"Gangsta, gangsta, gangsta," shouts Los Angeles rapper Schoolboy Q right off the bat, offering one more than N.W.A.'s "Gangsta Gangsta" ever did. With tough-as-nails beats (via Pharrell, Tyler the Creator and more) and boundless energy, Q's major-label debut positions him as the hardened triggerman in Kendrick Lamar's Black Hippy crew. "Fuck rap," he says, "my shit real." Truman Capote-level realness is what made Lamar a critical sensation, and Q is just as deft with detail, whether he's describing ice-cream-truck stickups or selling drugs from a Nissan. When Q makes pimp boasts ("Grooveline Pt. 2"), he'll note babywipes in the purse; when he looks at his own depression ("Prescription") he'll tell you the calls he ignores; when he spins a six-minute tale about a drug-addicted uncle ("Hoova Street"), the storytelling is Slick Rick-vivid, down to the roaches in the cereal. It helps that his voice is simply elastic – reminiscent at times of everything from Pusha T's steely grimace to T.I.'s effortless assonance to Eminem's giddy singsong: a finessed tool consistently going "hamhock" on some of the hardest beats this side of Illmatic. A not-as-good-kid traversing the same m.A.A.d. city as Kendrick, Schoolboy complements Lamar's narrative distance with evocative, unflinching first-person dispatches from the front lines.
From The Archives Issue 1204: March 13, 2014