Schoolboy Q // Habits & Contradictions // January 14 // Top Dawg
Out of the several trends that hit their creative peak in the recent years, weed rap is one that stands out the most. Not only the rhymes are about smoking but the music itself feels like something the listener would experienced only when stoned. Hip hop is a slowly moving juggernaut and the psychedelic sounds that have been brought into hip hop by people like Curren$y or A$AP Rocky along with the hip hop producer of 2011 - Clams Casino, sounds totally unlike anything else on major label roster. Not all of weed comes from being rich and having too much money. A lot of it comes from the need to numb yourself due to severe poverty and depression. Danny Brown has offered his part of the story on the shockingly real Scrap Or Die of his last year’s opus XXX. On Habits & Contradictions these two worlds come together.
Schoolboy Q is a member of Black Hippy crew, a bunch of rappers who are being led by one of last year’s biggest hip hop discoveries - Kendrick Lamar. While Lamar has established himself as the new street poet, Schoolboy Q takes up the more surreal and yet, mainstream appealing role. Some of his verses bite off Kid Cudi or Kanye & Jay-Z, many of his stories deal with bitches and fucking. The difference being that it never feels like Schoolboy Q is boasting about those things. Even when he offers them as reality, it feels like it’s real only in his mind. While the man is nowhere near as zany as Danny Brown, on the most far out moments on Habits & Contradictions, he comes the closest to that lovable weirdo persona that very few can pull off.
While his rhymes and his flow might be off sometimes and it definitely has nothing on Lamar’s Section.80, the production is where Habits & Contradictions show it’s true colours. The LP is very dark and very cold, it takes it samples from such unlikely sources as Genesis or Portishead, and they manage to match the surreal nature of Schoolboy Q’s rhymes. A lot of the beats reference dirty south, the samples however are all over the place. From the night electronica of Sex Drive or abrasive vocal loop repetition in Sexting to a jazz sample laid on military beat in Gangsta In Designer (No Concept). Schoolboy Q jumps to many different influences throughout this LP and he pulls it off most of the time. The only problems arise when he loses himself among his influences. On some tracks he tries too hard to sound like A$AP Rocky, Nightmare On Figg St. references Niggas In Paris without taking the nod any further while Raymond 1969 comes across as a forced jab at Odd Future sound.
Habits & Contradictions is Schoolboy Q’s sophomore release and it is far superior than its predecesor Setbacks. Even if Q is yet to develop a strong rap persona that would make his LPs strong back to front, his current schizophrenic approach is more than merely enjoyable. Even when it isn’t, Habits & Contradictions offers some impressive production that any of his crew will be hard pressed to outdo on their future releases. Schoolboy Q combines everything that is good about Lamar, Rocky and Brown, last year’s three biggest hip hop names. Yet, its best moments are when Q is not trying to be like anyone else, for someone who just released his second tape, that is more than just impressive.