ScHoolboy Q should be celebrating right now: His fourth album, Blank Face LP, debuted at No. 2 on the Billboard 200 and is receiving some of the strongest reviews of his career. Instead, sitting in Complex’s midtown Manhattan offices in a navy blue hoodie and matching sweatpants, he sounds tired and dejected, and doesn’t shy away from explaining why. On the day of the project’s release, a childhood friend was sentenced to 100 years in prison; shortly after the 29-year-old rapper’s daughter broke her arm. The day before, there was the killing of five police officers in Dallas at a Black Lives Matter protest. “All this stuff that’s going on in the world right now,” Q says, “a lot of people can’t even listen to my music at this moment.”

Q’s unabashed honesty has helped make him a star—the second name, behind Kendrick Lamar, that comes to mind when someone mentions his label, Top Dawg Entertainment. But his unfiltered personality has also got him in trouble, especially when it comes to label pressure to make more radio friendly singles. On Blank Face LP, ScHoolboy raps with snarling lucidity about growing up in South Central Los Angeles, and the traps of drugs and violence that make it difficult to imagine a bright future. But if this album’s release is any indication, climbing the ladder of success doesn’t mean your past can’t catch up to your present.

Large play button icon