- While his labelmate and friend Kendrick Lamar was jumping on Imagine Dragons remixes and counting up his Grammy nominations, rapper Schoolboy Q remained the Top Dawg Entertainment label's strongest link to the left-field hip-hop. His highly anticipated 2014 effort Oxymoron was even previewed by the brilliant single "Collard Greens," a track where luxury and soul food clashed over a shuffling house music beat courtesy of the aptly named production crew THC, but that's about as easy as it gets on this grim and gutsy full-length. Think of Styles P, Young Buck, or maybe even Mobb Deep attacking abstract art the ski mask way and the brain-melting, coke game commentary called "The Purge" -- produced by Odd Future's Tyler, The Creator -- becomes a horrorshow highlight, with lyrics like "my glock is your f**k buddy" coming off just as dire as they need to be. "Prescription/Oxymoron" addresses Q's pain pill addiction and recovery with lurching electro and vivid, disgraced lyrics that are in the throes of depression ("My daughter calls, I press 'Ignore'") while other highlights are more a sum of their parts, as producer Pharrell Williams returns to gangsta music with the hard beats he lays under "Los Awesome," then the organic and ominous "Hoover Street" bubbles like a lava lamp and the not-so-awful sub-genre of psychedelic hip-hop is born. The wonders never cease on this adventurous and street-tough effort, but they never sort themselves well, either, and with accessible highlights like "Blind Threats," "Break the Bank," and "Man of the Year" all bundled toward the end, this LP requires a surprising amount of patience, especially for an album with "featuring 2 Chainz" on its track list. Check one of this maverick thug's more approachable efforts then come back here for something coarse and complicated. ~ David Jeffries
Rolling Stone - 4 stars out of 5 -- "With tough-as-nails beats and boundless energy, Q's major-label debut positions him as the hardened triggerman in Kendrick Lamar's Black Hippy crew."
CMJ - "Q's thick-headed flow nestles itself with intense mathematic precision in a world that might seem apocalyptic to the outside observer."
Pitchfork (Website) - "[Y]ou see the true depth of his songwriting talents in detail obsessed verses on 'Break the Bank'..."
SPiN - "For his major-label debut, ScHoolboy Q delivers a panoramic but finely sketched portrait of addiction."