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ScHoolboy Q sHines on “Blue Lips”

Q delivers a strong reintroduction in a vintage performance with contemporary twists

<p>The album excels in variability, switching flow, pace and overall vibe several times — making for a completeness that is highly sought but rarely achieved in the industry.</p>

The album excels in variability, switching flow, pace and overall vibe several times — making for a completeness that is highly sought but rarely achieved in the industry.

After a five-year absence, Los Angeles rapper ScHoolboy Q impresses with the release of his long-teased album “Blue Lips” last Friday. 

Q, a prominent figure in the west coast gangsta rap scene, hails from Hoover Street in South Los Angeles, denoted by the uppercase “H” in his stage name. 

The project marks Q’s first solo album since the disbanding of Black Hippy, a rap group with ​​Ab-Soul, Jay Rock and Kendrick Lamar, though he remains signed to the Top Dawg Entertainment record label alongside talented artists like singing phenomenon SZA and razor-sharp lyricist Isaiah Rashad.

In “Blue Lips,” Q’s confidence is on display with his unyielding command of the beat. Opting for his traditional raw-bar approach, Q rejects the beat domination seen in some of today’s chart-topping songs in favor of his established straightforward style.  

The album’s second song and first feature, “Pop (feat. Rico Nasty),” is a resounding success. Q lays down a grungy, classic flow to match Rico Nasty’s explosive, sharp response over pulsating 808 bass for a head-nodding track that sets the tone for the rest of the album.  

Throughout the record, the most pleasant musical samples are utilized effectively as transitions, intros and outros. “Funny Guy,” the album’s opening track, begins with a sampling of “I Must Be Dreaming” by Checkmates, Ltd. The clear exception to this pattern, however, is “Blueslides,” a tranquil piece named for his late friend Mac Miller’s album “Blue Slide Park.” Q has repeatedly honored Miller since his death in 2018, and continues to do so on “Blue Lips.” 

“Lost a homeboy to the drugs, man I ain’t trying to go backwards,” Q raps on “Blueslides.” “When I realized that his — hurt and think, ‘was it worth it?’ Man I gotta shake this, wake up and move with a purpose.”  While reminiscing about the loss of his friend, Q alludes to his own decision to become sober, motivated by Miller’s death.  

The album excels in variability, switching flow, pace and overall vibe several times — making for a completeness that is highly sought but rarely achieved in the industry. Like many of his peers, Q’s previous projects have struggled with cohesion at times. His 2019 album “CrasH Talk” contained a smattering of big name guest artists, such as Travis Scott, Lil Baby, Kid Cudi, 21 Savage, Ty Dolla $ign and 6LACK, but came up short on the cohesiveness and consistency needed for a quality product.  

While the album delivers in most areas, “Blue Lips” has a similarly mixed-bag of success on features. The most notable collaborator on the project is acclaimed rapper Freddie Gibbs from Gary, Ind. While delivering a strong performance, Gibbs’ presence on “oHio” feels a bit forced and distinct from Q’s preceding verse. Q himself recently admitted that Gibbs “washed [him]” — or, performed better than him — on the track.  

Q thrives on refined, no-nonsense tracks that lack the layers signature of more blockbuster rappers and producers. Instead, he stands out when rapping over relentless, tough beats, as repeat listeners may recall from his 2019 platinum certified hit “Numb Numb Juice.”

As “Blue Lips” is just under an hour long, Q allotted more than enough time for solo tracks, where he delivers some of the album’s most introspective and remarkable lyrics.  

On the not-so-humbly-titled “THank god 4 me,” Q criticizes the current music industry’s prioritization of quantity over quality, asking, “If you couldn’t do the work, why sign? / Want the money or you wanna inspire? / Cause the same old cryin’ get tired.”  

In another moment of contemplation, Q reflects on his past in “Germany 86’,” a smooth piece that begins to wrap up the project. Artfully, the song begins with a proclamation of love and concludes with a reflection of pain.  He emotionally recounts his upbringing and speaks to the resilience necessary to survive the streets, lamenting that “My mom stayed workin' late, she taught me how to be great … / Sent her back to the Hoovers, left her son for the shooters / We in the streets playin' catch, I guess we comin' up nеxt / I guess we growin’ up stressed.”  

“Blue Lips” not only signifies ScHoolboy Q's return, but also reinforces his relevance and impact in a genre that constantly evolves. With its raw authenticity, musical versatility and lyrical depth, "Blue Lips" is more than just an album — it's a powerful statement from an artist who continues to shape west coast rap.  


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