Schoolboy Q, ‘Blank Face’: One of the Best Albums of 2016

Written by Angelo Gingerelli

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As a member of Kendrick Lamar’s TDE squad, Schoolboy Q suffers from a severe case of “Scottie Pippen Syndrome.” The condition is caused by being insanely talented, but constantly being overshadowed by somebody on your own team that is somehow more insanely talented. Other examples of this condition include Kelly Rowland, A$AP Ferg and Big Boi from Outkast.

While Blank Face will probably not have the commercial impact of Kendrick’s Good Kid, Maad City or the near universal critical acclaim of To Pimp A Butterfly it does move Q one big step closer to getting out of K-Dot’s shadow and finally becoming the “Man of the Year.”

The album clocks in at well over an hour with 17 actual songs, and while there are a few that could have been left out, for the most part, every song is worth hearing at least once. The project has a good mix of TDE’s trademark mixture of street tales, social consciousness and personal introspection with some of Q’s party records thrown if for good measure. Songs like “Whateva U Want” and “Big Body” (feat. The Dogg Pound) are as club-ready as anything the collective has released but maintain a level of lyricism and West Coast flavor not seen in many club songs.

Blank Face gets serious when Schoolboy Q really hits his stride. Songs about relationships (“That Part” featuring Kanye West and “Know Ya Wrong”), life in the hood (“Ride Out” featuring Vince Staples and “Groovy Tony/Eddie Kane” with Jadakiss), selling drugs (“Dope Dealer” featuring E-40 and “Str8 Ballin”), sex (“Overtime” with Miguel and Justine Skye) and the socioeconomic conditions that made Q the man he is today (“Blank Face” with Anderson Paak and “Black Thoughts”) make for a compelling album with varying subject matter that keeps the listener engaged for the duration despite it’s long run time.

Eleven of the seventeen cuts on Blank Face include some kind of guest appearance, and while this would leave a lot of artists sounding like a guest on their own project, Schoolboy Q avoids this by making each track distinctly his own with production that is clearly the new school West Coast style pioneered by his TDE brethren. This forces the guest artists to fit into his blueprint and really contribute to the overall vibe of the project instead of being a distraction from the version of LA presented by Q.

Blank Face is the rare album that features both sonically engaging production and thought provoking lyrics while showing the clear maturation and progression of the artist. While it probably won’t have Schoolboy Q bringing armloads of Grammy’s back to Compton like his label mate Kendrick Lamar, it is absolutely one of best albums of the year.

Best Songs: “That Part,” “Kno Ya Wrong,” “Overtime”

Perfect For: Rolling down the street in your ’64…or any other car you might drive.

Rating 8.5 out of 10

Angelo Gingerelli has been contributing to The Pop Break since 2015 and writing about pop culture since 2009. A Jersey shore native, Gingerelli is a writer, stand-up comic, hip-hop head, sneaker enthusiast, comic book fan, husband, father and supporter of the local arts scene. He likes debating the best rappers of all time, hates discussing why things were better in the “Good Ol’ Days” and loves beating The Pop Break staff at fantasy football. You can catch up with Angelo on Twitter/IG at @Mr5thRound, at his website www.FifthRoundMovement.com or interviewing rising stars in NJ’s Hip-Hop scene on “The A&R Podcast” (iTunes/SoundCloud).