Browse, and you'll see that the Internet is littered with a few arguments that ScHoolboy Q is, on the low, the most interesting member of TDE, better than even the golden child Kendrick Lamar. Most of these arguments span 2012 through summer 2013, until Big Sean released "Control," featuring Kendrick Lamar, who humiliated his peers. After that coup, Kendrick was Superman. "Kendrick Lamar is everybody's favorite rapper," Q told Fuse in 2013. "That's my brother, I love him to death, but I'm better than all them niggas in Black Hippy."
Some of us here agree. Writing for us a couple years ago, the critic Dave Bry proposed that ScHoolboy Q and Kendrick Lamar "are diametrically opposed in style and tone," with Q hanging as loose as Keith Richards, "about as far from tight as a human being can get." Kendrick Lamar, in contrast, is "a high-strung classist."
Me, personally: I'm uptight. Maybe that explains why I prefer Kendrick by a wide margin, especially now that the obsessive introspection and self-immolation of To Pimp a Butterfly has set a new high score for "high-strung" hip-hop. Still, I do wonder where the hell this nigga ScHoolboy Q has slid off to. Ideally, he's just been too busy raising his young daughter. In which case: good on him for taking a break from us.
We're fans, however, selfish by nature. We require new music. Since Top Dawg is outchea fabricating studio scuffles between Kendrick and Q in order to get the latter rapper's name back into the mix, I'm hoping this at least means that the label is preparing to rollout a new ScHoolboy Q album, a mixtape, a single—something. My spirit is ready. We spent last year listening to relatively tense, paranoid projects from Kendrick Lamar and Jay Rock. I, for one, am eager to hear a change of pace and tone from TDE's freest libertine spirit.
For a while, you might could've made a case that TDE was, pound-for-pound, project-for-project, the strongest clique in the game. This was a few years back, in 2012, when TDE was firing on almost all cylinders: ScHoolboy Q dropped Habits & Contradictions at the top of the year, Ab-Soul released Control System in the spring, and then Kendrick Lamar dropped good kid, m.A.A.d city in the fall. This was before TDE signed Isaiah Rashad, but when Jay Rock's buzz was still loud. This was back when any given member of Black Hippy might've been, or might've become, your favorite rapper.
The state of play has changed; the rankings have shuffled, and Kendrick Lamar now eclipses the field. More than anyone else in Black Hippy, ScHoolboy Q is overdue for renewal. His three hit singles from Oxymoron aside, Q has yet to drop another project that feels as fully imaginative and robust as his 2012 album, Habits & Contradictions. Now that he's taken such a long, presumably rejuvenating break from prominence—and now that he's settled into hip-hop's esteemed dad class—it'd be interesting to hear his updated perspective on drug culture, lean addiction, fatherhood, and whatnot.
In general, TDE could stand to show some hi-powered, hit-making solidarity these days, à la YMCMB on Nicki Minaj's last few hit singles, or Dreamville on any given day. With Kendrick Lamar having blown the fuck up in the years between then and now, the stakes have shot higher and higher for ScHoolboy Q—and for the rest of Black Hippy—in 2016.