Often described as the yin to Kendrick Lamar’s yang, ScHoolboy Q might have been able to go toe-to-toe with his label mate back on “Collard Greens” from Oxymoron, but after To Pimp a Butterfly, it almost seemed like no one ever could. Not that I’d compare the two on prowess alone, however, especially after hearing Kendrick on ScHoolboy Q’s “THat Part” remix, but what can be compared is their subject matter and music production. A lot of the production reminds me of Oxymoron, but also of Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly and even a little of Section.80. Here on Blank Face LP, it seems like ScHoolboy kind of juggles the sound of all three into one cohesive record.
It makes sense, as most of the producers and featured artists on this record worked on To Pimp a Butterfly as well as Oxymoron: Sounwave, Nez & Rio, Kendrick Lamar, Cardo, Yung Exclusive, Metro Boomin, Southside, Terrace Martin, Tae Beast, DJ Dahi, Dem Jointz, and the Alchemist. ScHoolboy goes even farther however, adding Kanye West, Jadakiss, Daz Dillinger & Kurupt, Vince Staples, SZA, E-40, Miguel, Swizz Beatz, Tyler, the Creator, and even Anderson .Paak. It’s almost a My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy sized credits scroll.
A record about battling his personal demons and gang banging past, Blank Face LP functions much like Kendrick Lamar’s Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City. In ScHoolboy Q’s case however, it has a different ending – one that sounds like he’s still trapped in it. Trying to be the “blank faced killer,” ScHoolboy’s lyrics give more of the impression that he’s in the present tense on some of the tracks rather than the past. The amazing Anderson .Paak, seemingly everywhere since Dr. Dre’s Compton, book-ending the record as the voice of ScHoolboy Q’s inner demons, a role Anderson is scarily good at.
Initially, I felt like the best parts about Blank Face LP were the music, production, and ScHoolboy Q’s voice more than the actual lyrical content. I mean, Kanye’s verse on “THat Part” is just straight up atrocious, and overall ScHoolboy’s flows never go too in, which he definitely makes up for with his gravely tone and personality, but it was his accompanying video series that had me re-listen to the record once again. Not the video where he talks about playing PokemonGo, but the three-part video mini-series he put out about the record. The video depicts a lot of what the album talks about – Hoover St., gang violence, police racism, and the consequences that such a life has on you and your loved ones, namely, ScHoolboy Q’s daughter. The videos didn’t entirely change my view on the lyrical material, as I still think that while ScHoolboy Q is a decent rapper, he’s not necessarily the most creative when it comes to flow and wordplay, but it did help me in appreciating the message and content of the album.
As much of a commentary Blank Face LP is on gang violence and police brutality, it’s also just as much a gangster rap album as ever. It’s interesting how ScHoolboy can so easily and blatantly contradict himself , saying things like “Let’s put the rags down and raise our kids / Let’s put the guns down and blaze a spliff / Let’s do it now, ain’t no buts or ifs / It took a Blood to get me Pringle chips” on “Black THougHts,” while also having a song like “Ride Out” where he says “Nigga’s puttin’ dicks inside your baby momma’s momma’s lips / Shootin’ all the witnesses, it ain’t no fuckin’ murder scene / Crips don’t fuck with Crips oh now it’s jeans that look like the rival team / Wrong hat and shoes, put your ass on a forever dream.” Such lyrical contradictions really take away from any greater meaning, and while it points more toward ScHoolboy’s own internal struggle, it does more for his personal story on the album than the larger problem of systemic racism and gang violence in our country – something label-mate Kendrick Lamar was able to juggle between masterfully on To Pimp a Butterfly.
Nonetheless, the music and production of Blank Face LP is amazing, probably the best part of the record. Like I said about YG’s My Krazy Life, however, a rap record that you kind of drown out the vocals and just enjoy the music for is nothing that a rap album should really be. In making himself the Crip-rapping king rival to Blood-rappers like The Game and YG, ScHoolboy Q has succeeded, but gang-centered rap records are still, in my opinion, kind of pointless in 2016.
Blank Face LP does have a lot of amazing moments, like the latter bit of “Black THougHts,” “Blank Face,” and “Tookie Knows II,” where ScHoolboy realizes that all this gang violence might get them killed, but the narrative of the record doesn’t really get me there story wise with just the audio and not the three-part Blank Face video-series, which I thought brought the message home way better. On the record, Blank Face LP does more for understanding the inner turmoil of ScHoolboy Q than it does the good of its overarching message, which isn’t necessarily all that bad. If anything, whether we needed it or not, Blank Face LP is a great gangta-rap record, and a huge leap in the right direction for ScHoolboy Q.