Label: Top Dawg, Interscope
Released: July 8
Schoolboy Q’s Blank Face LP is as much a psychedelic funk and R&B record as Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly is a jazz record. At 17 songs and 72 minutes, it’s a long, disorienting, challenging album that’s mindful enough to prepare the listener for the journey from its first song. On “Torch,” Anderson .Paak sounds manic and paranoid, and a menacing bass riff unfurls like a flamethrower in slow motion. At times Blank Face sounds like how violence feels. Its first single, “Groovy Tony,” is perhaps the gnarliest, most heartless major rap record of 2016. Check Jadakiss’s verse: “When I hug your mom and look over her shoulder/You notice I got the blank face.” It’s so very cold.
The album was released in the summer, on July 8, while the country was mourning the losses of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile and reeling from the police shooting at an otherwise peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas. Q’s lyrics do grapple with police brutality and hate, but it's more than just specific lyrical references—the album overall captures the gut-bucket feeling of a tilt toward chaos that so many of us couldn’t shake in 2016. On “Kno Ya Wrong,” a slow-rolling, shit-talking exercise in the tradition of Teddy Pendergrass when he was still with Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, producers Alchemist and J.LBS sample Kool and the Gang’s “Summer Madness” in such a way that the oft-quoted synth line sounds like an alarm. The world’s on fire, if you didn’t already know. —Ross Scarano