ScHoolboy Q – Habits & Contradictions
TDE is lighting a creative fire under the ass of the west coast that’s equal parts Snoop / DPG swagger, the lyrical camaraderie of Souls of Mischief, and the street-weirdo appeal of the Wu. With ScHoolboy Q’s sophomore effort Habits & Contradictions, the appeal of the crew’s sound and identity is only further solidified. The beauty of their sound is that it moves comfortably through grainy boom-bap, high-octane club music, and emotive druggy textures as if they were always suppose to exist next to each other. Q handles these varying sounds excellently with a pause-n-flow style that not only allows the listener to visualize his words, but the beats themselves to live more vibrantly through his tone and delivery.
Unlike the high-minded social reflections/concerns of Section.80, or the inebriated lyrical-miracle solipsism’s of Ab’s Long Term Mentality, Q’s Habits & Contradictions is street and sex music. ScHoolboy Q does not look at the ills of the world from a bird’s eye view. Rather, Q is immersed in life’s good and bad giving acute attention to each. “Sacrilegious” pretty much sets the tone of the album’s moral schism and conflicted desire over producer Tabu’s haunting bounce of bare drums, sprinkle of piano notes and random noise/voice glitches. “There He Go” amps things up nicely as Sounwave’s trombone laced boom-bip warble is arrogantly strutted over by Q with confident lines like “Y’all actin’ like TDE don’t run LA / Coast aint been this hard since Pac, Death Row and Dr. Dre”. Than there is the war chant sewer sludge funk interlude “Tookie Knows” that bleeds into “Raymond 1969”. The latter song, built around one of the best interpolations of Portishead, is the hardest shit detailing the psychology of gang banging since Peralta’s documentary Crips & Bloods” Made In America.
Yet, these are only one side of Q’s coin. Aided by TDE’s production team of Tae Beats, Sounwave, Willie B and THC, the album’s amorphous sonic textures are as pop as they are experimental. Setback’s sequel “Druggies With Hoes Again”, featuring Ab-Soul, is built around a crackin’ snare and shoulder movin’ bass that swings and dips like the livest dude in the club holding his bottle of Henny. “Nightmare on Figg St.” follows with an even stronger bass that sounds like it could topple over buildings. Here Q cleverly responds to the opulence of “Niggas In Paris” with the thoughts that run through the head of the less fortunate when hearing such materialistic posturing. “Sex Drive” also delights with its addictive clattering of drums and video-games sounds as Q and Jhene Aiko’s playfully do the classic rap vs. singer banter about wanting to fuck each other into climax.
This is rap music in debt to sonic variety as much as it is to dissonant content. ScHoolboy Q stomps all over one-dimensional mediocre rap like Caine did Ilena’s cousin in Menace to Society. While Habits & Contradictions would’ve benefited from about 4 songs of trimming, and sequencing that played more to the different tempos and styles of the songs, it without a doubt, displays all that is wonderful about rap right now. It’s youthful, passionate, hungry and unafraid of itself. Q’s assertions may come off a bit studio-gangster at times, but that is subverted by his sagacious self-awareness. His desire and confidence bleeds through each of the tracks and further defines his space on the TDE roster as NOT one of Kendrick’s under-studies. Yes it’s early, but Habits & Contradictions will be making noise to year’s end.