One of the year's most anticipated hip-hop releases, Schoolboy Q's "Oxymoron" lives up to its buzz. Both heavy with bass and filled with memorable hooks, Q's long-gestating major label debut is tight in length and rich with intent. "Oxymoron" arrives in the wake of fellow Black Hippy member Kendrick Lamar's Grammy album of the year nominated "Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City." That's a lot of pressure for anyone's major label debut, but Schoolboy Q meets those expectations. "Oxymoron" presents 12 bass-heavy tracks upon which the artist born Quincy Hanley explores his neighborhood, his hedonism and his rough-and-tumble early life hawking Oxycontin tablets on street corners near his 51st Street and Hoover neighborhood. ("I can get a hundred of them, make three Gs," he explains at one point.)
It's a powerful album with big beats and lyrics that focus on hard truths through a fog of synthetic opiates, crime, cough syrup, chronic and paranoia. "If God won't help me this gun will, I swear I'm gonna find my way," he raps desperately on "Blind Threats." The Pharrell-produced "Los Awesome" features a "backyard full of Crips, county blues, barbecues" on a celebration of all things gangsta. One of the album's best mergers sees Q join Odd Future founder Tyler, the Creator and longtime L.A. rapper Kurupt for "The Purge."
The seven-minute centerpiece "Prescription/Oxymoron" is the big payoff: a harrowing snapshot of a man "stuck in this body high" of prescription pills, slipping in and out of consciousness while his child tries to wake him. This is not an album to give your teenage kid without a companion conversation about the dangers of drugs. But after the disclaimer, sit down and wonder on the miraculous ways in which musical talent can germinate amid such a landscape and grow to create work filled with boundless promise.
Three and a half stars