North Texas Daily

The Dose: Schoolboy Q’s ‘Blank Face’

The Dose: Schoolboy Q’s ‘Blank Face’

August 11
19:05 2016

Top Dawg Entertainment spitter Schoolboy Q is back from his 2-year hiatus to drop another hardcore hip-hop album before the summer ends.

One phrase that best describes the tone of this album: grimey consciousness . The Blank Face LP is definitely an upgrade from Q’s Grammy-nominated album Oxymoron. Schoolboy Q continues to talk about his usual topics, gang-banging and struggles in the inner city but provides a deeper twist compared to Oxymoron. This album is more of a call to action to minimize these issues rather than just a “story of my life” project.

Fire Start:

The intro track,“TorcH”, sets the tone for this album with deep wonky bass lines and rock n’ roll guitar riffs that brings it to life. The song is what Q describes as the story “Boyz N The Hood”, a 1991 John Singleton film, didn’t show. A mixture of Q’s raw rap style combined with the unorthodox R&B style of Anderson .Paak really adds to the dark feel of this track, which makes for a great start to the LP.

The album follows up the fire opener with a Swizz Beatz-produced track called “Lord Have Mercy”. This song is great! It has great production and great lyrics with substance. The only problem with this track is that it’s too short. Q only gives you one minute of potential heat and cuts you short. This was sort of disappointing but not enough to kill the entire vibe of the album.

Luckily, the next song, “THat Part” featuring Kanye West, picks up whatever slack “Lord Have Mercy” left behind. This track is filled with momentum and has great mainstream appeal without being overly commercial. This track shouldn’t be seen as a lyrical or the return of “College Dropout” Kanye. It’s a fun, turn-up track for you and your friends to enjoy not something that should be overly dissected for a life lesson.

Hit the Mark:

The album continues to pick up after these first few tracks and create some very strong moments as well as some bad. The project did a very good job at having songs of different intensities for listeners to pick and choose for their switching moods. You have hype songs like “THat Part” and “Dope Dealer” that you can just play in the background and dance to. Then, there’s darker tracks like “Groovy Tony/ Eddie Kane”, “By Any Means”, and “John Muir” that give the typical gangster feel Schoolboy Q gives in his other projects.

“Groovy Tony” is like an adrenaline shot into the veins of the album. It has an upbeat drum pattern with off-kilter guitar sounds and an amazing verse from Jadakiss, which is always a plus. It’s a brutally honest song about drug trafficking, violence in the inner city, and police brutality. Q even gives a shout out to ex-president Ronald Reagan for bringing drugs into the country, which is pretty hardcore to say the least.

In other tracks, Q takes a step back from his upbeat unorthodox gangsta rap style and becomes more reflective on his gang-banging and drug dealing past.

In songs like “Neva CHange”, “Black THoughts”, and “Blank Face”, Schoolboy does a “letter to self” as well as speaking to his friends about making some life changes and wanting gang members to reform their ways and do something positive. He also gives his own take on the current police brutality issues in the black community in some of these songs.

“We still nervous as drivers/ Soon as that light get behind us/ They pull me out for my priors/ So, let me freeze before they fire/ You say that footage a liar,”- “Neva CHange” ft. SZA.

The song that catches the most attention is the track “Black THoughts” where he calls for gangbangers to resolve their differences and make the black community better. A chord is struck when Q says “All Lives Matter”, which has received some backlash by social media. Q addressed the bar on Twitter stating that the line meant both sides of gang culture, Bloods and Crips, matter, and the line wasn’t meant to downplay the Black Lives Matter movement.

Blank Face Falls Flat

Although there were some good moments in the project, Blank Face had some misses. There were times in the album where Q explored different rock n’ roll and pop sounds, and it worked (“TorcH”). However, some of the pop-influenced tracks on the project were very hit-or-miss.

Tracks like “Whateva U Want” featuring Candice Pillay and the Tyler the Creator-produced song , “Big Body”, featuring West Coast legends, Tha Dogg Pound, were very awkward and are songs that you are either going to like or really dislike. It seems as if Q was trying to blend pop music with 90s G-Funk rap and 1970s Funkadelic sounds that didn’t mix well at all. It was hard to get into these tracks and came off cheesy at times.

To add salt to the Face wound, it featured a song, “Overtime”, with R&B singers Miguel and Justine Skye that seemed very unnecessary. Yes, the song has some sort of mainstream appeal, but it doesn’t aid in the overall tone of the album. It’s a throw away track that was just thrown in the mix for radio play.

The Verdict:

The “Blank Face LP” sticks to an overall theme of not judging a book by its cover. It’s often projected in the LP that police shouldn’t judge people by their race, and we shouldn’t judge each other based on where we’re from and who we are affiliated with.

The album does try to reach different platforms that can, at times, become a gift and a curse. With Q exploring certain topics in-depth, it makes you wonder if he will be able to continue to talk about his typical subject matter from different perspectives or will it become repetitive soon?

Overall, this album is a good listen. It’s political, gangster, jazzy, and conscious all in one. Is it album of the year? No. It’s too early to call and there’s other projects that can battle with it. But, this is one of Q’s best projects next to “Habits and Contradictions”, his second independent album. Schoolboy Q’s Blank Face LP receives a 3.5/5 stars from “The Dose”.

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