Schoolboy Q Breaks the Bank

I am writing this because I am averse to the mechanics of the web and it’s the best song to come out this week and because I wanted to throw fruitless slander at imaginary boogeymen. And I feel...
By    January 22, 2014


I am writing this because I am averse to the mechanics of the web and it’s the best song to come out this week and because I wanted to throw fruitless slander at imaginary boogeymen. And I feel that if you run a website, you should write about the songs you like whenever you get to them. There are plenty of rap songs I like. There are plenty of good and even a few great rap albums. But I can’t even remember the last rap album that I wanted to rock until my MP3’s popped. Maybe Chance. Maybe Gates. Definitely Old. There’s a weird balance you need to strike to make a classic rap album. You need the synapse-melting blunt-rap shit that make you want to call up all your friends, fall into a kush coma and ride around like you weren’t in a Toyota 4runner that has been savagely keyed (if you know who keyed my car, give me their SoundCloud account. For real.). You need introspective songs that show you’re not a cartoon — e.g. the “Rock Bottom” to your “As the World Turns.” You need singles with hooks that pass the test of girls who empathize with “I Need a Ryde or Die Bitch” and those who don’t. You need personality, charisma, swagger, the voice, and the songwriting ability. Writing a classic rap album is practically as hard as writing the great American novel, but it’s harder to get on Clear Channel than in the New York Review of Books. Or maybe a classic can just be 12 pop-rap jams. Honestly, I don’t care what you think is a classic. The whole point is to construct your own canon and call someone a sloth on Twitter when they contradict your subjective opinion.

This is not a long way of sparking classic talk for Q’s Oxymoron. That is preposterous to talk that way about an album that hasn’t come out yet. However, it is a long-winded way to talk about the four leaks that he’s dropped since last year: “Yay Yay,” “Collard Greens,” “Man of the Year” and now “Break the Bank.” They are the rare songs that I return to all the time. They are the sort of songs that have no Sharebeast expiration date. Since their inception, TDE has taken an old-fashioned Motown approach to music. Whereas most rappers put out mixtapes, they made their albums for sale well before Interscope came in. There are checks and balances and a sense of  value on the music because the songs are not microwaved. There are hard drives full of stuff we probably won’t hear and that’s probably for the best. It’s a reaction to the opposite approach of flooding the market until you strike a deal. That works for some, not so much for others whose story is told before they even have the chance to get paid. The obvious point of “Break the Bank” is this is finally Q’s chance to cash in. He’s been patient, waiting for Kendrick to complete his run, waiting until he could “write him some sweet songs” to complete the album.

For all the ostensibly conservative focus on craft, they are experimental at heart. That’s why it makes sense for Q to link up with Alchemist. They’re artists who are too smart and skeptical of those who need to be “avant-garde,” but actually just reveal pretension and insecurity. This probably was cut in Alchemist’s studio, because that’s the way they work. Searching for the variable, the weed to stain brain cells the right color. No rules but a concrete sense of what’s right. What’s cool about songs like this is that it proves how bogus most of the Internet trends are. The minor piano chords will always incite murder. “Fuck rap, my shit real” will always mean something if it’s actually true. Authenticity isn’t something you can talk about on the Internet. Neither are drive-by’s at bedtime. Neither is a song like “Break the Bank.” This is about the stuff that goes on off the grid. Patience is a virtue, so is knowing what to throw up your peace sign. Sometimes you just want to play your music loud enough to turn your speakers to sulfur and just scream “La di da di do, la da di do….”

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