By definition, an oxymoron occurs when contradictory terms appear in conjunction; a confusing set of opposing points that more often than not are unsuccessful together. For Schoolboy Q’s long awaited major label debut, he couldn’t have picked a more apt title. After all, Oxymoron portrays a man seeping with conflict, tiding over being a gang-banger and devoted father, a drug dealer and heavy addict, and a nostalgic gangster rapper who’s well into the twenty-first century. His mind is disjointed and his thought process far from linear, but his words are visceral and in some moments, painstakingly honest. They redeem the album’s overall lack of coherence and do so with Q pointing his gun barrel at why “hell’s a block away” and how finding his pill box provokes him to “cry when nothing’s wrong”.
While a bevy of producers (Pharrell, Mike WiLL Made It, Alchemist, Nez & Rio) colour the album with hard-hitting southern beats, the TDE emcee shows his skill in an unpredictable presence over each track, creating a graphic and authentic environment that places you directly on the corner beside him. Where vivid bangers like “Gangsta” offer relentless, aggressive visions of life as a 52 Hoover Crip, the sedated “Studio” shows Q’s somewhat feigned attempt at a love song and proves the Black Hippy alum excels only where he’s experienced. That in turn is in the homages to Habits & Contradictions (“Grooveline Pt. 2”, “Blind Threats”) and in flashes of an unseen dark side which appears on “Prescription” – a reflective piece that plays a clip of Q’s four-year-old daughter Joy pleading for him to wake up.
It’s disturbing to hear – especially when Q finds himself “dead to the world” – but it lets go of your hand when you discover Oxymoron’s truths. They make you overlook a notable selection of features (Jay Rock, 2 Chainz, Raekwon, Kurupt) and nods to Snoop, Nas, and Kendrick so you can witness a fueled contradiction between sweet innocence and street cred. All of the above make the album a scattered effort that rarely follows through (Joy’s disappearance towards the end is unmissable) but it’s an honest portrayal of reality that can’t be fabricated. Most of all, it’s Q.
Listen: “Hoover Street”, “Hell Of A Night”, “What They Want (ft. 2 Chainz)” || Watch: “Break The Bank”