The first time I heard ScHoolboy Q was on Kendrick’s Overly Dedicated. This was during the early days of TDE, before the label was world renowned and each album was littered with their artists. That one album was my introduction to Jhene Aiko, BJ The Chicago Kid, Ab-Soul, Digi+Phonics and so many others. They were truly an in house label, to hear one artist meant to hear them all. I got my first taste of Q on the song “Michael Jordan.” It’s the kind of song that modern Kendrick would never make, it’s completely out of his good kid character, as if he absorbed the arrogance of MJ and the vulgarity of mixtape Weezy. ScHoolboy was far from the artist he is today, he was fairly new, wet behind the ears, not even an official project out but him rapping about being higher than Superman and passing Mary round and round was enough was to grab my attention. It wouldn’t be a verse to go down in history, it wouldn’t break him to the masses, but it was my introduction to an artist I would be hearing again and again in the future.
The next time I would hear him would be on A$AP Rocky’s LiveLoveA$AP mixtape. It was a mixtape that was on all the blogs, almost everyone had given Rocky their stamp of honor. The song that stood out most was the one that featured Q, “Brand New Guys.” The title is appropriate, at the time they were both brand new prospects in the industry. They both dropped their debut projects in 2011 but I think this song is the one that truly represented their potential. Rocky starts strong, the Harlem bravado is in full effect but ScHoolboy completely dominates the record. He’s ferocious, it’s the barrage of bars, uppercuts from Tyson in his prime. His personality is one of his many strengths, he’s a character that’s able to be both intense and humorous. It’s almost impossible to hear this verse and not be intrigued by him as a solo artist. Q has presence, he will use his voice, flow, delivery, ad-libs, and energy to make you aware that he is the biggest elephant in the room.
My favorite ScHoolboy Q feature came during a time when all I wanted was his debut album. It was delay after delay, setback after setback, I was almost certain Interscope was going to shelf Oxymoron. He put out three singles in 2013 and yet there was no official release date for his long awaited project. As a fan, the feeling of anxious anticipation only gets worse with every passing month. The fire of excitement begins to wane, the music business is a place where patience isn’t a virtue. Right before I gave up hope, ScHoolboy Q appeared on Isaiah Rashad’s “Shot You Down” remix along with Jay Rock. The song was meant to increase Isaiah’s buzz, his album would be coming first, but it was Groovy Q that truly stole the entire show. From the very first line until the last he’s in rare form, beginning with incredible imagery that portraits the poverty of his past, he seamlessly transitions from the streets of Figg Side to acknowledging the Oxymoron delays while hinting at a possible release date, and ending the performance reflecting candidly on his daughter. It’s a verse that embodies everything one could want from Q, aggression and passion mixed with sincerity and a touch of gangster. I was ready to wait another six months for the album if it sounded anything like that.
ScHoolboy Q is the rapper that will simply make your song better. Hell, he doesn't even have to drop a full verse to make an impact. His “Yak! Yak! Yak!” on Kendrick’s “m.A.A.D City” turned that infectious ad-lib into a recited anthem by everyone who hears it. Similiarly, I can’t imagine “Spiteful Chant” sounding complete without his explosive roar, and it sounds like 50 Cent’s “Can I Speak To You” was tailored made for him. His verse on Vince Staples’ “Back Sellin’ Crack” is immaculate. I have yet to hear him sound uncomfortable on a song, that’s including when he appeared on Tinashe’s “2 On.” I thought the collaboration would be a disaster, I can’t remember Q ever appearing on a song that is more R&B/pop than R&B/hip-hop. I expected him to sound like a fish out of water, to my surprise, Q’s verse is smoother than a penguin sliding through an ice palace. He’s still the charismatic gangster, the way he doesn’t attempt to conform his style reminds me of when Jeezy appeared on Mariah Carey’s “Shake It Off” rapping about Popeye’s chicken for dinner and drinking Cristal out the bottle. Crossing over doesn’t always mean to change but to adapt, ScHoolboy is able to stand out and fit in in any environment.
Sadly though, 2015 has been a fairly quiet year for Groovy Q. He made his annual appearance on Rocky’s “Electric Body”, these two have yet to miss with their collaborations but I don’t believe anyone has yet to overcome the bar set by “Brand New Guys.” He made a surprise appearance on Tyler’s Cherry Bomb, but he’s almost completely drowned out by the heavy drums that sound like grenades exploding. He appears on Travi$ Scott’s Rodeo, but I’ve yet to give the album an ear. Compared to his previous output, he’s been a complete ghost. This is likely due to the mysterious album that he’s cryptically tweeted about. I’m certain that before the album is released he will make a grand return, likely on someone else’s record. He’s TDE’s feature killer, here’s hoping he kills again soon.
[By Yoh, aka Yoxymoron, aka @Yoh31]