Album Review: Schoolboy Q – “Blank Face”

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As gangsta rap goes, bleeding bleakness has never been a sense for prominence in an album. Rappers don’t glamorize the idea of being a gangster and living that life, but the mood is implemented by the sound of the instrumental. Gangster rap is never shies away from the tone of that kind subject matter but the bounce within the instrumental changes its tempo and we’d have gangster rap become a part of the club scene. Schoolboy Q has this coming as second nature, with tracks like “Hell of a Night,” and “Man of the Year,” that use hi-hats and electronic undertones to create a club vibe.

Schoolboy Q on the other hand manipulates the gangsta rap genre in a transcendent way for concept albums on his newest release Blank Face. It’s an album that wants more then it’s heart could desire. Schoolboy is in a way hopeless on the album. Predominately so on the track “Black Thoughts,” where Q effortlessly raps about the struggles of living his adolescence through and through in the hood, and the ever lasting effect it has on his psyche. “Black thoughts and marijuana, it’s karma,” eloquently perplexes the album near-end with showing that bleak and dark thoughts all have those positives, like the way karma is religiously described as. 

As heard on his previous project, Oxymoron, Q’s sense for realism becomes the focal point on Blank Face. On Oxymoron he mixes electronic and bounce sounds with his gangster persona. “Collard Greens,” was a fun groove tune and Schoolboy had a few there but on this album has near none. Some songs still contain that bounce like sound, but it’s hidden beneath the strength of his flow and lyricism.

Black Face stands out with sounds that come straight from the soundtrack to Menace II Society, or Dead Presidents. With the addition of the bounce influences makes few tracks more radio friendly, but that’s stretching it. “Overtime,” featuring Miguel and Justine Skye, is exactly that type of track. It’s not a bad track, but it’s addition on the album feels like unwarranted gap before the finale. “Big Body,” featuring Tha Dogg Pound and his first single “That Part,” featuring Kanye West, also treads those kind of waters, but their inclusions follows the albums trend of having club value.

Schoolboy Q fleshes out his gangster roots, as well as detailing the lives he’s seen of gang-bangers, specifically the 52 Hoover Gangster Crips of Hoover Street. And even though Q doesn’t get too detailed on colors, the gang life is mirrored no matter your gang. Like on the opening track “Torch,” Q raps, “Grandma sweeped shells out the driveway, One of the homies got slayed so we bang at the king parade,” describing this bleak portrait of guardians and friends falling to pieces as they pick up the shells of what could have been. “John Muir,” percolates a weighted story of gun toting and drug dealing through high school with bounce for flair for backup, but Q’s verses make a longer impact than a standard sounding bounce that’s a part of the instrumental. With lines the likes of “N***a caught cases tryna take your fuckin’ screen off I could put your fuckin’ life on the recall,” where Q directly tells you how he’d break into a house, as well as having the intensity to murder you on the spot with no fear.

The album’s illustrious guest features make memorable appearances, like Anderson .Paak, who absolutely took away the show from Q on the opening track. There’s also “Ride Out,” featuring Vince Staples, detailing their grittiest stories of growing up a Crip in their areas or Hoover and Ramona Park.

Schoolboy Q went on a marathon with the album’s 72 plus runtime, but that’s what to expect from a lot of west coast hip-hop albums. The tremendous amount of effort sprayed all over the album makes up for an album that treads in similar content for a few tracks here and there. It’s not a real dealbreaker and the album lives up to the hype implemented by “That Part.” Either way, the album lives up to expectation if not more.

Rating: 8/10.

Kevin Montes is one sarcastically satirical dude. He’s usually at home watching hours of comedy and television, primarily Simpsons. Kevin aspires to be a TV writer, a joke writer, and composer for all things Harmony Korine. You can reach him on twitter @iamkevinmontes to further ask about all things Simpsons.