ScHoolboy Q’s widely-anticipated Blank Face LP opens with the intense and insane “TorcH,” the best example of the record’s greatest strength: songs in which Q funnels his sufficient rapping chops into a well-worn violence-crazed gangster formula, with results that are fiery, fucked-up, and delirious with drugs and specious might.
This power carries all the way through the excellent “Lord Have Mercy” and “Groovy Tony / Eddie Kane” before flagging during the Vince Staples feature on “Ride Out.” By the time “By Any Means” — the record’s halfway point — rolls around, the energy has faded completely.
From there, Blank Face LP never fully recovers, despite exciting tracks like the extra-hype, straight-up-ridiculous “Dope Dealer” and the Tyler, The Creator produced musical outlier “Big Body.” The hazily powerful “Black THougHts,” delivers the necessary, markedly non-violent rhyme, “Let’s put the rags down and raise our kids / Let’s put the guns down and blaze a spliff / Let’s do it now, ain’t no buts or ifs,” with remarkable sincerity, but its impact is softened by the mire of “Str8 Ballin,” the track which precedes it, in which the gangster formula sounds tired and forgettable.
The album, ScHoolboy Q’s fourth studio effort, ends on another weak note with “Tookie Knows II,” a far cry from the strong step which opened the record. At that point, I counted five outright throwaway tracks on an hour-plus long album. The length seems unnecessarily ambitious for an artist who was considering dropping out of the rap game altogether; if this had been a lean 10-12 tracks, it could have been a much stronger LP.
Yet, while Blank Face LP is far from a revelation, it emerges from a struggle with its own flaws bruised, but standing. Highlights from the record include “TorcH,” “Lord Have Mercy,” “Dope Dealer,” “JoHn Muir,” and “Black THougHts.” I would not call this album a triumph, but at moments it is surely triumphant.
Blank Face LP is out on Top Dawg Entertainment and Interscope Records. Pick it up on Amazon.
For ScHoolboy Q’s latest music, news, and tour dates, check out his Zumic artist page.