[live recap] ScHoolboy Q @ the Middle East

I have a sick obsession with Habits & Contradictions. Typically my order of events when reviewing a new disc goes something like this: give it a near ad nauseum amount of spins; write the review; toss it aside, to be revisited in a couple months, or maybe never. But that wasn't the case with this sophmore offering from SCHOOLBOY Q. It came out in January and since then I've had more than one person offer to buy me new CDs for my car because they assume H&C is the only thing I own. If given the opportunity to re-rate, I'd probably bump it up that extra half-star. And while I'm not willing to label it "best" anything, it's unquestionably my favorite rap release since Hell Hath No Fury.

The odd thing about it? I can't pinpoint precisely why. It doesn't pack anything resembling didactic wordplay found therein HHNF, the foolish bravado of Dark Twisted Fantasy, the gritty hysterics of Cuban Linx II, or the nonsensical eccentricities of Fishscale -- probably my four favorite hip-hop releases of the past five years thanks to their lazily generalized corresponding summations.

Rather, it seems like Schoolboy is a marginal amalgamation of all those things, probably best evidenced by these bars from album standout "Nightmare On Figg St": "The landlord turn your lieutenant into a tennant / And if your rims spinning / your jaws dented (beat drop)" Does that even make sense? I'm nearly certain it doesn't (as is often the case with Ghostface's best material). But holy fuck, is it fun to beat your chest/pop your collar/wave your middle finger around to (as is often the case with Kanye's best material).

All this gushing aside, I remained slightly trepidacious heading into last night's outing. I caught Q in a warm-up slot for BFFL Kendrick Lamar at the Fader Fort in Austin last month. Two songs, buttloads of energy, and gone -- a little too willing to cede the spotlight to his supposedly more ready-to-blow comrade, in my opinion. Turns out my concern as to whether he would be able to maintain that bluster for an entire performance was misplaced however, as the audience did plenty enough to mask any lulls.

Immediately following a boisterously cool opening set from TDE labelmate AB-SOUL -- think Eazy-E to Q's Cube -- Schoolboy barrelled to the stage in a manner not unlike what we've come to expect from recent swag-trepreneurs (OFWG, A$AP, ETC.), and the crowd acted justly. But seeing as Q is really too good to merely rest on the gimmicks often employed by those contemporaries, he thankfully scaled it back a bit, taking time between nearly every song to remind the crowd he was sleepy (read: baked) and implore us to maintain the energy level.

Like I mentioned above, people suspect that Kendrick will be the first to blow from their TDE/Black Hippie crew, presumably based on the fact that he's far and away the most technically proficient rapper in the clique. But if that's the case, then Schoolboy got next. He possesses everything that it takes to make a live rap concert worthwhile. Energy as evidenced by his willingness to thrust himself headfirst into the crowd on at least two occasions. Reverence, best displayed when he handpicked three bros from the crowd to come up on stage and rap alongside him. And probably most importantly, his sense of humor. He wore a bucket hat onto the stage, opted to dawn a ski mask for his most murderous jawn (the aforementioned "Nightmare"), but refused to let us see the top of his head while making the sleight-of-hand switch, claiming he had a fucked up haircut. Same when switching back to the bucket. All while rocking an ear-to-ear grin that is almost necessary to alleviate some tension when your subject matter largely pertains to Oxycotin and shotgun stick-ups.

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