A hugely anticipated record, Oxymoron seemed to live up to expectations in the charts, selling an impressing 139,000 copies in a week and reaching the number one spot on the Billboard 200.
Top Dawg Entertainment are certainly doing something right. The label is mostly known for Compton-born Kendrick, who broke into the spotlight in 2012 with his debut ‘good kid, m.A.A.d city’, spawning four top40 hits and gaining the rapper seven Grammy nominations. Schoolboy Q has long lived in Kendrick’s shadow, collaborating along the way with the likes of A$AP MOB, Action Bronson and Danny Brown, often delivering acclaimed verses, like his 32-bar on Ferg’s Work Remix. Oxymoron has given Q the platform that he needed to move away from being just a ‘featured-artist’ and cement his place in modern day rap. And it’s not a bad effort.
The album can be considered ‘oxymoron-ic’ to the extent that it explores contradicting lifestyles, perhaps before and after Q’s success. It tells a story of his road to the top; one that involved both crime and gang culture. This contrasts with the life of luxury Q now experiences, as evident in Collard Greens, featuring Kendrick, perhaps the track of the album, where Q sings ‘Oh… Luxury, Chidi-ching-ching could buy anything, cop that’. The title also refers of course to Q’s hustle illegally selling ‘Oxycontin’, an opioid used in the States as a prescriptive drug for severe pain relief. The oxymoron here being the euphoric highs of prescriptive drugs contrasted with a menacing view of a Los Angeles dystopia.
So, we understand this is a record of an oxymoronic nature. Thankyou for that Q. It also delivers some great rap music. One of the stand-outs on the album is the Clams Casino-produced track Gravy. As a gravy-loving nation, the British audience are already enjoying the metaphor here, but it deserves more than a deluxe-edition bonus track. Our bucket-hat-fashioning rapper displays both lyrical ability and flow on a track that gives a lighter vibe to an album that emphasises a dark portrayal of street life. And of course, Clams’ beat is amazing.
Important tracks on this album are the opening Gangsta, which features Q’s daughter Joy and sets the brooding mood for the record, What They Want featuring 2Chainz, which is produced by Mike WiLL, and an experimental His and Her Friend featuring SZA. Also worth a mention, the softer-sounding Studio, delivers a heart-felt stream of consciousness from Q, about a girl he thinks of during a stressful day in the studio. The album's centerpiece track Prescription/Oxymoron tells a painful story of an addiction to prescriptive-drugs and lasts over seven minutes, whilst Hell of a Night steps outside the box for a trap-tempo record, produced by DJ Dahi, the man behind Drizzy’s Worst Behaviour. Finally, Tyler the Creator features on The Purge. It’s awful. Skip it.
Overall, Q gets a thumbs-up for his debut effort. It’s not Get Rich or Die Trying or good kid, m.A.A.d city. But it’s a decent record, filled with collaborations that mostly work, telling a truly painful story of Q’s road to success and backed up by a reliable formula, perhaps as a result of flourishing label TDE. CLICK HERE to download the album from iTunes.