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Monday, February 24, 2014

Track of the Day: ScHoolboy Q – “Break the Bank” (Music Video)



ScHoolboy Q’s collaboration with The Alchemist “My Homie” from his sophomore album Habits & Contradictions was probably the best track on that project and their new track “Break The Bank” is undoubtedly the best track on Q’s new album Oxymoron.  The Alchemist has a habit of bringing the best out of the rappers he works with and it’s certainly been no exception with ScHoolboy Q.  Oxymoron as a whole is a flat out scary back to back listen.  An album that harkens back to a time when gangster rap music was really made by gangsters, Oxymoron is a brutally uncompromising listen that continues the tradition of TDE artists making the albums THEY want to make. 

ScHoolboy Q had no intentions of adjusting his vision for Oxymoron to chase label mate Kendrick Lamar’s success and “Break The Bank” best sums up his mentality in creating the TDE record that would follow Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City.  Oxymoron is as purposefully depressing a record as you could expect Q to make with this much on the line, but he’s still determined to ‘break the bank’.  The song is a flat out amazing display of rapping chops on which Q unloads a series of machine gun flows that any MC would have a hard time replicating all while laying down a visual account of the life of crime that led him to a career in music.  “Break The Bank” is punctuated by a sing song refrain that highlights ScHoolboy Q’s wide vocal range. 

He sounds like he’s coming for the crown and confirms it when he slurs “Tell Kendrick move from the throne, I came for it” midway through the song.  All the TDE artists have a strong competitive spirit, even between each other, and this makes it easier for them to separate from the crowd.  The stark video for “Break the Bank” is a great visual representation for the album as a whole, at least more so than the previously released videos for “Collard Greens” and “Man of the Year”, which are feel good outliers on the almost uniformly dark Oxymoron.  The album's available at all major retailers on February 25th, Target features a deluxe edition with a couple of extra songs.

6 comments:

$3$ says:
at: February 24, 2014 at 2:05 PM said...

This is among the few worthwhile songs on the album (and it's the second strongest after the tremendous, "when the last time"-like Los Awesome) but there is very little here that "harkens back to a time when gangster rap music was really made by gangsters". There are maybe 4 gangster rap songs on this project period and I'm hearing more lyrics about being a junkie than selling to junkies.

Aesthetically there's a lots of slightly improved, H&C beats - some with GKMC-like arrangements - (Hoover Street, Prescription/Oxymoron) and lots of old, recycled flows. I appreciate Collard Greens for trying to add am ambitious psychadelic, off-kilter twist to the modern party rap song but the result is the most boring party song I've ever heard in my life. I'm pretty disappointed overall

John Bugbee says:
at: February 24, 2014 at 7:39 PM said...

We might just have a different opinion of what qualifies as gangster rap. "Gangsta", "Los Awesome", "Hoover Street", "The Purge", "Blind Threats", "Break The Bank", "Grooveline Pt. 2", and "Fuck LA" are all pretty clearly gangster rap songs IMO. The only songs about being a junkie I can think of are "Prescription-Oxymoron" and "His And Her Fiend" and the second half of "Prescription-Oxymoron" is about selling oxy, not abusing it.

I can't say I wasn't disappointed with the album on some levels though. Habits & Contradictions was a more well rounded listen that showed off Q's versatility where as Oxymoron is focused mood music with a few singles mixed in. I respect his vision for the album because it sounded like he had a lot he had to get off of his chest, but the blunt nature of his approach makes it an album that I'll probably only pull out when I'm in the mood for something aggressive and dark.

People looking for something to compare to GKMC will be disappointed. I think Danny Brown is a better reference point for Q, Oxymoron is similar in feel to Old, just not as good. I get the feeling Q's best work is ahead of him though, his versatility is his greatest strength and all he has to do is try shit.

$34 says:
at: February 24, 2014 at 9:45 PM said...

That may be so, songs that are written with braggadocios violence don't automatically qualify as gangster rap songs to me.
Of the songs you referenced I'd agree "Gangsta", "Los Awesome", "Hoover Street" and "Fuck LA" qualify as gangster rap type songs. "Grooveline Pt 2" is arguable but that depends on whether a gritty-sounding pimp record is a gangster rap song or not. “Break The Bank” is a celebratory, we're-about-to-get-rich-off-this-rap-music song, "Blind Threats" is a small posse-cut that features aggressive shit-talking song with an ill-fitting Tyler the Creator chorus and a stellar, anchoring Kurupt verse and "The Purge" is a tumultuous street-conscious song. They may have some street aesthetics to them but they’re not raw or hard enough to be gangster rap songs.
Along with Prescription-Oxymoron and His And Her Fiend, lyrics about taking pills and drinking lean are all over Collard Greens, What They Want, Man of the Year and Hell of a Night. Even if it's for the sake of filling up lines on a party record, Q’s drug-abuse imagery is at least equal to the gangster and street imagery on Oxymoron. The juxtaposition of those themes in his music lend well album title(although boringly in the same way that Habits and Contradictions did) but it’s not a good ratio to have if you’re trying to mark it as the return of gangster rap music.
I enjoyed about half of H&C and most of Setbacks (where he was the endearing, dichotomous goon/father type) and I can see Q’s versatility and growth on songs like Fuck LA, Blind Threats, Man of the Year and Los Awesome but I can also see songs or sections of songs (Gangsta, What They Want, P-O, Hell of a Night) that might as well have just been on H&C. More of the same isn’t bad but more of the same can clutter an album. I suppose that along with songs that fall off the wayward for me like Collard Greens, What They Want, Studio and The Purge is what made me feel disappointed with this album.
I wasn't expecting anything like GKMC, I've very familiar with Q's past work. I only mentioned it in reference to the arrangements of two the songs' arrangements. I agree rappers like Danny Brown and A$AP Rocky are better comparisons although I disagree with your evaluation of Old - another album I felt was lacking in areas compared to its predecessor.

John Bugbee says:
at: February 24, 2014 at 10:32 PM said...

We won't get into the Danny Brown debate here, but good points all around. I think you're splitting hairs in defining a gangster rap song, but that's just perspective. The four songs you singled out as disappointing I can agree with, I enjoy "Collard Greens" quite a bit, but it's not an amazing song or anything, the other three I could do without. I'm eager to hear the bonus song with A$AP and of course "Yay Yay", which should have been included on the album. Blind Threats is the Raekwon song, The Purge is the Kurupt/Tyler song. I don't see how Break The Bank isn't a gangster rap song, it might be a transitional song from crime to rap, but it's all about the life of crime that brought him to this point. This opening verse over that beat?-

"Fuck rap, I've been rich, crack by my stick shift
Oxy like concerts, always my bread first
GetMine my nickname, O-X and cocaine
Nina my new thing, blew up before fame
Heart filled with octane, fire in my soul
Burn through my shoestring, came up from boosting
Du-rags and flatlines, drive-by's at bedtime
Get down, I earn mine, so one loss they can't sign
Thank God that I'm straight, no wonder my mom prayed
Lost one of my cuzzos, cursed from them devils
Good weed and me time, goodbye to Nissan
Cause one day this rappin' gon' pay"

My point wasn't to say this record is 100% on the same wavelength as gangster rap albums from the early 90's, but the songs he's descriptive about his upbringing at home and later general gun toting, drug selling, and pimping stand out in 2014 compared to most of what passes for gangster rap, at least major label gangster rap. There's still plenty of nihilistic gangster shit underground, but what major distro rap album has been this dark without being overly cliche? It's far from a perfect album, but there's still a lot to like.

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