Album Review — 19 January 2012

By shelz.

Black Hippy’s strength is in its diversity.  Schoolboy Q, one quarter of the Cali corps, is the resident stoic; resigned to his position and content with explaining it instead of changing it.  There is a gloomy tint to his presence but not much bemoaning.  It sounds like he’s too high most of the time to complain. With his second full length release, Habits & Contradictions, there’s not much rounding out the character he created on Setbacks.  He’s still searching for something in the haze of his perpetual high; possibly that pill he dropped on the floor or maybe your girl’s ass.There isn’t much more here from a thematic standpoint, but the range of production and Q’s deliveries make the lack of content variety palatable.

The first half of this album would have served as a slick and concise LP.  From the infectious bounce of volleying piano keys and animated vocals on “There He Go” to the slick, retro bass and wood winds of “My Hating Joint,” the first half is almost as intoxicating as all those drugs Q uses.  “Sacrilegious” stomps through with a slow simmer of blotchy synth and layered vocals as Q lays out the dark path he regularly walks, vocally toggling between a discomforting monotone indifference and an angry growl.  “Hands On the Wheel” cranks the energy with Lissie kicking out the title on the hook and ASAP Rocky riding shotgun.  The wonderfully ominous “Raymond 1969” tells a scary story about drug fueled murder that could easily make you want to keep your lights on at night. The title could very well be a nod to Crips co-founder Raymond Washington, who formed the precursor to that gang, the Baby Avenues, in 1969.

Right about here, the album starts to fade into monotony. “Sexting” is the obligatory sex standard calling for all bitches in heels to get naked so he can get laid.  The lilt of the horn that’s on loop for the entirety of this song is tedious. The lyrics don’t do much to make it any more interesting.  Q tries to balances the lust with love on “Grooveline Pt 1,” inviting Curren$y and Dom Kennedy to help out.  The skeletal track doesn’t provide much motion and the trio still manage to have the love groove devolve into unsexy banter that would find the average man sleeping alone.  There’s some tag popping going on in “Gangsta in Designer” but after a while, all the Hermes, Ray Ban, Birkin Bag (Yes, I know Hermes makes the Birkin) talk gets old. You have to be smoked out to enjoy “How We Feeling” and well… I’m not.

The LP closes almost as well as it opens.  The menacing “Nightmare on Figg Street” finds Q’s delivery eons beyond the last handful of songs, but the song suffers from an odd, fragmented hook. The cautionary story-telling of “My Homie” should provide some food for thought for those wanting to pull the trigger in the name of friendship. This is one of the few songs on Habits & Contradictions where Q’s bars are more interesting than the track they rest on.  “Blessed” is a keep your head to the sky statement with a wispy foundation that plays with speed and texture beautifully. Kendrick Lamar stays clutch. The closer, “Raw,” sounds like it could be from an urban western.  The song sports another issue with a hook (why I am I hearing “Blame It on the Boogie?”) but the song presents Q at his most haughty and self-important. The power of that pride ribbons through the entirety of the song.

The great thing about Habits & Contradictions is for the most part, it doesn’t sound like anything else.  School boy Q put together a unique and, at times, compelling album. When Q meanders into common areas it detracts from the album’s personality, but thankfully, he rights the ship near the end.  Q isn’t a triple entendre, convoluted rhyme scheme kind of rapper and his content is relatively limited. However, he still manages to keep the music interesting and work his position. He’s not Lamar, but if Schoolboy Q keeps kicking out material like this, that will be just fine.

black-thumbs-up black-thumbs-upblack-thumbs-upblack-thumbshalf 3.75 Out of 5

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