ScHoolboy Q has a vision for his sophomore major label album. The title Blank Face may not make much sense to us now, but the way he’s blanked out the faces of Crying Jordan and Donald Trump to troll the internet is proof that it’s all apart of some bigger, master plan. He’s using his videos to really sell the concept. Faces are blank in both “Groovy Tony” and “THat Part” without any explanation why.
Oxymoron had good videos, I really loved the concept for “Hell Of A Night” and “Break The Bank,” but Q has never really connected his visuals and music with one, cohesive theme. It’s been said that Q has stepped up his lyricism on this album but currently what’s apparent is he’s stepping up everything on this album. He’s creating something much bigger than he did in his past work.
Visually, the biggest leap forward isn’t in his music videos but the short film that was released last week. "By Any Means: Part (1)" is half short film, half music video for a song that has yet to be released. It follows Q and a group of homies that's leading up to something. Something big. One thing the video makes very clear is location. It's shot on Hoover Street, where Q grew up, a place that can be heard shouted across his every album, but now there’s visual representation. The dice game, running from the police, the homies hideaway, the pawn shop, everything either happens on Hoover or very close to it.
The first song on his TDE debut Setbacks, “Figg Get Da Money” details Figueroa, a major street in Los Angeles in a similar way - dice games, prostitutes, hustlers, churches, liquor stores, he paints the picture in a way that only Q can and now that picture is being captured on film. "By Any Means" brings some of those descriptions to life, even though there’s a heavy comedic aspect, but what the short film really showcases is how Q is slowly bringing us into his mad city.
Q’s background as a Hoover Crip isn’t something he hides from. The song “Gangsta” off Oxymoron is very blunt about his past, just like Vince Staples and YG, whose affiliations are known but their actions while in that life are more cryptic. Just based off his personality it’s hard to imagine ScHoolBoy being some big time gangster, but you never truly know who these artists are, what they’ve done and what they’re capable of doing.
In "By Any Means" there’s a bit about how they approached a stranger on the street. It turned out that the guy knew someone that allowed him a pass, but like we witnessed on Kendrick’s GKMC the wrong answer can have repercussions. The goofy guys that joke about inventing the Crip walk will be the ones to ask you where your grandma stay. Hoover isn’t a place where just anyone can venture into.
Right before the release of "By Any Means," Top Dawg released a short, 30 second clip on Twitter of ScHoolboy riding around in the same car that appears on the back of his album cover. Again, showing that in every aspect pushing an unknown narrative through the visuals. It’s not the same car they’re in during the first part of "By Any Means" but I suspect it will be relevant in the future. The song that plays during the clip has Q rapping about gangs, police, selling drugs at 14 and skipping class at 15. It sounds good, even though it’s a short teaser the imagery pulls you right in. Before the first part was released there was a trailer for the Blank Face album that shows something will go wrong and prison is in his future - jail, gang banging, police, robbery, all of this is being captured in brief set of visuals. This is Q’s first time delivering a short film along with his album but I must say it’s being done well enough that I’m anticipating both.
If the short film is following a narrative that connects with the album, I believe Q is going to get deeper into the life of Quincy. This is something that he’s done in spurts, but he hasn't produced an entire album where you get a sense of who he is beyond the rapper persona. Oxymoron is a good album with some great songs but there’s only a few moments I really felt like he gets personal; “Prescription/Oxymoron” did an incredible job capturing his addiction to pills and the harrowing pain of how that affected everyone around him, including his daughter. “Hoover Street” is another highlight, hearing the song now it feels like it would fit within "By Any Means." Q takes the listeners into his early upbringing - the roaches, the junkie uncle, gang banging as a rite of passage, the world I imagine his sophomore album will really explore. Even if it’s a fictional story, I think his source material is reality. His reality.
What confuses me about "By Any Means" is the TDE clothing that’s being worn, making it hard to know if the story is based on before Q became a rapper or after. The setting could be during that time when he was transitioning from being Kendrick’s hypeman. As more parts surface I’m sure those questions will be answered. I hope he continues to keep the focus on life on Hoover; where the grooviest gangsta got his stripes while somehow incorporating the Blank Face concept. We still don’t know what Q is planning with this album but the more tiny glimpses we are given, the more excited I get for July 8.
Q's quickly becoming more than just a rapper, he's being a visual artist too.
By Yoh, aka Groovist Yoh, aka @Yoh31
Photo Credit: YouTube