ScHoolboy Q’s latest instalment Blank Face is an audiobook with supplementary music. The project displays a certain sense of maturity and uses a narrative finesse to depict the grimy LA street life. It’s told through they eyes of a lone wolf character who lives through various situations and the outcomes of the decisions he has to make to survive. While he makes it obvious there is a better way to all this, he needs to keep his cool and unforgivingly make it through.
We begin with ‘Torch’. Instantly gripping, it let’s you know whats about to come through its instrumentation which features elements of dark gospel. There is a lyrical provision and a fairing amount of biblical imagery, particularly the devil being just behind ScHoolboy Q’s back.
Moving through the narrative, it’s apparent the gangster street life is not being glorified, but rather being reviewed as a harsh reality and an indispensable need according to the surroundings of an unwarranted lifestyle. This is a raw look at the struggle. Not of the life itself but more so the trials and tribulations that come with it. The maturity stems from the fact this is past the typical “my life is difficult, this is why it’s hard” and “I made poor decisions, these are the results, fare from my warning” narrative to someone who has had to grow, survive and face the ordeals of the given circumstances. A caterpillar constantly struggling in its chrysalis – however we eventually learn ScHoolboy Q may no longer care whether or not he turns into a butterfly, but his daughter deserves to.
‘That Part’ feat. Kanye West emphasises the very best of things survivalist ScHoolboy Q lives by, playing to his personal mantra. The beat selection here is perfect. It sounds like a hazy dream in a tilting room at a fair. Everything comes together seamlessly on this track, the vocals match the music and Kanye compliments the song quite well with a standout flow and delivery that fits in with the track and still contrasts to ScHoolboy Q.
‘Groovy Tony’ for me is outstanding. It reminds me instantly of a Hieroglyphics tune for some reason. It could be because the instruments sound heavy and the drums are constantly inviting. It’s not quite boom-bap, but its got the rhythm and altogether the beat sounds like something you could rap on forever. With the fact that Jadakiss makes a feature, it solidifies the strength of this beat to handle hard hitting heavy rhymes, from an east coast titan to the gritty dark storytelling of west coast Q who can talk, rap and catch the elusive “blank face” vocal repeated throughout.
The tilting room style of production continues on into ‘Dope Dealer’. This is definitely the point where the volume should be turned up. This is the part of the album where the author talks about the fruits of his labour. E-40 makes a feature on this song and his take on the hashtag style of rapping, including fun wordplay, immediately had me putting it on repeat.
‘Str8 Ballin’ and ‘Black Thoughts’ which when played back to back make for an interesting contrast. It’s the breakdown of the various and thoughts that go through ScHoolboy Q’s conciseness. He idolises the wealth that may be attained through illegal means and street hustling, however the surroundings are a plague and affliction to the mentality of the people in the same circumstances.
Blank Face ties everything together brilliantly. ScHoolboy Q’s slam poetry style narrative with Anderson .Paak’s electrifying vocals once again highlight the struggles of the options available in a fierce arena.
A reflective and introspective look of the gangster life told through the perspective of a cognitively dissonant survivalist, Blank Face is (Groovy) Tony Soprano’s rap autobiography. It puts the spotlight on the necessity of practicality tilting towards more Bear Grylls than MacGyver.
Part 1 of 3 of the Blank Face mini movie: