ScHoolboy Q - Habits & Contradictions

Posted 4 years ago

We’ve all seen it happen 100 times. One member of a crew becomes a star and one of two things...

Habits & Contradictions Album Review

We’ve all seen it happen 100 times. One member of a crew becomes a star and one of two things happen. One, another crew member who would never make it on their own gets a disproportionate amount of attention and then slowly but surely disappears (oh, hi there Murphy Lee). Or two, they happily accept their sidekick roll and spend their career eating the star’s table scraps, but hey, it beats starving! (Cough, Tony Yayo, cough.) But TDE might just be blazing a third way. While Kendrick Lamar has inarguably emerged as the Black Hippy crew’s leader, each member can stand on their own two and play a role that goes far beyond standing around and watching their superstar. Think about them like the 2009 Lakers, not the 2011 Lakers, and if we’re going to extend that sports metaphor that makes ScHoolboy Q the Lamar Odom of TDE. No, he hasn’t f**ked a Kardashian (yet), but he is a versatile swingman with undeniable talent and the potential to become an All-Star in his own right.

I’d love to keep this Lakers analogy running by working in ScHoolboy’s new album, Habits & Contradictions, but after 20 minutes of racking my brain it’s not happening, so….a prequel to Q’s last album, Setbacks, Habits & Contradictions is a consistently dark and unrelenting album that puts Q’s trademark blend of aggression and relaxation on full display; the album often sounds like some Valium washed down with two cans of Four Loko.

If you have no idea what a Valium washed down with a Four Loko sounds like, I suggest you take a listen to There He Go. Schoolboy begins his opening verse slow and steady but then becomes unraveled, jabbing his flows with oddly accented notes and guttural growls. (Although “Word to Dr. Dre / Detox is like a mix away” might go down in the In Retrospect Maybe I Shouldn’t Have Said That Hall of Fame.) It’s a style that always carries a hint of violence in even the most mellow flows, a threat that’s the most overt on the nihilistic Nightmare on Figg St., a banging cut whose motto is “fuck that, let’s bake coke and cook crack.” As opposed to the oversized boasts of rappers like Rick Ross and 50 Cent, Q’s voice still cracks with the kind of desperation that might just actually leave you in the street without your shoes.

It may have its moments of aggression, but ultimately Habits & Contradictions is often a more quiet and thoughtful album than tracks like Druggys Wit Hoes Again might suggest (hence the Contradictions?). Opening offering Sacrilegious is a conversational exploration into the hypocritical world of religion, and those who so easily worship false idols, a topic that bleeds into the Kendrick Lamar assisted Blessed. Here when ScHoolboy says “don’t stress my n**ga, we all blessed my ni**a” we hear a side of Q that truly differentiates him from the swag rap crowd; he’s at his best when listeners feel like they’re simply chilling with him, listening to him tell stories. Speaking of which, while a Lex Luger production credit would suggest banger, Grooveline Pt. 1 is actually the most mellow, soulful track on the album (shout out to Garnier Fructis), although the slowly burning My Hatin Joint comes in close second. I’m not saying you should listen to this album while under the influence of some calming pharmaceuticals, I’m just saying ScHoolboy would probably rather if you did.

Habits and Contradictions doesn’t break down so cleanly between mellow and hard-hitting joints, but standout cut Hand on the Wheel manages to be both at once, and if Schoolboy has a “sound” that sound is the unexpected. He seems to enjoy relaxing where others would go hard and then going full on brawl when others would choose to lay back (there are those “Contradictions” again). It’s a unique style that’s totally his own, and by definition means that he’s unlikely to become the Tony Yayo/Murphy Lee of any crew. From top to bottom TDE is paving a lane through a landscape the rest of hip-hop is scared to set foot in and ScHoolboy Q deserves credit for doing some serious trailblazing of his own.

DJBooth Rating - 3.5 Spins

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Posted 4 years ago

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