Batman and Robin are both pretty awesome. Running and jumping through Gotham City every day, the two are beloved by all; chasing down and catching bad guys, the bat and the bird are rock stars. Typically, Batman gets most of the attention—he’s the leader, after all. He’s the face of the operation. But what about when he’s away, working, plotting in the batcave? What about when he’s on a BatDate? What about when he’s just taking some much-needed, much-deserved me time? Batman can’t always be around. Someone else has to step in and take his place as Gotham’s guardian, right? Well, it turns out that Robin is pretty dope, too. Robin’s got a sweet outfit of his own, and can defend the city from evil in his own right.
The same goes for Top Dawg Ent.’s rap roster–Kendrick Lamar, of course, is Batman. He’s the generational talent, the one who, born in another era, would surely have been a poet, a scholar, a gladiator, a conqueror–you get the point. But when hip-hop’s new prince from Compton is away in the lab, that throne vacates. The West is open, ready for the taking. And while there are definitely other contenders for that spot, who better to take Batman’s spot than his compadre, Robin? 16 months after the release of Lamar’s magnum opus, To Pimp A Butterfly, ScHoolboy Q, Kendrick’s right-hand man, is back with his fourth full-length record, titled Blank Face LP.
Q comes forth with his most lyrical collection of music yet, still holding onto his undeniable gift for simultaneously revving up the engine of anyone who’s down to party. With Lamar’s only contribution to the 2016 discourse being his collection of unused and previously unreleased tracks, untitled.unmastered.., Q’s path to the top is clear as ever. Even with outstanding guest spots from the likes of Kanye West, Jadakiss, Anderson .Paak, and Vince Staples, ScHoolboy is never overshadowed on his own album, uttering his bruising flow over the album’s hazy, drug-clouded beats, mostly from Tae Beast and Digi+Phonics.
It’s nothing new for Q–he’s been putting out pure bangers for years. His last record, 2014’s Oxymoron, gave us “Studio” —fire–and “Man of the Year”—FIRE–as particular standouts, while “Hell of a Night” is, to me, the perfect up-tempo hip-hop club song, and was used to perfection in my favorite show on TV–Mr. Robot:
The first official single off Blank Face LP, “THat Part” has a measured pace, but a fast spirit. A growl-fest of a jam, it commences with an overcast beat and has a constant sense of dread… but yet you have to keep listening, because it’s just so damn addicting. It’s not your typical party song–but without a doubt functions as one. After Q’s opening verse builds us up and draws us in, Kanye enters, spitting a repetitive, but contagious “Okay, Okay, Okay, Okay!” ScHoolboy said in an interview with Hot 97 that he was admittedly nervous about Ye’s opening line, but later learned how quickly crowds warmed to it, and got hyped up by it. “THat Part” is a clear frontrunner for my song of the summer and with how much I fucking love this song–I’ve probably listened to it a combined 200 times the past three or so weekends–it’s one that’s going to be hard to top.
Another standout–among many–is Blank Face LP’s seventh track, “WHateva U Want.” The song houses slick production that keeps with the album’s constant murky, dark theme, and a catchy team-up on the hook from both Q and guest Candice Pillay. As hip-hop songs so often do, “WHateva U Want” showcases ScHoolboy’s true romanticism, as he spends the duration of the song questioning his companion on just what exactly it’s going to take from him for her to stick around. Is it money? Pills? As he continues to offer her whatever she could possibly want, she continues to reject. She doesn’t want that stuff. Diamonds are forever, the phrase often says, but Pillay’s bridge tells him that diamonds last forever. She wants something more limited: “I just want your love,” she tells Q on the song’s outro.
We never quite find out whether ScHoolboy Q shares that love with his flame, but throughout Blank Face LP’s 17 tracks we find out with what he is willing to share: Q is more than willing to share that love with all of us as he steps up to take his turn seated on the west coast hip-hop throne.