT so i'm a little scared of any changes to it... jadakiss verse could be crazy though. man the way his verse just gets more and more intense, with those little drops down... what a rollercoaster. it's like vintage nas when it comes up, and when he drops down with those little "blank face"s, it's like... no other rapper lol. "lotta brown round here, got that white girl for ya", the visceral way this scene is built up... the soundeffects and stuff too... the music video is fantastic too, god damn. man and you can hear every gob of spit when he really gets going. OH SHIT here we go, jadakiss DO THE LAUGH lol. alright yeah this fits perfectly, and the way he picked up the tension from what used to be the end, god damn. "when i hug ya mum and look over her shoulder, you'll know i got the blank face", hnng that's so good but woah woah what is this now, what the heck is this beat? oooooh snap, eddie kane wit it, Q having HELLA fun rn. prolly gonna diaaaah, yeeee. woah what is this sample? i probably should know. ohhhohohoho, he spirals way into abrasive noise and decay, and then just GOES IN ON THAT. woah woah... the raw drum kit... those haunting lower choral tones... this is sick wtf, this is tOO GOOD omgGG. i can't even quote any of this stuff. it's too raw. how was he so unsatisfied with groovy tony that he thought to do all of this? that song was already PRETTY AMAZING. truly yeezy-type ambitions. holy moly. woah and this creepy whispery voice too.. "your soul is mine"... god damn. is that just the DEVIL? ***

5. Kno Ya Wrong
hmm, idk who lance skiiiwalker is... i think he might be a new TDE sign-ee? unsure. i guess this is him here with this laid-back drawling flow, with the ODB "ooooooohhhhhh"s, yeeeee. ohhhhhhwa. this is a nice descalation too, this minimal piano beat, dilla vibes tbh. "rapping my ass off" haha. i like that even though he's a guest, he gets such a meaty chunk of the track to just sorta vibe out on too. Q's gonna go crazy on this beat tho i think. on this... NEW beat? the sax bridging us in to a sorta druggy piano? you know i love it. oh SHIT i love that crunchy almost lo-res bass sound, i would NOT have expected to hear that on here. "Girl jump in my bank account so I can deposit you" ha ha. this is still... lance, right? Q's voice is so amorphous these days, i'm never sure LOL. woah man that little sonic wormhole... "I hope I go out like BB King", that's very not-nihilist lol, reassuring. fuck up some commas, ayyy. okay i'll admit i have no idea who is who on this track but they are both doing a sick job and the blending and such... and again, the roar of the electric guitar... what an amazing "get" for a sound haha. i would have never guessed an electric guitar solo could be so hype on a schoolboy q album hahaha. nice. **

6. Ride Out
ayyyy vinny! oh yeah yeah, this was in the videos. it is SICK. way back to the very essence of g-funk, but with some nice modern innovations too. maaaan the way sounds on this album keep like, crashing down, godzilla style, that's sick. woah and that kinda drunken wandering melodic line... how do they keep having ideas like this? gunshot sounds on TDE records always stop my heart for a bit. Q going in with his king kong flow. show me vince as geedorah. "heatin up the summer, until the winter fall, spring clean" holy shit. man these sung hooks, i wish nate dogg was still here (but he is because of vince staples, shoutouts to summertime 06 lol). "crippin in the afterlife", ramona park, a vince staples stomping ground. the way he like... rampages beyond the flow pattern he himself established... i talked about this a lot in song of the day yesterday. so crazy. "been a mathematician, loading 9s subtract the 8", cute. i can't get over how off-kilter the beat sounds and omfg the electric guitar again, hahaha can we really keep letting him get away with this?? we just gonna ride out on this RAPROCK? ahaha i'm so sorry. but dang if he doesn't understand the appeal of a good dadrockcore electric guitar. **

7. WHateva U Want
oooh pretty grimey, and the title reminds me of grime too. Q would fit in really well with that scene. these recurring spooky girl voices are so good too, the way they drift off beat a little. aww, it's the obligatory "Q's gonna take care of you" track... these are sometimes the worst (see: Rocky's "Fashion Killer" lol) but the variety in sound with this poppiness is nice. it feels like we're building to ahahaha yes a DROP i knew it. okay that was actually sick. Q actually has some sick EDM moves. like "hell of a night" is a huge club banger. i think this is candice here, i gotta get into him more. i like how he brought the STRUGGLES through with Q's let's go shopping trip lol. but yeah this is hella grimey, i could see dave or dizzee rascal or someone (i'm pretty entry level in grime) jumping on this and suddenly rapping very quickly about expensive brands i've never heard of lol. man i just cannot get enough of stuttered vocals tho. i'm weak to that. anyways this was good, but idk, it's no "hell of a night". wait wait THIS is candice pillay. i got... severely confused. not worth considering LOL. professional reviewer. S+

8. By Any Means
oooh woah. this was in the video too. i remember how it came on like this. jesus. that's SO WELL DONE. and the contrast between the three layers of this flow, it feels like a microcosm of TDE's talent. and daaaaang Q's flow here... hnnng. the way he sort of insists upon himself. "You can do clown dance, i'm gonna rob that store" haha. "you can fuck my bitch", this song automatically dedicated to the based god. damn man i'm feeling this so quickly... it's one of those things where you're happily surprised when you hear the hook again, cause every second you latch onto. such dynamic structures, and yet still giving us everything we want. omg, and the way the beat is coming up here, with STRINGS? i could just listen to this indefinitely i think. the intro... omg... gotta resist hearing it again, and seeing what else we got (E-40!!!!!) ***

9. Dope Dealer
oohhh shit, e-40 e-40!! METRO BOOMIN!!!!! oh my gOD here we go. "i see that motherfucker shining and i'll snatch your whole damn throat" god damn. "I think somebody getting body on a weekday", sounds like a good melee tournament title lol. oh man and the bounciness of this hook, oooooh boy. gonna get HYPHY OH SHIT, "some of them sell candy and some sell trees, customers" hahaha his flow here, this conversational thing "beat his ass and throw his ass in the trash, the garbage can" aahahahahah omg. that was so good. please let him do another verse pls pls. i need more BAY AREA on this beat. Q's flow here too, it's like a crazy inverse of e-40's... instead of stopping at the end, he speeds up??? that's genius??? "they say money never grow on trees, but i'm watching it grow", that's so good. god damn this outro too, it's like the fusion of their two flows now. the gotenks of flow. sorry i am a huge nerd. ***

10. JoHn Muir
idk who this is which prolly means they're some sort of athlete. ohhhh i think it's a place in LA. fits for what seems to be a reminiscing sorta story. oh man the echoes, that's a Q classic. ohh man the way the beat sorta bloomed out there, these little jazz horns, woah woah woah. nothing is simple with this guy ahhaha. and now getting into it with the cops, an unfortunately super relevant topic. all these images from his memories, this crazy timeline... i'm feeling it man. the way Q can be so open and emotional about this stuff while still being SO COOL is super impressive. and this super oldschool turntablism on the outro here, shoutouts to kool keith. it always sounds so good with these sorta spacey vibes. very nice. **

11. Big Body
lmao what theeeee? the dogg pound? i'm not sure if i know what that is but it must be associated with snoop? holy moly this beat is fun tho. BIG BODY BIG BENZ hahaha. and the way the beat cools off on Q's beat, and the little call out to the bass, hahaha this is so much fun. i'm still expecting it to become something COMPLETELY different by the end tho cause no amount of fun can suffice to make Q not hungry for masterpieces. "i can make a million every week, but this big body benz ain't cheap" lol, "I can do the pussy Rambo, do I love em? Hell no", these are E-40esque lines sorta lol. oh this must be the Dogg Pound, really going in yay. the you knooooooowwwwww was so classic i feel dumb for not remembering who these guys are lol. haha i love when they've built up like... three or four hook-like parts, and at the end it's just like, all the catchiest parts of the song in a row again. that's smart. *

12. Neva CHange
ohhhh shit, SZA feature. honestly one of the most hype things to see on a feature list. rappers can do lame verses sometimes but SZA's voice is like... a single drop makes the track GOLD. super minimal beat... the world keep spinning, thank god for the game. lol his flow is so abrasive with this beat, i love it. having so much fun. okay yeeeeeah here we go. and shit getting REAL again. coming back from jail to see dead friends ;___; i can't even imagine. awww yeah and here is our girl SZA, it sounds so effortless, and yet it's so PRO, it's like the very ideal of that smoky jazzy sound. "won't let me freeze 'fore they fire" is chilling. man... this is a pretty brutal perspective. "Damn shame, man, things'll never change", well... shit. aww yeah though... despite all of that, we have arrived in a very comfy sonic environment... sort of riding out to despair, and acceptance, maybe. la la la laaaaa~ **

13. Str8 Ballin
this title reads like a Lil B track so i hope it is something like that. so far sounds more like... world's end girlfriend, the LEAST similar artist to Lil B. c'mon, c'mon. he feels like... at the center of a storm here, really cinematic. "I came from the dirt, and now the engine make the tire go SKIIIIIIRT", "Snoop ain't the only rich crip", and Jesus this flow. this feels... definitive. like maybe the final track lol. LOL and the Jefferson's reference, best theme song ever. but man yeah... the way the STRAIGHT BALLIN LIKE A BIIIIIAAAAATCH gets more and more intense as the rest of the track decays drifts, this is actually crazy. how did he come up with this? "Watching every car that drive by, looking every driver in the eye", intense, what an image. "The teachers ain't teachin, the judge teach us numbers" :( wow man. there is a LOT to like here and yet none of it i would ever have expected to ask for. my god man that string sample. it really gives me virgin babylon vibes. i did not think those vibes would be required on this hahaha. holy moly. ooh and this outro too... this sort of "classic" energy, like a half-remembered children's movie... ***

14. Black THougHts
oooh this sounds like prison phone recording... that's such a unique aesthetic... oh and a strange space age beat... "smokin that gas on the regular" lol it sounds dismissive of the guy on the phone? i don't think that was the intent lol. "Pissy sofas, sharin food with roaches", ahhh. so real, so real. tragic but you already know the triumph. but then you know everyone else is out there. born in 93? who was? not Q. "Black thoughts and marijuana, it's calmer" ohhh yeah this was in the movie too, that hook is so slick. i forgot to make a roots joke. yknow black thought. but yeah this is sick. anti-gang warfare. a sensitive topic. and the "all lives matter, both sides", he is not using this in the alt-right way. he's saying gang warfare should stop. well. it's complex. there's systems of oppression at play. everyone is doing what they need to. he understands this most of all. and his heart bleeds blue for the violence. **

15. Blank Face
OH SHIT, TITLE TRACK, with ANDERSON PAAK already (omg is nxworries' album gonna be the AOTY? answer yes). this jazzy delicate flow, it fits SO WELL with heavy g-funk, how does that even work? he's going wayyy in too, in his own way. "My baby don't want no toys, she want me there" ;__; "as sure as the smog is blue in the land", and Q on super raw aggressive flow. ohhh trading lines? that bass line too... and the little snatches of piano... and i hear the guitar again!!! man this is not at all what i thought the title track would be. i thought it'd be cold blooded killer shit. but it's not... it's the heart within, or something (corny). "Who gonna fly with me?" (not corny, inspirational). oh man, and this crazy overwhelming crowd sound, is that just tons and tons of Q samples? oh it's the blankfaceblankfaceblankface thing. it's like... he's overwhelmed by his own aesthetic... he has to escape it. ***

16. Overtime
Miguel seems like a strange choice but i'm open to it. he's good on these slow building beats, but it'll sound funny when Q just starts rampaging maybe. "I wanna fuck right now", like his immortal "I wanna fuck you all the time". this is a strange direction to go... the last few tracks felt apocalyptic, transcendent, freeing... but this is just about fucking girls lol? oh well oh well. still pretty fun and catchy. and again, ever the flow addict, he makes even this super established subject sound bold and fresh... how does he go in so much? doesn't he eventually run out of "in"? tbh what i want to hear rn is future jumping in and rapping really quickly. that was just a thought i had. justine skye getting a little solo here, her voice is pretty nice but i think i was spoiled by SZA lol. oooh, her little rhythmic tricks are nice though, really sensual feeling, indulgent, and yet very "on point". but yeah this is OK. seems unnecessary, especially as the penultimate track. but it isn't bad by any stretch. S-

17. Tookie Knows II
okay this was also in the movies, and i didn't recognize the other two rappers, so that explains that, cause i don't know who tf Traffic or TF are. but i know they can rap. and that this beat is amazing. and that "we might die for this shit" is an amazing way to start a verse. saying cuz in first grade, dang. i didn't even say "crap" in first grade. my god man... this flow... so athletic, so dense, and yet so sinister, so coolly detached. idk if this is traffic or TF but man i love how his voice sounds... we need more truly weird voices in hip hop, especially when they can rap like this daaammn. oooh and the YG nod, i think. now it's uhh, the other one. the fact these guys are unknown to me makes it feel really intense and raw... like, very "real" lol. "I ain't even talking mail... Paypal for the cell" hahaha, smart. idk what a lot of this means, this code is over my head for sure lol. but his flow, i feel that. "I might go down for this shit" as the outro line... and then this soundscape of cars, guns. And Q for the finale, aww yeah. it feels so... solemn, somehow. like he can already see his funeral. nice. ***

Erasering Book

Wow so... that was pretty amazing. I feel kinda like an idiot because I tried to talk about in the intro how Q was more of a purist compared to Kendrick's pan-genre stuff, but then he busts out the sax and the strings and oh my lord the electric guitar. I tried to drive home how you can't underestimate his ambitions, how you can't reduce it to "just" bangers or something, and then he totally leaps over my own understanding of what his music could be. The emotional depth and range, and the immediate raw recollections, I predicted that, I was hoping for that, but you can never know just how much it'll hit you. And the cohesiveness of the aesthetic, the recurring sonic motifs, the multifaced blank face image... this was an album project for sure, this was an LP.

At the same time, you'd be an idiot to deny that a lot of these still are straight up bangers. Even the most out there ones never drift away from the key banger energy, which I think is best summarized by the desire to play it loudly in a car. And enjoying those tracks for just the individual hype tracks they are isn't wrong, doesn't devalue appreciation of it as an album. But it does sorta put it in an awkward place... I really think it's a sort of aesthetic negative of Chance's Coloring Book, in these terms. It's like... they wanted to make albums, they had album-sized dreams. But, for whatever reason (and there are many good reasons), they also wanted to make a bunch of specific tracks that just went super hard, brought in producers and guests they loved. And thus it becomes this sort of album-mixtape interweave, and although both sides are great, I think most of the time I'll be in the mood to just listen to one of those "modes".

Which is fine, because there's skip buttons. But I dunno... you can't help but fantasize, what if this was two 40 min projects, instead of one 80 min one? Would he have been able to go even harder (barely imaginable) on each? Would it be a better experience? Who knows, who knows. Obviously because I have been sitting here like an idiot typing continuously the whole time, the length probably feels much more intense and marathony than it will on other listens. I can't help but wonder if some tracks really needed to be here, or needed to be as long, if he had been more focused in his goals, though.

Okay okay but this is still really amazing. The beats, amazing. The lyrics, the flows, the exploration and instant mastery he has over whole new regions of his voice, amazing. The guests? Amazing. The high-water mark for 2016 g-funk has been set. I don't see how any sane person could challenge it.

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