After a quiet 2018, many speculated whether ScHoolboy Q would deliver us a body of work – this record was delayed after the death of his great friend and collaborator Mac Miller. With his acclaimed ‘Blank Face LP’ having climbed to Number One on the US R&B and hip-hop charts, his fan yearns for another album. And so it’s with some bittersweet relief that we receive ‘CrasH Talk’.
With this socially conscious album, the Californian rapper uses analogue instruments to add up-tempo energy and show that his artistry is classic compared to the rest of the mainstream. The track ‘5200’ uses flute to add speed and fun; it’s sandwiched between two slow-tempo tracks. Even the brusque track ‘Floating’ – which features 21 Savage – effectively utilises a three-note upscale used in ostinato on the piano. This accent adds flair to Q’s sound, differing him from much of contemporary rap.
ScHoolboy Q has a conscious view on gang life, evidenced in his stories of his life as a Crip and a black man. The track ‘Tales’, for instance, is full of complexity: he tells us how he got into a gang and his view on the criminal activity. This view is often from a nuanced perspective, as he humanises it. He shows the divide between gangs consists of little more than the views and associations that separates them (“Rag blue but bleed red”, as he puts it). On the single ‘Crash’, he speaks explicitly to his daughter – but also to us black females – when he tells her to be proud of her natural selves since “the school system won’t teach that”. He gives an honest alternative to the media representation (and sometimes misrepresentation) of gang and black culture.
Yes, he’s a socially conscious rapper, but this doesn’t stop Q from boasting about his success. His braggadocio is most prevalent on ‘Water’, as he boasts about his ‘drip’ and how he’s like no other. The simple repetition of “I got tha water” – a chorus atop lofty strings – invites the listener to self-glorify too.
The album’s slower tempo won’t be for everyone: if you’re all thrills, no substance, then maybe this album is not for you. But you have to respect ScHoolboy Q’s dedication to showing us a different outlook on life, and exploring many emotions. Introspective – yes, but these are songs for the summer.