After showcasing a monstrous debut from Kendrick Lamar, indie powerhouse TDE’s next batter up is the high-spirited ScHoolboy Q. With his indie success Habits & Contradictions garnering much fanfare and critical love, the last member to start “rapping” from the Black Hippy quartet, quickly became a fan favorite for his animated ad-libs, stupidly addictive choruses, and menacing verses. His Boi-1da-produced latest single “Yay Yay,” which dropped less than two weeks ago, is good indication that Q’s ascendancy to rap superstardom is imminent. Here, the South Central native dissects his latest single, upcoming Oxymoron, and experiences with psychedelic drugs. —Jaeki Cho (@JaekiCho) and Dan Buyanovsky
Previously: Show Recap: ScHoolboy Q Takes Over SOB’s
XXL: Not going to lie. “Yay Yay” received repeated burns in the office when it dropped.
This is actually the only beat my A&R at Interscope, Manny [Smith], gave me. Boy-1da sent it to them. I wasn’t even in the studio with Boy-1da. Boy-1da and I have been trying to get one forever since Habits & Contradictions. I guess [Boy-1da] sent bunch of records to Manny, and he played them while I was working in the studio. I heard the first one and I said, “Load it up.” I stopped doing whatever I was doing and had my man Hector put it on. I did the hook first, I liked the beat, but I didn’t really care about the record. I just had to get something done.
I woke up the next morning and I had the engineer send me the hook just to hear how it sounds. ‘Cause sometimes you’ll do something late at night, 4 a.m. in the morning when you’re tired, you may make a banger but you’re not really feeling it because your brain just been working all day. I went to the studio, put the verses on it, ad-libs, stacked the hook and placed everything right. Then that was it. I don’t know how I write raps. I don’t know how I get inspired, none of that shit. That shit just happens. That’s how I know it’s something I’m supposed to do. I feel like I’m supposed to rap like, “Yay Yay.” It’s not really hard, just catchy. I think it’s a good record, but I don’t want you to think that me coming up with “Yay Yay” was like the hardest bars! I got way iller shit than that, but it’s a hard song.
On the first verse of “Yay Yay” you talk about how you started moving. You ever thought about getting a 9 to 5?
Nigga, I worked 9 to 5. I had a good-ass job. Niggas don’t even know that. I worked for the railroad at one point. Niggas don’t get them type of jobs. I was 18, fresh out of high school, got a job and was still selling dope. Because when you first start with the railroad, its different because niggas quit so much that they start you off with a dollar above minimum wage and after your first year it jumps four or five dollars. And every year you just keep jumping. That’s how they do it in the railroad. That’s how it was, at least when I was working there. While I was making minimum wage, I was out there still slinging Oxy and shit then I ended up playing football and got fired from my job.
And then you started rapping, right?
I was playing football and that was over, so I went back to selling Oxycontin and drugs. That’s when I met TDE. I started rapping out of nowhere, 20, and 21. Like, “Fuck football. I want to rap now.” It was crazy. My daughter’s mom supported it. And that’s crazy to me. She was the only one. All these people were laughing at me. Homeys were like, “Oh, you’re a rapper now? Shut up.” But my girl was the only one that believed. She didn’t laugh. When I played the first weak song, she told me it was tight. I know it wasn’t tight, but she believed. I appreciate that. She gave me the drive first and then everything else happened.
With Oxymoron, are you trying to shout out your past because you were talking about selling Oxy back in the day?
That too. It was a metaphor. I don’t want to get too much explaining into the album. I want people to listen to it and I want to know what they take from it. I want to explain the whole album after it comes out to see if I did my job. If you listen my last two album titles, Setbacks and Habits & Contradictions, that’s damn near the same title. Oxymoron is basically summing up Habits & Contradictions and Setbacks. Contradictory terms and stuff like that.
Speaking of Habits, it garnered much critical praise. How do you feel making the transition from such a successful independent release?
Of course, I’m nervous. Any rapper that says he ain’t nervous is a bitch-ass liar. Straight up. At the same time I know my music is good and I know people are going to fuck with me. We all talked about this in the studio, me, Ab-Soul, Kendrick and Jay Rock, when this day was going to all come for us. Kendrick knew this was going to happen for him. We been talked about it like, “Damn, it’s going to be crazy when we the illest rappers.” The only thing I don’t get nervous about no more is shows. That’s the only thing.
What’s the next step for the whole clique?
We’re going to break up. [Laughs.] Shit, I don’t know what the future holds. I may get shot out there. I don’t know, man. We’re going to see what happens, just let that shit go with the flow. Black Hippy may come. It may not. Oxymoron coming this year and that’s all I’m worried about now. Soul and Jay Rock, too. They’re going to come up next.
Do you know what to expect from watching Kendrick?
I want everything Kendrick got. Shit I was the nigga hype man before I dropped any project. Rapping his verses and shit. My shock factor is over because it was there for Kendrick when he was at my level. It’s no offense to nobody I was just already around it with Kendrick and even with Jay Rock. So I’ve been around it for years. My shock factor is putting this album out, doing well, and getting good reviews. Getting a Grammy or some awards and shit. I’ve done did hundreds of shows. I love it. Don’t get me wrong, but I’m ready for that next level. If you want to be the best, you got to keep going and keep climbing that ladder. Kendrick climbed that ladder and it inspired me. I need to climb that ladder next. That’s when I’ll be happy again.
What holds you, Danny Brown, and Rocky together?
We came up at the same time. Danny is a little older than us, but our buzzes started coming at the same time. I thought Rocky was the hardest dude on the East Coast at the time. He thought I was the hardest in the West. I never knew any rapper from Detroit besides J. Dilla. I heard Danny Brown and looked at him and I hated him when I first heard him like, “This nigga is retarded. He’s ugly.” Then I heard “Blunt After Blunt” and I’m like, “Yo, this dude hard.” Danny Brown is ill. Those are my niggas. I’m not really close to rappers like I am with Danny Brown and Rocky. They’re like my brothers. If you diss them then you have to diss me. It’s that serious. If he fighting, I’m fighting. He don’t like somebody, I’m not fucking with them. Niggas be hating on Rocky but that comes with being on. Ain’t no real niggas coming at us.
Do you guys make fun of each other?
I killed Rocky. I talked about Rocky dead pops, before he died. Bagging on them in front of them. I killed Danny Brown the whole tour. We shared a tour bus. They know I’m going to kill whoever. Nigga I’ll kill your Momma in front of your Momma. That’s just me. I’m insecure so I got to bag on everybody else. I wear a bucket hat for a reason. I take this hat off and it gets ugly, man. I’m just two years away from Lebron.
I make people smile. I want to smile. That’s what I come from. We come from bagging, talking shit. I bag on Kendrick all the time. I kill him about his wardrobe. Soul? I kill Soul so much he get mad sometimes. I burned Soul’s hair before. Jay Rock, I be killing him. Top, our CEO, I be talking’ about his bald head and how old he is. That’s just me man. I kill my DJ on stage! I may be a comedian after this.
You and Ab-Soul like to experiment with different drugs. Have you guys ever tried ayahuasca?
We actually just did DMT. This is the thing – there are three drugs that I haven’t done: Oxycontin, as crazy as it may sound; I’ve never done cocaine and I’ve never done heroin. Those are the only three drugs I haven’t done. Everything else…God bless. I never did meth either. None of the crazy, crazy, crazy shit. I’ve did all the spirit shit. I’m scared of coke because [sniffles] you hear that? It’s like that all the time. I can’t do that. I’d have to sneeze every time.
Do you know Alexander Spit? He went out to the desert for a music video and him and the director took shrooms. Would you ever do some shit like that?
No, I would never. I would never do shrooms again. I would never do DMT again. It was a good experience, just sometimes you don’t need to keep crossing that path. Especially DMT, you get enlightened by it and then you leave it alone. Some people they do it a lot. Me? I’m cool. I know what it did to me and I know how it made me feel. There are certain drugs that you’re like, “Aight, cool. I got you. I don’t fuck with you no more, but I like it.”
Do you remember what you saw?
Yeah, but you can’t explain it. That’s why it’s real. That’s why if you talk to anybody that’s done it they going to talk to you like I’m talking to you. Like, “Bruh, if you want to know what’s up, do it. If not, don’t do it.” It’s not one of them type of drugs like weed. I got to get back to this rap shit. I got a daughter.
How’s your daughter by the way?
She’s good. She’s swagging. Got dreads. Prettiest baby ever. Ballerina, plays basketball, softball, whatever. She’ll be four next month. Speaks Spanish, sign language, whatever you need. I love my baby.