ScHoolboy Q menacingly chants, “Been popping, ah / Hood legend, ah,” on the opening lines of his highly anticipated fifth studio album, “CrasH Talk.”
At 32 years old, the South Central native delivers some of his most impressive music to date on the insightful, drug-infused predecessor to 2016’s “Blank Face LP.”
Since early in his career, ScHoolboy Q has remained a dominant figure on the TDE roster – maturing from the aggressive party rapper the world came to know and love and evolving in front of our eyes.
“CrasH Talk” is a testament to this.
Throughout 14 diverse tracks, Q spits nothing short of raw emotion over production from the likes of Boi-1da, DJ Dahi, and Cardo.
On “Tales,” the naturally aggressive rapper tones things down a bit to reminisce on his early days of drug dealing and gang affiliation. On the second verse, Q carefully weaves together lines addressing the never-ending cycle of gang life and its repercussions.
The following track, “CHopstix,” is a failed attempt at a radio hit. Travis Scott comes through with a weak hook that features a variation of the same two words repeated over the course of eight lines. To add to the excitement, Mr. Scott is even generous enough to throw in an, “It’s lit!” for us, too.
The album’s highlight comes seven tracks deep, with “5200.” Over harrowing production that immediately made me reach for the volume knob, Q flexes his wealth and violent lifestyle – one of the few things that’s remained consistent throughout his career.
ScHoolboy’s introspectiveness reaches a new height on “Black Folk,” as he discusses how society makes many black children feel like they have no skill set or strengths in an attempt to waste their talent. “Wasted, wasted,” Q ominously raps on the hook, tying together the idea of talents being “wasted” due to the street life that’s often associated with less fortunate “Black Folk.”
On “Dangerous,” Q grapples with addiction and reflects on adventures he’s had intoxicated, while Kid Cudi hums a hazy hook over a haunting, paranormal beat with choppy guitar chords and Kanye-esque production, courtesy of DJ Dahi.
Tracks like “CrasH” and “Attention” find Q getting back to his roots. On “CrasH,” Q displays a smooth, polished flow over a sample of “Boom” by Royce da 5’9” and DJ Premier.
Boi-1da does a brilliant job flipping the sample and creating a captivating beat for ScHoolboy to spit game and criticize the younger generation of rap: “Lil’ rappers ain’t impressive / Your tax bracket ain’t impressive / You buy a chain, but won’t buy no land / That hashtag should say, ‘Desperate.’”
“CrasH” also finds Q giving his daughter a few important words of advice: “Upper echelon, where we stand at / So, girl, be proud that your skin black / And be happy, girl, that your hair napped / ‘Cause the school system won’t teach that.”
The album ends with thorough storytelling from Q on “Attention” – making for a very fitting outro to such an insightful body of work. The song begins with Q discussing recognition he’s received from hip-hop higher-ups and friendships he has with rap peers.
He then delves into his childhood, how he let his mother down, and how music saved his life. “Got the devil on my side while the Lord been pushing me over / I can finally understand why my uncles was never sober,” a tough-talking Q raps over a dreary loop, detailing his thoughts during a laundromat shootout that took place with his daughter present. Real Q fans will agree this song should have been titled “Hoover Street, Pt. 2.”
Although the album wasn’t disappointing by any means, I think it lacked the value and content his previous projects displayed.
6LACK, Kid Cudi, and Lil Baby stole the show from ScHoolboy on his own album and tracks like “Lies” and “Floating” acted as fillers. Without these minor drawbacks, Q could have crafted a near perfect album.
With pristine production and seamless transitions between songs – listen to “Die Wit Em” and “CrasH” back to back and you’ll see what I mean – a perfect project was certainly feasible, but the uninspired, lazy songwriting deterred it from ever reaching its potential.
“CrasH Talk” isn’t something to write home about, but it is a reminder of why ScHoolboy Q is such a polarizing figure, synonymous with gritty, West Coast gangsta rap.
Q takes your favorite rapper to school, boy.