ScHoolboy Q – BLUE LIPS

It could be his defining album...

ScHoolboy Q moves through Top Dawg Entertainment like a skewer through a kebab. A core component of the lauded hip-hop stable, his work forms the crux of its identity. Sure, the past few years may have been lean – just a handful of singles since 2019’s ‘Crash Talk’ – but his figure continues to frame TDE’s identity, and its appeal.

Teased at the start of the year, ‘BLUE LIPS’ feels like a bona fide hip-hop event. One of the best rappers of his generation, ScHoolboy Q blends technical virtuosity with street level wisdom, all epitomised by his eagerness to break the rules. So the bars don’t add up to 32 – just slip one, add a pause, or let people fill in the blanks… he does what he wants.

As such, ‘BLUE LIPS’ is an eclectic listen, a display of virtuoso rapping that fully utilises the voice as an instrument. ‘Pop’ – with Rico Nasty on board – is packed with punk-like energy, a reminder that the West Coast spawned both Tupac Shakur and Black Flag. ‘Yeern 101’ by contrast is soulful and downcast, while ‘Cooties’ – a reflection on school shootings from the perspective of a parent – finds ScHoolboy Q grappling with maturation.

Impressive in its breadth, ‘BLUE LIPS’ underlines ScHoolboy Q’s gravitas through its expert curatorial nous. The features add to the record in a palpable way – Freddie Gibbs on ‘oHio’ for instance is the perfect choice, their two styles contrasting in a way that amplifies the track in striking ways.

Devin Malik appears twice – the slow-burner ‘Love Birds’ and the scorched, explicit ‘Back n Love’ – while Jossy illuminates ‘Lost Times’. The features are used sparingly, however, committed to the infrastructure of a highly personal record. ‘Germany 86’ refers to ScHoolboy Q’s birth – on a US base during the Cold War – and it’s about as personal as he’s ever gotten. Backed by that Griselda-like soul sample, it’s a moment of unflinching truth.

A record that refuses to compromise, ‘BLUE LIPS’ presents ScHoolboy Q in unfiltered form. A creative accelerator, its commitment to the individual voice makes this the LA rapper’s definitive statement.


Words: Robin Murray

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