Top Dawg Entertainment, better known as TDE, is an LA based Hip-Hop label associated with acts of the calibre of Kendrick Lamar and Jay Rock. Earlier this year, they announced each of their artists would each release a project in 2016. So far they have held true to this promise, with Kendrick releasing the critically-acclaimed untitled unmastered, and now it is ScHoolboy Q’s turn, releasing his new project, Blank Face LP. Many would have thought that perhaps no one from the TDE collective would have the ability to top Kendrick’s project; I believe with the Blank Face LP, ScHoolboy has done exactly that.
ScHoolboy Q is a west-coast based rapper with a history of gang-related violence, and makes his violent-past clearly evident across his music. Many rappers do exactly this and end up creating music that lacks individuality and uniqueness; ScHoolboy Q, however, does so with true artistry. Before the LP was even released, he released his own short movie for the album, not exactly the promotion you might expect from a gangster rapper. This individuality is what makes both ScHoolboy Q and Blank Face so fantastic. From his rough and gritty voice to the highly-varied and textured beats across the LP, Blank Face is simply a fantastic and captivating listening experience.
The LP is heavy, yet topical
Despite being perhaps the hottest property in hip-hop right now and a label mate of ScHoolboy, Kendrick Lamar does not feature on this album. At first appearances, this may seem disappointing, however, it is clear after listening that even an artist of Kendrick’s quality simply wasn’t needed. The project excelled both lyrically, and sonically. The fact that the project featured beats from a wide range of producer’s, including that of Tyler, The Creator and Alchemist, allowed the album to vary widely between songs. Although this meant the album was not particularly cohesive, somehow a clear west coast sound prevailed across the project and such is the magic of Blank Face. The LP is heavy, yet topical; within, ScHoolboy covers his regret towards his violent past, social injustices within the black community whilst still bringing the ‘gangster’ content he has become well-known for.
Overall, this has to be the best project ScHoolboy Q has released to date. It will be very difficult for anyone, let alone the artists from TDE, to substantially better this project in 2016; in my mind, this has to be a candidate for top 5 albums of the year so far, perhaps even top 3. The project, despite all of its qualities, does however have some low-points; in my opinion, a few tracks were slightly sub-par compared to the rest, such as ‘Kno Ya Wrong’ which seemed to take away the momentum built up in the album, and ‘Big Body’, which did not seem to match the quality of the other tracks. Even with these slight critiques, it is clear that this project overall has been executed exceptionally well, with a synergy between content and beat evident across the LP. Songs such as ‘Ride Out’ and ‘Lord Have Mercy’ to me are simply fantastic. West Coast hip-hop in 2016, with the likes of Kendrick, ScHoolboy Q and YG, is continuing to flourish, bringing some of the best rap music for years.
Check out ScHoolboy’s short movie for the LP, featuring the song ‘By Any Means’ below: