Being right is the best. There’s nothing better than being right, right?
How good does it feel when you are the only person in your March Madness pool to pick the Cinderella story? What about calling that unforeseen plot twist in a movie or TV show? Even better, when you champion an artist before your friends, the blogs and the radio. That’s the best. Everyone loves to celebrate their rightness, and while I myself am not allergic to stunting, I think it’s only fair we also talk about things we got wrong. To quote the historical wizard Dumbledore, “The best of us must sometimes eat our words.” Let’s eat. I’ll start.
Lately, I’ve found myself craving bangers. I think this sudden urge comes with the seasons changing. Once the weather warms the windows go down and the music gets played at absurdly ignorant levels. Loud music signifies the start of spring more than any groundhog ever could. There has been a lot of old school Jay Z, some M.O.P (because “Ante Up”), but more than anything else I've been running back ScHoolboy Q’s Oxymoron.
Some of my favorite bangers of the last few years are on that album. “Man Of The Year” still elicits a visceral reaction from me, as does “Collard Greens.” I let out a barbaric “yawk” when "Break The Bank” comes on. It’s not a candy-coated sugar rush like the former two, but it’s so gritty; it has a face-slapping stench; it wakes me up like smelling salts.
Bangers often tend to be like Thin Mints. I devour them quickly and enjoy them in the moment, but then I’m left with an empty feeling, licking the wrapping to get any remnants left over. Almost immediately I move on giving no thought to the toxins I just put in my body. They don’t have any staying power. And that's how I viewed Oxymoron, an album I didn't think I'd really revisit after 2014 came to a close.
Take a look at a quote from my initial review from way back when RefinedHype.com was alive:
This album is sort of like watching two football teams play who you have no stake in. You can enjoy the game, cheer when exciting plays happen, argue with the refs, and appreciate the game from the fan's perspective, but when it is not your team, you just don't feel it as much. Q can rap with the best of 'em, no question, but when it comes to drug-driven stuff, I need a story, or lesson or a "so what?" to be answered. Q's drug raps are more on the surface level than a layered, conscious one and as a result, I can't make that connection with the album that would send it over the edge.
Man, that was bullshit. Now, it feels almost like the complete opposite, like my team is in the Super Bowl tied 21-21 with two minutes left in the game. Here I am, two years later, catching side eyes because I’m doing my turn up dance to “Studio” in this Starbucks. I’m hearing those bangers--”Hell Of A Night,” “Man Of The Year,” “Collard Greens”--in the exact same light, but it’s the rest of Oxymoron that stands out.
Listening again, I’m drawn more towards the moments I missed than the ones I immediately connected with. “Blind Threats” is astounding. The weight of that song is not lost on me anymore. It crushes me. The haunting, stark beat helps bring out the harsh, unapologetic urgency in ScHoolboy's voice when he urges, “But if God won't help me, this gun will I swear I'm gon' find my way.” At the same time this song is pure uncut hip-hop it’s also profoundly deep; the desperation is palpable.
The album doesn't get any darker than on “Prescription.” The authenticity and bluntness with which he raps about his addiction is staggering. It becomes almost unlistenable when married with pleas from his daughter to wake up. In an era where drugs are glorified, it’s an authentic glimpse into what a life of lean and pills really looks like. ScHoolboy was bucking the trend before the trend was even a trend.
In the very next breath, despite the shock of “Prescription,” I find myself celebrating, rapping “I just stop selling crack today!” right alongside Q. It’s the epitome of the title, Oxymoron. In a matter of minutes, ScHoolboy goes from a chilling tale of addiction to a more glorified banger and with seemingly no hesitation I go from fearing for his child to not giving a single fuck about anything. What does that say about ScHoolboy? What does it say about me? We are large, we contain multitudes. We are all oxymorons.
On my first few full listens I caught the obvious, the slap you in the face bangers, but because of those bangers I wrongly assumed there was a lack of substance. I assumed there could be no depth after a hook like "titties, ass, hands in the air," because I wasn't looking for it. Now, I can appreciate outrageous lines that link oral sex to a game of Operation as well as the depths of despair that is "Prescription." Two years ago, for several reasons ranging from my backpack to my less refined reviewing skills, that wasn't the case. That's why I missed the real meat of Oxymoron.
It sucks to be wrong. It's hard to admit to yourself that you fucked up, let alone do it publicly on the internet. I constantly feel the pressure of the eyes on my work. The problem is, whether it's a 1-Listen review, a follow-up, or a revisit two years later, there's no way to permanently stamp an album with a verdict because like humans, albums can be evolving experiences (Kanye, is that you?). The same way we understand a body of work so deeply connected to our environments, it only makes sense for our ideas of them to change as our lives change. Trying to remove the human element from music, both in making it and talking about it, strips music of its very purpose - to connect with us on a human level, to make us feel something.
So don't turn away from it. Don't fight the dread of feeling you were wrong, lean into it. Ask why you felt that way one day and not another? How did you grow or change? You'll understand music better, but more importantly, you'll understand yourself better too. Unlike March Madness or the SATs, music never ends, there's always an open offer of redemption. When you check the ego at the door, it leaves room for music to enter your life in ways you never expected. I was wrong, Oxymoron is amazing.
Yawk Yawk Yawk!!!!
Lucas Garrison is a writer for DJBooth. His favorite album is College Dropout but you can also tweet him your favorite Migos songs at @LucasDJBooth.