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Album Review: Schoolboy Q’s “Habits & Contradictions”

Rating: 7.5/10

Is it finally Schoolboy Q’s time to shine? After the monster year Kendrick Lamar had, Q is looking to use his affiliation with Top Dawg Entertainment to launch his own career. The anticipation was certainly there, as Habits & Contradictions built buzz up until release. It’s always a positive step in an artist’s career when they make the transition from a ‘free download’ to ‘available for purchase on iTunes’- but does Schoolboy Q have the legs to stand on his own on this big of a stage?

The California representative has gained a reputation for his aggressive, almost angry, rapping style, and there is no shortage of that here. “Raymond 1969” sounds like something out of a horror film, with Schoolboy riffing about endless violent acts. The horror theme follows on “Nightmare on Figg St”, where Q makes a play on last year’s biggest hit, “What 50-grand to a m*thaf*cka like me/ Can you please remind me?/ Sh*t, I’ll remind you.”

Two of the best tracks on the project come in the same brash manner in “Sexting” and “Druggys With Hoes Again”. When the album first leaked, many versions were missing the first of the two – which is a shame, as the lust filled flute-like sounds on the instrumental set the tone for Q to spaz on. The same goes for the latter, which features Ab-Soul and an insanely catchy, bouncy bassline. Violence and hoes – not the most articulate of ideas, but Schoolboy Q excels at what he’s good at.

However, when he does delve a bit deeper, he does it with success. The first song on the album, “Sacrilegious”, is a spacey introduction with introspective lyrics; the same kind of lyrics that are featured on “Blessed” (a Kendrick Lamar sighting) over the stuttering bass thumps. He’s quoted as calling these songs the “title tracks” to the LP, and it’s easy to see why.

“My Homie” is a tale about friends and snitches matched up with a cerebrally tranquil Alchemist beat, and “My Hatin’ Joint” tells about cheating on another man’s girl; more looks into the several facets of Schoolboy Q’s still-growing style. Coming off as a rough, thug type, Schoolboy does a great job of giving the listener an inside look of the trials to that lifestyle.

Habits & Contradictions is filled with a bunch of cool joints. Aside from the ones mentioned above, “Grooveline Pt. 1” is a smooth track with Dom Kennedy and Curren$y, “Hands on the Wheel” is yet another head-banger with A$AP Rocky, and “How We Feeling” acts as a needed break of melody. What makes this project work is the fact that it doesn’t get boring. Whether it be the guest features, subject matter, or Schoolboy Q himself, it keeps the listener attached.

At the same time, though, most songs will come as good with one listen, but just average on a few others – with exception to the few exceptional tracks. Inevitably, anything he does will be compared to that of Kendrick Lamar – not in a competitive sense, but more of an expectation one. And, this is not a Kendrick Lamar project, but it’s a damn good, refreshingly hard album that shouldn’t be overlooked.

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