by Cayle Hotene
The gravel-voiced ScHoolboy Q releases his much awaited Blank Face LP on Friday (July 8th) – if you haven’t caught all the promotional material, from the lead singles to the sublime two-part short films – get to know. For now, here’s a list of his top 5 verses to whet your appetite for the Figg-born gangster. SKERT!
5. ‘Yay Yay’
Q is often thought of as a west coast 50 Cent, and it’s pieces like ‘Yay Yay’ that ensure the comparison will always hold weight. With a beat as gritty as Q’s trademark growl, his vivid street tales find ample space to breathe. He leads us into the drug packed, violence-heavy world he comes from; where moving work is an inevitability rather than a choice (‘I’m a drug dealing nigga cause them grades ain’t get me paid’), and where his motivation is the self-professed most important part of his life (‘See my daughter need some shoes, and my mum work overtime’). The song, as a whole, is perfectly crafted and executed, dark, ominous, but that’s not what makes it great. Q, deftly, gives us, in one verse, the very base of his identity – drug dealing, Figg Street, chasing women, and living for his daughter. These are traits that have come to define him as a rapper. The fact that he consistently sounds G as fuck while doing it? Well, that’s just Q.
“Keep that work, got that oxy
Need that kilo, call that papi
Know my steelo, shrimp with sake
Sold that her-on, look like toffee
Keep my nina, just might off him
No them boys on Figg don’t play”
4. ‘Work’ (Remix)
Q’s rarely going to win awards for his technical ability, he tends to balance that up with his singular imagination and execution. The macho, chest-bumping nature of the verses laid before him pave the way for an excited Schoolboy Q heater – instead, he decides to float along the track, unhurried, almost slurred. His delivery is so laid back that it’s enough to make you question, on first bump, if he’s turned up with the wrong energy, to the wrong shoot. I feel rightfully stupid even writing that, because as anyone with ears will tell you – he washes each and every other rapper on there with 3/4’s of a verse to spare. Even when he does start to wind up, it’s still a couple notches down from full throttle, but by that point his verse has organically acquired an hypnotic, trance-like quality. You find yourself not quite sure where the song ends and Q begins. No disrespect to Ferg but this is Q’s song in everything but credit. Also, if you were thinking I’d compile a list that doesn’t include Q’s now infamous ad-lib, you were m.a.a.d. wrong. YAWK YAWK YAWK YAWK.
“Yeah put in work –
Spray his ass in front the church
Deacon said I did my shit
the pastor said this nigga turnt
Pop my collar on my shirt
Make these bitches go berserk
Shippin’ units Captain Kirk
Taking xannie’s poppin’ percs”
Beautifully tragic. Here Q seems at war with himself – aware of the inherent pitfalls of a cruel world, but still determined to encourage positivity (‘really think about it could be worse my nigga’). Ultimately, his verses are dedicated to the senseless death of his friend’s son – an event that forces him to be grateful for his lot. Rarely will you hear a more touching line, in any song, than ‘you see my nigga just lost his son while I’m hugging on my daughter… I grip her harder’. There’s an emotional maturity present here that Q is overlooked for – the passage to his friend, where he refuses to bow to the usual platitudes offered to someone in mourning. The verse is one of the most beautiful odes to friendship ever encapsulated in art form.
“Thinking of some bullshit to tell him like it’ll be ok,
you’ll be straight, it’ll be alright… fuck that shit
whatever you need yo I got it,
whether it’s money or some weed or
putting in work fuck it then I’m riding…”
2. ‘Back Sellin’ Crack’
For me personally, this is not only Q’s best verse but also one of my favourites, evaaaaaa. Vince does his absolute thing on this track, (no surprises here) poetically describing a gun filled world of paranoia and gangland vengeance. Tough act to follow, literally. I wasn’t just surprised by Q’s ending verse. I was floored by it. I secretly suspect something tragic happened prior to this recording, because Q seems barely able to contain himself – each word pours out quicker, more desperate than the last (‘Sunny LA where we never need a mink, sunny LA where the young’un’s don’t think’). Q’s masterful capacity for visual storytelling get’s its shine here, too (‘Sunny’ LA where the heat gets sprayed, and every other word on the wall get’s K’ed’). One of the most interesting things about this verse is what it told me about the man behind Q – that he can go toe-to-toe with any of these conscious rappers, but he has largely chosen not to. A classic verse, regardless of who spit it.
“Found out the homie in the cell
I know we hated school but it’s better than jail
Gotta thank God I was saved by the bell”
1. ‘Brand New Guy’
I wanted to do something different, something controversial, but this verse is too ferocious, too cool, and simply too goddam Q to ignore. It’s iconic, and for good reason; apart from the defining example of Q’s famous ‘Errt!’, apart from perhaps the greatest self-deconstruction in the history of anything, ever (‘Biggie and Nas put they ass in a blender, sprinkle some 50 and came out this nigga’), ignoring, even, the disarmingly passive ‘While you gone, shit, Netflix on your couch’ line… is there a rapper in the world that didn’t hear this and think, even for one infinitesimal second, that this fat boy ain’t nothing to fuck with? It’s visceral, it’s funny, utterly convincing, it draws you into it’s embrace, makes you feel part of it. And that’s Q. No frills, no act, just straight groovy, cuH.
Standout (THE WHOLE THING):
“345 be tHe big toy, now wHich nigga want it witH tHe fat boy?
Clipped up like I’m paranoid, High as Hell nigga, Fitzroy
Pull it off tHrougH the city like “errt”
Seen that Ho nigga like “errrr,” Hopped up on a nigga like murk
Put that pussy nigga in a purse
You wouldn’t be tHe first, cover Him with dirt
Put Him in tHe ground, He was down to eartH
Napped up nigga, I been down since birtH
Backpack full of random work
With two bad Hoes, I’ll teacH you How to jerk
Teach you How to jerk, swaggin’ in my J’s
Pop me a pill and tHrow that pussy a rave
My prerogative ways
Nappy chin Hairs witH tHe brand new fade
Brand new nigga witH tHe brand new venue
Sold that bitcH out shoulda made that Ho bigger
Killing careers make tHese cupcakes remember
My objective is to serve your agenda
Biggie and Nas put tHey ass in a blender
Sprinkle some 50 and came out tHis nigga
Equipped witH a gat and tHe dick in your mouth
Balls in my Hands and your bitcH in my House
Twisting up weed, I’m digging Her out
Just filling Her out
Do all tHat sHit you be talking about
WHile you gone? SHit, Netflix on your coucH
WHat this popcorn about?
Microwave oven wHile you out tHere cuffin’
You over tHere lovin’
That bitcH be my stuffing, like… like we really be fucking”
ScHoolboy Q’s Blank Face LP is available in stores, iTunes and on streaming services on July 8th via Top Dawg Entertainment and Interscope Records.