Either way, his academic success earned him the nomde guerre Schoolboy, which turned into ScHoolboy Q—the capital “H” representing his gang allegiances and the “Q” his birth name, Quincy Matthew Hanley—once he started rapping in 2008. To this day, he represents the Westside 5-Deuce Hoover Crip set on his body and his music. In the past, he’s made odes to Crip Gang founders Raymond Washington (the Portishead-sampling “Raymond 1969”) and Stanley Tookie Williams III (“Tookie Knows [Interlude]”); within the first 90 seconds of Oxymoron, he proudly calls himself “a Fig nigga.” (There’s also a song on Oxymoron called “Hoover Street.”)
“This is not me now,” Q assures, all laid-back and self-medicated. “This is my past. I just felt like I needed to get this off before it’s all said and done. I needed to get this off—this aggressive album or whatever. I’m not that person no more. I’m not trying to impress nobody. They know where I’m from. I’m Big Homie now. So I ain’t gotta show face [on the block], I don’t gotta do no explaining, I don’t gotta do nothing. But when I come through, it’s always love, ’cause I’m always be where I’m from, I’m always gonna be from Hoover. But I ain’t trying to hang out and fuck my shit off. You work so hard to be successful, you ain’t trying to fuck it off once you there. Fuck that.”
Still, in ScHoolboy Q’s music, gangsterism reigns supreme. He textures his tales with ground zero observations that are alternately glorifying, desperate, remorseful and meditative, and there’s nary a PSA in sight. It would be more disconcerting if it weren’t so engaging. More than most rappers, Q uses his voice like an instrument—all pitch-changing squawks and hazardous squeals and adventurous threats and yelping ad-libs, stacked and layered and jostling for attention—and rarely does he sound like he’s not enjoying himself. On his recent single “Man Of The Year,” he raps over a sample from the dreamy disco pop band Chromatics—making it at least his second time rapping over music created by a Portland-based, Pitchfork-approved band (his 2012 single “There He Go” used Menomena’s “Wet And Rusting”). “Man Of The Year” is Q’s version of a radio single—bouncy and angsty, playful and sinister. Much like his previous single “Collard Greens” (which was recorded on the same night as “Man Of The Year,” while he was high on Adderall), “Man Of The Year” sounds like a club song until you actually listen—“Burnt lips, got a blunt full of weed/Peace, love, enemies/Nigga, I ain’t come for the beef/You ain’t know she came for the skeet?/Got pipe for the cheeks”—and it becomes both more and less.