Blank Face LP by Schoolboy Q - The Good & The Bad


In many ways, we should thank Schoolboy Q for bringing gangster rap back. Ever since he busted into the scene with his debut album 'Habits & Contradictions', he set himself apart. We instantly knew he was a conflicted, unique artist. Following his sophomore project, 'Oxymoron', he received the hard-earned recognition (and paycheck) he was looking for. Subsequently, he went quiet for the longest time. Suddenly, we had a new body of work in our hands. I was afraid Q wouldn't be able to live up to the hype. After all, numerous major releases in 2016 simply haven't done it. A ton of listens later, I can tell you this: Schoolboy took the high expectations and ripped them apart;delivering something almost nobody expected.

The Good

Schoolboy Q Continues to Evolve

It's been a pleasure to witness Schoolboy progressively develop as an artist. From project to project, his abilities continue to improve. Now, he's absolutely not the type of rapper that will throw punchlines that take weeks to decipher. However, he has a truly captivating delivery;he's able to keep your attention during an entire album. Another thing I sincerely appreciate about his style are his unpredictable cadences. You honestly don't know what pattern he's going to use next, and it makes for an exciting listening session. In 'Blank Face', he sounds incredibly comfortable in every track. He exquisitely utilizes his skills to tackle a wide variety of controversial topics, which include his past, the hood, the current state of racism, people trying to leech off of him, etc. Overall, Q does a great job at delivering his message and story.

Fantastic Production

Moving on, production is fantastic all the way through. I've always been fascinated by how versatile the West Coast sound is. YG recently released an outstanding body of work ('Still Brazy') full of classic West beats. Blank Face has a completely different vibe, but you can tell the music comes from the same place. In here, I found a wonderful mix of the glorious, quintessential West Coast sounds combined with a more modern, grimy feel. Throughout the whole thing, soul and smoothness is constantly sprinkled.

Back to the instrumentation, it's super varied and powerful. Saxophones, keys, guitars, piano melodies, and drums, every instrument is full of life. It adds much appreciated spices. When looking at the producers in here, I was genuinely surprised. Q went out of his way to bring a diversified group of people. Sounwave, Swizz Beats, The Alchemist, Dem Jointz, Southside, Metro Boomin, and even Tyler the Creator. They all killed it, composing a collection of tracks that range from soulful songs to explosive bangers.

Masterful Use of Features

Another thing that 'Blank Face' nails is the use of features. Looking at the tracklist, there isn't one feature I didn't like. Anderson .Paak plays an vital role in the album, and he did a marvelous job. Vince Staples spit yet another unfairly dope verse, getting the better of Schoolboy in 'Ride Out'. Jadakiss came through, rapping some heavy bars on 'Groovy Tony/Eddie Kane'. Also, SZA added some beautiful vocals on 'Neva CHange'. It's important to mention that I equally enjoyed the 'not-so-lyrical' additions. Kanye and E-40 are not going to blow anybody's mind, but their delivery and style are exceptionally fun. Although, if for whatever reason you can only listen to 'That Part' once, make sure you play the Black Hippy version.

Shockingly Unique

Finally, last but certainly not least, 'Blank Face' is the most unique album in Schoolboy's catalogue. The things he's saying, the way he's delivering, the beats he's spitting on...it's all very original. The project itself is obscure and grubby, but it still manages to be catchy and soft on the ears. As a whole, it's more sonically consistent than his previous work. Unlike he did in 'Oxymoron', Q doesn't seem to be focused on creating "hits". Instead, he stuck to his vision and the results are some of his hardest verses.


The Bad 

Length

My one issue with 'Blank Face comes with its long running time. I've said it a million times, and I'll keep saying it: your album shouldn't be longer than an hour, with a maximum of 15 tracks. Otherwise, things slowly start to fall apart. While there isn't a particularly 'bad' song, you begin to wonder if certain pieces could have been cut out. In my opinion, 'Overtime' felt out of place, and the hook was horrendously simple.

Verdict: Does 'Blank Face' live up to the expectations? Absolutely. Is it Schoolboy Q's best project to date? I believe so. Is it one of the best albums of 2016 (so far)? Easily.

Favorite Tracks
- Groovy Tony / Eddie Kane
- Lord Have Mercy
- Neva CHange
- Blank Face
- Tookie Knows II
- Kno Ya Wrong (First Half)

Least Favorite Tracks
- Overtime



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