ScHoolboy Q, Blank Face LP (Review)
West Coast rapper Schoolboy Q delivers a dark, intriguing fourth album with ‘Blank Face LP.’
Ambitious and moody are two adjectives that soundly characterize Blank Face LP, the fourth album from ScHoolboy Q. A follow-up to the superb (if difficult) Oxymoron, Blank Face LP digs deeper, trends grimier, and is even more arduous. As polarizing as Blank Face LP is, it’s among the year’s better albums. Essentially, Blank Face LP isn’t an album that the listener fully grasps the first listen. This is a lengthy, jam-packed album that requires patience and allowance of time to sink in.
Opener “TorcH” is a demanding listen. Grimy, disjointed, and unapologetic, it sets the tone of the album. “This that ‘f*ck the blogs’ / the after-bell, we hang in halls / underage, smokin’ weed and alcohol,” ScHoolboy Q raps, later proclaiming, “I ain’t been right since out the cervix.” “Lord Have Mercy” is slightly more accessible, featuring soulful production courtesy of Swizz Beatz. Essentially, Q asks The Most High for mercy based upon the deeds committed:
“Never, ever ever get caught tellin’ on my n*ggas / I’m a gangbanger, deadbeat father and drug dealer…”
As respectable as “Lord Have Mercy” is, it clocks in under two minutes.
“THat Part” (featuring Kanye West) is the most commercial statement at this juncture. Even so, “THat Part” isn’t a pop-crossover hit per se; it’s quirky and distinct. The hook is catchy, the production dark and striking to the ear, while Kanye West is the perfect collaborative match for Q here.
“Me no conversate with the fake, that part / all my b*tches independent b*tches, that part / I just want the paper, that part / all my b*tches flavored / that part, that part, that part, that part”
Two-parter “Groovy Tony / Eddie Kane” continues the immersion into maliciousness, amplified by the Jadakiss collaboration. Expectedly, Q references ‘Blank Face’ – a character with the ability to hustle and kill without the least bit of remorse. Interestingly, ScHoolboy Q makes a pop cultural reference to Eddie Kane, Jr. on the second part of the song. Another two-parter, “Kno Ya Wrong” (featuring Lance Skiiiwalker) follows. Q addresses fake friends – those merely looking for handouts.
The explosive “Ride Out” (featuring Vince Staples) ranks among the crème de la crème of Blank Face LP. More accessible without being a commercial sellout, “Ride Out” has all the qualification certifying it as a surefire banger – hard beat, hellish production, and fiery rhymes.
Sunny is an imperfect adjective for “WHateva U Want” (featuring Candice Pillay), but it’s sunnier than “Ride Out.” Follow-up “By Any Means” deserves recognition for one reason – it features Kendrick Lamar. Recognition goes beyond that, but it’s awesome when Black Hippies come together.
Highlight “Dope Dealer” keeps it in Cali, featuring Bay area vet E-40. As brutally honest as “Dope Dealer” is, the hook is infectious. Arguably, the infectious hook parallels the infectiousness of hustling, making more money despite the means. Q “keeps it 100” on the valedictory “JoHn Muir,” where he depicts an adolescent experience much different from many.
“Bellin’ through the motherf*ckin’ street, y’all…three different pagers blowin’ up because I’m crackin’ / tryna turn a dollar to a million…/ Hoover with my motherf*ckin’ locs, steel…/I was out here sellin’ dope at 14, what it do? / I was out here f*ckin’ hos at 14, what it do?”
Tyler The Creator produces the jazz-infused, G-Funk joint “Big Body” featuring Tha Dogg Pound. “Big Body” lightens the mood, but certainly doesn’t go soft in the least. Jazziness continues to impact on the soulful “Neva Change” (featuring SZA). “Str8 Ballin” doesn’t tread new ground, but continues to find Q on autopilot.
Both “Black THougHts” and “Blank Face” (featuring Anderson .Paak) gives Blank Face LP more oomph. Neither record is predictable or expected, which separates it from more traditional records that precede (“Neva Change” and “Str8 Ballin”). “Blank Face” isn’t far-fetched from opener “TorcH” given its quirkiness, but by this point, it makes more sense.
Penultimate number “Overtime” features Miguel & Justine Skye, contrasting the vibe of the majority of Blank Face LP. It remains in dark and set in minor, but clearly, sex is the M.O. Q has references sex a couple of times throughout Blank Face LP, but it’s not a major theme. Atonement arrives in exceptional closer “Tookie Knows II” (featuring Traffic & TF).
All said and done, ScHoolboy Q delivered on Blank Face LP. To reiterate, it takes a couple of listens for everything to “sink in,” but there’s plenty of greatness to take in. There are few flaws throughout the album, though “Overtime” is a question mark. Regardless, one of the year’s most intriguing efforts.
Gems: “Lord Have Mercy,” “That Part,” “Groovy Tony/Eddie Kane,” “Ride Out,” “Dope Dealer,” “JoHn Muir”