13. Schoolboy Q, 'Blank Face LP'
Blank Face LP finds Schoolboy Q reconciling the varied and opposing roles he's played in his 20-something years of life: broke gangbanger and rich rap star, drug addict and dope dealer, proud father and fuck-up. Q wears all of these labels without shame. Standout "John Muir," named for the middle school he attended, takes us back to Q's early days in the set: "I was 13 with my motherfuckin' heat, y'all!" He reminisces in gritty detail about his initiation into gang life only to have a bright, hopeful chorus break up the verses: "We love, we go/We rise, we glow/Our pride, we show." He balances all of "Groovy Tony"'s banging on wax with a more sober look at the lifestyle on "Black Thoughts": "Let's put our brains away from gangs/Crips and Bloods the old and new slaves." This is the kind of juxtaposition that Q specializes in, and the reason he'll never be your typical gangsta rapper. T.A.