ScHoolboy Q
Blue Lips


4.0
excellent

Review

by Benjamin Jack STAFF
March 24th, 2024 | 39 replies


Release Date: 03/01/2024 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Back in love with this shit

In the realm of hip hop, CrasH Talk was one of the era’s most disappointing and unexpected falls from grace. What made it exponentially worse than being a mere failure was the fact that it felt lazy and unfinished in a way very unlike previous efforts by its creator. This was somehow more lamentable than if the LP was an outright car crash because the mediocrity tarnished Quincy 'ScHoolboy Q' Hanley’s legacy through sheer complacency rather than a misguided blaze of glory; at least hard-headed commitment to a terrible idea signals investment in an artistic belief. BLUE LIPS, though, not only reminds listeners of the stone-cold, unique talent that Q has, but also, surprisingly, calls for a begrudging reappraisal of CrasH Talk. It’s still a lacklustre display as a finished product, of course, but in the deep shadow of BLUE LIPS, there’s now more of an idea of what Q was actually shooting for; he simply didn’t throw himself into the venture as fully as he should have, and the result is CT’s underwhelming hodgepodge. BLUE LIPS not only revitalises Q’s sound, but showcases an artist with a genuine creative vision and level of maturity as yet unseen during his career. BLUE LIPS washes away the bitter aftertaste left by CrasH Talk, whilst simultaneously expanding ScHoolboy Q’s sound in a way that is not only progressive and engaging, but also a display of maturation far beyond the bounds of what could reasonably be expected from one of his albums. This the sh*t that they want, indeed.

Evidently the (almost) 5 year gap between albums has worked wonders for Q’s creativity, as he takes a leaf from the books of such artists as Kendrick, Danny Brown and Childish Gambino, and incorporates a far less-blinkered approach to the music itself. Swirls of R&B, lo-fi, electronic and jazz season the classic hip-hop aesthetic, all drenched in a syrupy minimalism that makes the overall effect more intoxicating than it has any right to be. ‘Movie’ and ‘Cooties’ represent the more archetypical hip hop cuts, but are still subversive in their application of these stylistics. ‘Movie’ evokes the heady flavour of 2010s mumble rap, with its booming bass and thumping melody, whereas ‘Cooties’ is very reminiscent of a classic hip hop beat. Q plays off the typicality of these styles very well, and his lyrics work in smart, appropriate synchronicity with the respective styles. Elsewhere on the LP, though, there is a degree of sparseness that Q utilises in numerous creative ways- contorting flows, modifying pronunciation, innovating upon rhythms etc. Lead single ‘Yeern 101’, for instance, implements synth waves and sporadic claps that merge into a percussive beat. Q further adds into this choice by bending the pitch of his vocal to add to the music and facilitate the rhyme scheme. As the piece develops it twists into an alternative clipping. cut in its urgency, bass-heavy and immediate, with machine gun flows and inventive background vocal bytes. ‘Lost Times’ is similar in conceit, the introductory movement coupling a simple piano hook and sublimely light drum brushes before evolving into an understated but head-bobbing, fully-fledged beat. Q’s verses are excellent here, and his simple but wonderfully honed writing pairs with the development of the backing track wonderfully.

The majority of the album’s content toys liberally, not only with what is expected of a ScHoolboy Q album, but what is expected from a hip hop album in general. ‘Foux’ makes imaginative use of DnB snippets to punctuate the sparse musicality, which also comprises feedback whines to create texture. Q’s lyrics and flow here harken back to his OxyMoron era, and Ab-Soul’s contribution plays well alongside the main attraction, especially considering the divergence in style. Jazz motifs are a consistent trend on BLUE LIPS, and are always steeped in a rich, smoky atmosphere, particularly on tracks ‘Blueslides’ and the conclusion of ‘oHio’. The latter, constructed using classical components like harps and chimes, is creatively produced with an excellent feature from Freddie Gibbs, along with a beautifully segued beatswitch. The atypical nature of a lot of these pieces as hip hop beats comes to a zenith on cuts like ‘Germany 86’’ and ‘Time killers’, which manage to repurpose ordinary sonic components, much like a boxed Lego set being used as pieces for a larger project. ‘Germany 86’’ has a wonderfully sleazy Herrmann-esque synthline, slow of pace but with a slight Brockhampton flavour to its mischievous, mellow inflection. Moreover, ‘Time killers’, with its warping production, mellow electric guitar motifs and rolling rhythm is reminiscent of OxyMoron’s ‘What They Want’, albeit with a more restrained pace. The gently percolating beat when partnered with Q’s trademark high-energy, assertive style makes for a selection which feels brand-new and nostalgic simultaneously, with a gently throbbing but heavy undertone to its bassline.

Of course, this is a ScHoolboy Q album, and it wouldn’t be a ScHoolboy Q album without a few heaters. ‘Movie’, ‘First’ and ‘Back n Love’, amongst others, do not disappoint in this regard; compelling, bassy, and whilst nowhere near the level of aggression of Q’s biggest bangers, all are fully convincing in their energy. ‘Back n Love’ is an album standout, earworm bassline and singalong chorus et al. ‘First’ is an unusual one; utilising a recurring tone that switches key throughout, it has an undercurrent of violent, uneasy energy to its generally tight-fisted execution. The fluttering flute motif is also very dynamic and artful in usage, and despite the first half (the half where the energy lies) being over much too quickly, it’s very memorable for just how grimy and gritty it sounds. Q’s content on BLUE LIPS feels much more personal and thoughtful this go around, and although his standard, classic flow is still in evidence throughout, his willingness to tinker and uproot his established style is admirable. Against the minimalism of the music, Q’s West Coast-inflected gangsta stylistics play admirably, finding pockets within rhythms and even melodies to develop bars further, much like drum fills. His delivery is formulae-precise and scrunch-faced in its seriousness, but his flows are like the water cycle: ascending with an uplifting grace one minute, plunging as an ice-cold torrent the next, with all of these moments soundtracked by the consistently varied musicality. Thematically, this is the most thoughtful, even vulnerable, Hanley has ever been, despite his uncanny ability to throw shade and volatility at the thumbing of a hammer. He insightfully covers a spectrum of topics relating to his lifestyle, both pre and post-fame, and it’s a warts-and-all portrait full of sex, drugs and violence. Yet, it’s also stark and tender, passionate for his craft and his kin, in addition to being resoundingly genuine. Artistic endeavour seldom synchronises with the resultant art 100%, but here the intention is clear, and the artistry is remarkable in how it colours in the monochrome landscape previously laid out. Q’s craft is at its apex here and whilst it may not appeal in quite the same way to those seduced by the tunnel-vision gangsta leanings of his previous output, it cannot be denied that BLUE LIPS is the most surprising, elegant final form that he could have conceivably arrived at.

It doesn’t re-invent any wheels, and it’s hardly the vicious outing that ScHoolboy fans were undoubtedly hoping for. In actuality, it’s so much more; it’s the album we didn’t know we wanted. Buoyed by a wonderfully dilettante and rigorously constructed set of beats, every second of BLUE LIPS feels precise and calculated despite its leanings toward spacey minimalism and warped psychedelia. These musical stylings are all held together by the glue of Q’s bars, delivering some of the coldest and slickest lines of his career that are nuanced, clever, and consistently revealing. Where the clear thoughtfulness of the content shines is the marriage of these two elements- Q adapts and morphs before our eyes into a most unlikely antihero, presented with a rich production style that emphasises subdued mood, even on the bangers, rather than out-and-out literalism. It might not be everyone’s favourite release from Q, but not appreciating it for what it is is an impossibility. Back with a bang so refined it’s positively deafening, BLUE LIPS is an intriguing, befuddling, unique collection of songs that signals the start of a new era for ScHoolboy Q: the man who survived the CrasH.



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user ratings (107)
3.6
great

Comments:Add a Comment 
PumpBoffBag
Staff Reviewer
March 24th 2024


1560 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

late on this, but such a cool album. It's not his usual vibe in the least but DAMN is it good

DadKungFu
Staff Reviewer
March 24th 2024


4873 Comments

Album Rating: 3.8

Needed a rev bad, and it's a great one

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
March 24th 2024


47639 Comments


Blueslides is fuckin amazing man

someone
Contributing Reviewer
March 24th 2024


6645 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

I was mildly obsessed with Blank Face at the time and was just going through review after review and as many interviews and such with Q as possible. It definitely felt like the general lukewarm reception and an upsetting amount of misunderstanding regarding that album was a gut punch to him. Promos and interviews in preparation to Crash Talk always seemed like Q just gave up, said fuck it, I gave my all to a project I cared about, now i will give my nothing to a project I am contractually obligated to make.



Like if Q at his most focused and clear is not good enough, then he might as well make quick money off his contract. Which he kinda alludes to on the album too.



That said, I am oh so glad he found his inspiration again and did not let the disdain for general public dictate his creative further.

someone
Contributing Reviewer
March 24th 2024


6645 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5 | Sound Off

It's like a "alright, let's start from scratch" kind of album. All the more dignified by the exhaustive amount of production directions that appear on it. Like this guy just goes through everything that is on the table these days.

JeetJeet
March 24th 2024


12216 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

BRING THE DOPE BRING THE HOES BRING THE MONEY BAGS INNNNN

JeetJeet
March 24th 2024


12216 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

AOTY btw

Hawks
March 24th 2024


87992 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Can't wait to hear this!

henryChinaski
March 24th 2024


5033 Comments


cool, will check this out. Singles were pretty good

PumpBoffBag
Staff Reviewer
March 24th 2024


1560 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Early but strong contender for hip hop album of the year ye

EyesWideShut
March 24th 2024


5909 Comments


Q is all over the place but its works perfectly. Jazzy, turned up, introspective, braggadocio, etc. He probably was rapping better on Blank Face but this one is a lot of fun. Dope album

botb
March 24th 2024


17874 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great album but some of the hooks are so embarrassing for a 30 something year old dude

mkmusic1995
Contributing Reviewer
March 24th 2024


1776 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Great rev Pump! This record continues to grow on me with every spin

Zeiu
March 24th 2024


303 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

Was hoping to hear the first track from when he previewed new songs on his stream.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w77CB-ZMWhk



Early vision of pig feet.



This album hasn't hit me yet, THank god 4 me and Pig Feet are my favourites.

DoofDoof
March 24th 2024


15093 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

need to revisit

PumpBoffBag
Staff Reviewer
March 24th 2024


1560 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Cheers mk, album was definitely a grower for me too. I feel like the bewilderment I had on the first listen becomes almost part of the experience and I love it for that

JeetJeet
March 24th 2024


12216 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

99 bitches in the drivewaaaaayyyy

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
March 24th 2024


47639 Comments


as bad as Crash Talk was I do still think Numb Numb Juice is a slapper lmao

PumpBoffBag
Staff Reviewer
March 24th 2024


1560 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

[2]

Attention bangs too

Rowan5215
Staff Reviewer
March 25th 2024


47639 Comments


yeah Attention is a good closer, I love Q in his confessional mode



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