Schoolboy Q Hits a Wall in “CrasH Talk”

It’s been three years since Schoolboy Q has released an album, but from the way his latest drop, CrasH Talk, has been reported, you would think it’s been a decade. Hip hop is not a genre in which artists are inclined to take their time with releases. C

There are a staggering number of incredible talented rappers, rap groups, rap super groups, etc all vying for the same public attention, and as such it’s rare to see a high profile rapper go longer than a year without an album drop.

Q is fond of obscuring his face in his album art – the covers for Oxymoron and Blank Face feature him staring expressionlessly ahead in a white ski mask. But CrasH Talk is the first cover where it looks like he is hiding. In the drawing, Q’s head slumps dejectedly, covered by a paper bag leaking small bills. It’s apparent almost immediately the energy of this album is going to be different too.

It’s been a few rough years for Q, and it’s not for lack of trying that he hasn’t released any new music in that time. He’s been open about how his depression has affected his work, leading him to scrap two albums and finally a third that he was convinced wasn’t ready for release. So it’s unsurprising to see how his confidence is a little deflated in CrasH Talk, his style much more reserved than it’s been in the past.

The first single released from the album, “Numb Numb Juice,” had a lot of promise. His flourishes with trademark energy, hitting his mark again and again over an excellent beat. But the momentum doesn’t extend to the rest of the album, which has its moments but altogether is disappointingly inconsistent.

“Chopstix,” which showcases the worst of Travis Scott, in all its heavily autotuned predictability, is especially bad, disappointing in its formulaic attempt to become a chart topper without really risking anything.

Schoolboy Q is not a rapper you could easily classify as vulnerable, but what’s made him such a compelling artist is his unabashed honesty about the many facets of his personality and experience. He’s flexed his gangster clout, he come clean about the agony of drug addiction, and he’s emphasized the importance of his role as a father in hairpin turns that have never felt in conflict.

It’s rare for any artist to get to this point of candor and still have Q’s steely confidence, and it appears, nearly impossible to maintain when that confidence has been disturbed.

You can listen to CrasH Talk on Spotify.