By Patrick Montes
Since the release of Kendrick Lamar's universally acclaimed album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, the Top Dawg Entertainment/Black Hippy crew has been dominating every wave of communication revolving around hip-hop. Whether it's a Kendrick Lamar single being played on Power 106 or an Ab-Soul feature on a buzzing up-and-comer's new mixtape, they seem to have every sphere of outreach and impact covered. As far as the primary share of the spotlight goes, Kendrick Lamar currently has the focus on him, but as of this year it's looking like TDE is hoping to change the scope of attention to the crew member next in line, Black Hippy's resident gangsta rapper Schoolboy Q.
In the past couple years, Schoolboy Q has had two moderate successes with the releases of Setbacks and Habits & Contradiction, two albums that have succeeded in garnering him the audience and pundit praise necessary to carve out one's spot in today's hip-hop. Q's biggest effort to date and the album that seeks to solidify his position, Oxymoron, is set to come out in the coming months, and in the midst of the promotional blitzkrieg surrounding that album Q swung by the Observatory Friday night to perform and continue building anticipation.
Dressed modestly-yet-boisterous in his signature bucket hat, flashy t-shirt, and a matching dark pants and hoodie combo, Q arrived on stage to a sold-out, packed house that was so anxious they started to boo in unison when the wait continued to climb. Q started his set out with a medley that first began with part of "Sacrilegious," the somber opener to his last release, and transitioned into the slow-burning, serpentine "Oxy Music." His opening salvo represented the general feel of most of his set — a mix of the usual hip-hop bravado and aggression and paranoid, grimy groove.
Around the midway point of his performance, Schoolboy Q brought out fellow Black Hippy Ab-Soul to a level of fanfare just a notch below Kendrick's. The two artists performed the fan favorite "Druggy With Hoes Again" before Ab-Soul jumped into a track of his own with the dystopian tract "Terrorist Threats." Both rappers seemed to have the same outlook towards performing: rap well, show enthusiasm and expression, and be really, really high.
After the usual induced rap-a-long of Kendrick Lamar's anthemic "ADHD" that he usually does at his show and a performance of his Kendrick-assisted "Blessed," Q debuted a new song right as he was about to wrap up his set. Entitled "Gangsta," the new track was the type of song that makes people fans of Q in the first place. Judging by the brief exchange of lyrics we heard, the cut seemed to take on the usual Q fare of guns, girls, and everything in between, and had an easy-to-follow, well-enunciated hook consisting of "Gangsta" melodically repeated over and over again. It was the sort of song that makes up the majority of Q's work, and it was climactic to begin finishing his show with a new song so archetypal of his sound and what he just performed. Q isn't particularily deep like a Nas or Common, but he certainly sticks to his own script and can deliver a live performance his fanbase can gladly devour. He's one of the professionals of his style, and by the sound of his new track, Oxymoron might be the next step in the evolution of west coast street rap.
Critic's Bias: At the moment, Schoolboy Q is my personal favorite out of the TDE camp.
Random Notebook Dump: Q's audience has grown exponentially since the he came to the Observatory last fall.
Overheard in the Crowd: The crowd belting out the chrous of Schoolboy Q's new track "Gangsta" without even really hearing it before. So is the effect of a great rapper.