Release date: Jan. 14, 2012
Label: Top Dawg Entertainment
Schoolboy Q was introduced to the world with the January 2011 release of Setbacks, an album about everything that kept him from rapping. The album was sort of a long list of excuses. Songs like "Druggys Wit Hoes" tell stories of drug habits getting in the way of his rap career, while songs like "Cycle" tell stories of gang violence doing the same. The following album Habits and Contradictions acts as a prequel, delving deeper into the setbacks distracting Q from his rap career. The prequel is far more complex than the sequel. HnC is the story of trying to do better while constantly having your actions contradict your habits.
Habits and Contradictions is an album about temptation and trying to overcome it. It is an album about trying to do better without knowing how. The cover embodies this struggle well. Schoolboy's blank and indifferent stare on the cover makes him seem helpless; he appears a slave to his habits. His face is presented as the focus of the cover, but next to him is the ski-masked face of a woman who very clearly has Q's ear. The woman is the living embodiment of temptation, her dress and her actions representing two temptations clearly articulated on the album—women and gangbanging.
The image component of the cover is met by the more obvious textual juxtaposition of both habits and contradictions. The cover features two verse excerpts directly representing the two sides of the album. The first verse labeled Exhibit A is a verse taken from "Raymond 1969" and represents "The Habits," telling the story of Q's upbringing and how it shaped the habits he is fighting today. Exhibit B is a verse taken from the opening track "Sacrilegious," explaining the alternative side of the album, "The Contradictions." The opening track presents Q's upbringing as religious and trying to fight seeing it as sacrilegious. The album and its cover serve the purpose of explaining the difficulty of doing better when habits are so deeply rooted. —Austin Weatherly