Blank Face sees ScHoolboy Q attempt to define himself as one of the top hip-hop artists currently active in the genre. His previous album Oxymoron was excellent, but many still felt that ScHoolboy had more to offer as an artist as far as sharpening his west coast, neo-gangster rap sound and creating an LP that was considered a modern classic. Blank Face (BF) satisfies those yearnings for more. ScHoolboy has grown in confidence, exploring acute topics while sustaining his aggressive, sarcastic and charismatic persona.
The current trend in hip-hop is for artists to create long and ambitious album; see the latest releases from Travis Scott, Kanye West, Drake, Kendrick Lamar and J Cole. They also, with maybe the exception of Kanye’s The Life of Pablo, brought forward a concept sound. BF follows, and excels in, this trend. The album is certainly long, but includes no tracks that can be categorised as ‘filler’, and is ambitious but at no point does Q over step his boundaries as an artist or become a victim of trying too hard.
In his lyrics, ScHoolboy recounts his unlawful and wicked past, glorifying it to a degree, while keeping note on the harsh realities of that lifestyle. Q almost battles with himself track to track; his tone, along with the musical tone experience a number of transitions. In songs such as, ‘THat Part’ and ‘Dope Dealer’, the Black Hippy member brings an over the top cocky attitude towards his drug dealing past and how much money he has made from both that and, more recently, the hip-hop game. The feature from Kanye is not extraordinary but he continues the cocky approach. E-40’s feature, on the other hand, is brilliant. His goofy and delightfully cringe-worthy delivery fits perfectly on ‘Dope Dealer’s bouncing beat. Compare these to the much more sombre pieces such as ‘Neva Change’ and ‘Black Thoughts’ and Q’s internal struggle is made obvious. The issues that he explores are as relevant as ever and he does not pretend to have the answers for them, but instead gives a perspective from someone who has had first-hand involvement.
It’s a sonically varied album that maintains a cohesiveness, keeping any possibilities of staleness and/or aimlessness at bay all at once; the grizzly, raspy horns on ‘Ride Out’ and ‘WHateva U Want’, moody piano riffs on ‘Tookie Knows’, the gorgeous melodies on the ‘JoHn Muir’ hook. All of them are welcome and complement the LP as a whole. The only let down on the album is ‘Overtime’ which according to the TDE signee was forced on to BF by the record label. It would make for a great Miguel track but the song’s one dimensional nature slows down the close of the album.
Pre-existing fans will really get into this project and those who have overlooked him may appreciate this release more than his others due to what it achieves musically. ScHoolboy still has more to offer, but this album adds to the collection of excellent hip-hop being released in the last few years.