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ScHoolboy Q never seemed concerned about being viewed as the quintessential version of what a rapper is but few of his peers possess his kaleidoscopic approach to music. With Blue Lips, the latest album from the California star, ScHoolboy Q masterfully orchestrates calm and chaos while reminding folks that Figg still gets the money.

For many listeners, 2011’s Setbacks was their first exposure to ScHoolboy Q, and the rawness of the project is still noticeable some 13 years later. With subsequent releases, the artist born Quincy Hanley has long sought to outpace himself, especially shedding the specter of what is considered to be his magnum opus in the Blank Face LP.

Blue Lips, in some measure, is another victory lap for the established rapper and an opportunity to deliver a project that sounds like nothing else in mainstream Hip-Hop. That newness in production style is either one listener’s favorite thing or, as we’ve observed online, especially jarring. The fact that the album has an almost Choose Your Own Adventure bent keeps it interesting. And much of what stands out is Q himself.

The album opens with “Funny Guy,” a guitar-laced song with Q flexing some vocals with the haunting refrain “Bring the dope, bring the hoes, bring the money bags in” making up the chorus. It doesn’t quite prepare the ears for the next track “Pop” revealing the rock star side of Groovy Q. After nearly a minute of a sinister-sounding Q, the beat switches into an all-out barrage that will tear down any festival stage. Rico Nasty features on the track with a standout appearance that ends far too swiftly.

“Thank God 4 Me,” one of the early standouts, takes the shape of pure braggadocio in its first half before morphing into a jubilant reflection of how far he’s come as an artist while also taking note of some of the hiccups that continue to permeate within the culture.

While he has yet to confirm it to our knowledge, most believe that the track “Blueslides” is a tribute to Q’s friend, the late Mac Miller, due in part to the fact Miller had an album titled Blue Slide Park along with other assumed nods. While Q has been reflective in past songs, this is him at his most vulnerable. The second verse also gives a presumed nod to Kanye West, adding to the somber nature. He also seems to hint at sobriety on the track.

It wouldn’t be a ScHoolboy Q album without some signature sh*t talking and “Yeern 101” satisfies that quotient in droves. Q is far from his days on Figueroa Avenue and Hoover Street, but still remembers his roots despite his riches. The chaos we referenced earlier is best represented here with a song seemingly crafted to be performed in front of a packed crowd.

Cliquing up with his TDE brethren in rapper/producer Devin Malik and Lance Skiiwalker on “Love Birds,” this is one of the songs folks didn’t understand at first and we’re not sure if we get it, either. It seems to be two songs rolled into one and on their own, this could’ve been a great one-two punch. Is it inventive? Most certainly but it served as a snag for us in our several listens.

Things get back on track with “Movie,” handled primarily by Az Chike and perfect for the West Coast followed by “Cooties,” another track with the “Soccer Dad” observing how well his life has gone since his early days in Los Angeles. This solid stretch continues on “OHio” with an excellent feature from Freddie Gibbs, and the sharp pen of Ab-Soul brings the track “Foux” up to new levels.

If one needed to nitpick, tracks like “First,” and “Back n Love” are fine songs on their own but seemed tacked on after the careful arrangement of the works before it. But in that later half is another standout in “Lost Times” with production from The Alchemist, repeating the same magic the pair created on the stellar drops like “Flight Confirmation” and “W.Y.G.D.T.N.S.” with Jozzy on the assist.

Things come to an abrupt but appropriate close on “Smile,” a fitting ending after the twists and turns that Blue Lips takes before settling into familiar territory. And when we say familiar, we don’t mean rote or boring.

It’s solid work from Q and places him in the conversation as one of the best artists of his generation while not even tapping into all of his skills. While Q currently ranks this album as the best of his catalog, it remains to be seen where the project would land with most.

For now, the album is a satisfying, expertly crafted reflection of an artist coming to terms with his fame, ability, and status as a golf-loving family man backed by production that matches the vocal output. Hopefully, it won’t be another five years before Q returns to the scene but Blue Lips should hold over most listeners through the spring and summer.

Photo: Getty

ScHoolboy Q Masterfully Orchestrates Calm & Chaos On ‘Blue Lips’ [The HHW Album Review]  was originally published on