Tag Archives: lyricism

The case for Schoolboy Q as a top 3 lyricist in 2018

The case for Schoolboy Q as a top 3 lyricist in 2018

by Dan-O

I’m not doing the “he’s no Kool Moe Dee” all time argument with you Fuzzy Kangol Truthers. Save his place in history for later down the line right now we are talking about right now. The other thing to get out of the way is influence is not a factor. I don’t care that Trump did Hotline Bling on Saturday Night Live it doesn’t have anything to do with the power of the pen. Additionally, numbers don’t lie (they absolutely do) but they don’t have any bearing on this argument. That means this is subjective, right? Yes, not impossible.

Qualifying Criteria:

Consistency-People drive me nuts about this. Some MC’s are chasing the big moment and they always end up releasing terrible material eventually. Last year hip hop radio(looking at you Charlemagne) tried pushing the notion that Big Sean is one of the best MC’s in the game. Big Sean has two fabulous albums and two horrible ones. He is all over the place and I listen to everything he does. I like him but consistency matters, forethought matters. How many times you do you get to serve me a full bowl of wack and still be in the conversation?

Schoolboy Q is the opposite. Of his four albums he doesn’t have a disappointing one. All of them have different production identities, themes, and important lead singles that reflect Q at that stage of his career. As nasty and ready to turn on artists as Pitchfork is the last 3 albums scores Q has: 8.3, 7.8, and 8.4. If you are an album guy he consistently has got your back. If you don’t care about albums and just want the hits he feeds you Man of The Year, Studio, That Part, etc.

The four albums that are the core of TDE as an identity are probably: Kendrick- GKMC, Jay Rock-Follow Me Home, Schoolboy-Setbacks, Ab-Soul-Control System. Of those four artists Schoolboy is the only one who has kept pace with Kendrick in terms of albums you need to hear. Consistency isn’t about always working it’s about relentless careful smart work.

Content-John Muir(from Blank Face) has the most sumptuous neo-soul hook packed in against drug dealing at 14, close friends dying, danger closing in from all sides. The song is named after his high school and lasers in on that period. Meaningful content does not have to mean the smartest references or layered wordplay. The reason rappers always refer to their new album or song as a movie is because they want you , as the audience, to follow them through arc of the songs meaning. To the next one. Even  though Schoolboy knows people won’t pay that much attention the juxtaposition of the relaxing chorus and the ever present danger of verses is exactly the dichotomy of palm trees at 77 degrees and shocking violence that West Coast Gangsta Rap was built on. All of this to talk about and that is just one song. Schoolboy has a catalog that as you listen more each song gets deeper and gains meaningf. Q has struggled with addiction and let us hear it and now that he is beyond it (fingers crossed) we get even sharper bars. He builds every song on such a strong foundation he can add levels to it.

Durability-If you are a Schoolboy Q fan play this game with me. What is your favorite song? Pull it up on the tracklist of the album it is on. Is it the full throttle anthemic hip hop takeover Man Of The Year? If you are listening to the deluxe edition what is the next song? It’s the slow jangly mutilated but smooth (thanks to a brilliant hook performance by SZA) His & Her Fiend.  Schoolboy creates Juxtaposition everywhere. He places the crushingly personal John Muir before the bouncy West Coast celebration Big Body. His smoothest song Grooveline (with Dom Kennedy & Curren$y vibing out) comes right before his fire breathing dragon roar of a vocal performance on Gangsta in Designer (No Concept).  The juxtaposition creates tension yes but also dimension and he’s able to create that because he has tapped into the different facets of himself. Not to get too nerdy about this but if you go back to his 2009 mixtape Gangsta & Soul (You know my need to research forced my hand) his flow is totally different it is like listening to pre-Dre Eminem. He built this style and I appreciate his motor in refining it. His best album is his last album Blank Face.  Let’s talk more about this flow though…

Above & Beyond Attributes:

Tyson Flow-A knockout puncher has to make every connect count. Jabs just move the opponent to the right spot, Tyson was not even thinking about points on the scorecard. He was planting his victim in the right place for the right shot.That is how Schoolboy spits and always has. If you listen to the way his voice flings distasteful threats on the first verse of Dope Dealer from his 2016 album Blank Face  it is the same force he exerts on every line of Figg Get Da Money from 2011’s Setbacks.  Schoolboy says every word like a punk rock lead singer hitting their most jagged chorus.

Throw down mentality-The features on a Schoolboy Q album can get pretty interesting. Oxymoron Deluxe Edition(the only edition you should own) has Kendrick, 2 Chainz, Raekwon, Kurupt,SZA, Suga Free, Jay Rock, BJ The Chicago Kid, Tyler The Creator all along for the ride. Name another album that has 2 Chainz, Raekwon, and Suga Free spitting? The fearlessness in his flow has paid off to the point that Schoolboy fears none. This is where we say things like “being part of the best crew has given him the opportunity to be better as a lyricist,” I reject this. Ask Jae Millz how great his career growth has been behind Wayne, Dreezel Stillskin and the rest. It is HARD standing next to the dude who is considered the gold standard for bars. Q’s been doing it for ten years and gunning to a draw at the very least (I think he took Kendrick on Collard Greens) but he will throw bars with anyone and has. On Groovy Tony Jadakiss scorched the track so hard that Q added a whole other song behind the verse. He cares about the standard he has employed which is way more important than winning the song.

My conclusion is simple. I am not writing this because he has a new album coming and that could vault him into the “best in the game conversation” I hoped that this rant will prove he’s already there and this album will just be another leg of that journey.



Nick Grant and The Hip Hop Cultural Divide

Nick Grant and The Hip Hop Cultural Divide

by Dan-O

A lot of hip hop’s most important cultural “beefs” are forced onto it from the audience and not actually a problem the artists have. The west coast/east coast beef comes to mind as an example. What is happening right now is the great splitting of the world of hip hop into two schools: mumble & trap rap vs. emcees that stand by their lyricism. Back when I was young we would have seen a rapper like Schoolboy Q and a rapper like J. Cole as oppositional; one representing the grim and grit of street life and the other middle class suburbia now they are on the same side and on the other you get Fetty Wap, Lil Yachty and the like.

Fans of each feel insulted by the presence of the other. Media outlets are split in a very odd way. All kinds of people are referred to as “throwback” artists just because they are focusing on rapping and don’t have a strong southern accent. The problem with throwing all lyricists on one side is that Nick Grant bears no resemblance to Cole or Kendrick. He isn’t necessarily lacing you with save the world lyrics, his album Return of The Cool is just that.  On the title track he says “Cool N_ I’m here to break the monotony,” which is a perfect summation.  He’s great at rapping and picking beats, doesn’t do a lot of singing his own hooks or finger snap turn up.  This isn’t to say he is your classic low energy lyricist. Just listen to Get Up featuring WatchTheDuck and enjoy the classic James Brown sample brought into new light and his energy matches it. It is a fun song and the album is my favorite of 2017.

He released some pretty great mixtapes. A Seat At The Table (+1)  took four songs from Solange’s album and rendered them limb from limb. Over the gorgeous minimal landscapes he burst forth reminding me of Do or Die AZ.  That project and his mixtape 88 were all about establishing the level at which he spits and getting us as an audience comfortable with that.

The mind numbing part of the Nick Grant experience for me is that I’m reading reviews that this type of lyricism is boring, that I should be listening to Migos instead. Leave it to hip hop to demand of me that I only listen to one kind of music all the time. Hearing someone with confidence in their delivery and great ear for beats never gets boring. Nick Grant is exciting, so are Migos. I will listen to both and don’t let yourself be steered one way or another. Take every artist as they come.  We should be excited by the choices we have and not pit them against each other.

Here is your Nick Grant start up kit:



If you like what you hear there, seek out Return of The Cool (buy or stream)


#Bandcampgold review-Solid Chunks of Energy by Jake McKelvie & The Countertops

#Bandcampgold review-Solid Chunks of Energy by Jake McKelvie & The Countertops

by Dan-O

Lyricism is so incredible because it can’t successfully be hidden. If you are really intent to find it you’ll be able to identify it. It’s not necessarily about the depth of the idea, but its vivid illustration. Jake McKelvie has that in spades. The word choice is as unique as his teen-tv-character-puberty-voice and Dylan comparisons are natural when you hear an odd voice on the first song of Solid Chunks of Energy (Mini-Monster) say “The juggler does need another amputation, it looks like we’ve got a crier in the plans.” The joyful bounce of Mini-Monster is what reminds me of Dylan; the guitar keeps a jogging pace and the song ends in fun “bah da bah” scat chanting; that sense of moving creative, poetic content while maintaining a jubilant pace is really engaging.

I could give you lots of ‘hot lines’ as examples of what I’m talking about. On Propellor he says “It gets so cold, next time I break the mold I’m going to wrap myself up in all of the pieces.” All of the songs on Solid Chunks of Energy address losing love, sometimes he narrates the breakup victim other times the perpetrator but that loss allows him to dig into his mind bag of image tricks and hurl them over simple digestible folk rock.  On Wristwatch you might start to question if he is even on beat with the song, sometimes someone can be so off that they get back on and that’s how it works. Sounds like crazy talk but I’m not crazy, music is crazy. Wristwatch is a super fun song that you and your grandparents can tap toes to, and everyone loves Time is A Chew Toy.

As someone trained to respect MC’s moving crowds I had OHHH SH*T SON moments throughout Solid Chunks of Energy. Aside From Your Hair BEGINS with “I could watch the days disintegrate or I could start rebuilding them with double clicks, triple titles, fire me just like a rifle buy your kindness at the store, lay me out across the floor. I do not need your money just like I don’t need you anymore.” Just because these songs sound friendly and warm and appetizing doesn’t mean this is bland pleasant minimalist heartbreak music, the bopping warmth of the tempo is supposed to make this heavy dinner of words digestible.

The title of the album is hidden in Aside From Your Hair, “Solid chunks of energy or liquid if you have to fake it.” What I love about this album is that it’s not really about relationships at all. The same way Reservoir Dogs is not about the robbery. It’s about what you do after a catastrophe. After his heart is broken he relearns to eat and live and answer the phone all through the poetic language of a tangled intelligent mind. It’s the most fun depression music I’ve heard in a while.

These songs will not get boring over repeated listens; the first time will just be the song washing over you. After that, you’ll catch more and more each time until the ten songs seem massive. After that, we all need to find more Jake McKelvie & The Countertops albums.

Stream or Download Solid Chunks of Energy below:



Song Review-Old Street by Allen Poe featuring Emma Shaheen produced by Jaze Baqti

Song Review-Old Street by Allen Poe featuring Emma Shaheen produced by Jaze Baqti

by Dan-O

I was always going to do a song highlight for Allen Poe’s mixtape Pocket Full of Ohms. My original thought was the song Gina which is a classic hit-on-the-hot-chick-she-turns-you-down song. It’s a lot of fun as Von Pea and Basement Up help to recall the old days of Roxanne, Roxanne when rappers dared to admit that women turn them down once and a while.

Old Street is a better fit. It’s a great singular representation of the thoughtful charm which defines Pocket Full of Ohms. If you ever get that mean voice in your head that says “I’ve heard these underground sparse beats before…” tell that voice that trap beats are all the same and somehow are all in the midst of getting less complex and more boring. At least this style of production doesn’t depreciate and the lyricism is top notch.

So many rappers have talked about the block and their relationship to it but it usually takes the form of the “I’ll never change” song. This starts off with “Bye friends I had here on this old street.” The whole song is dealing with growth, not just growing up but the maturation of career and goals. What do you leave behind? Poe is dead right when he says “life is a series of moving aways” and sometimes it’s physical, sometimes it’s internal. Sometimes the physical move from that old street can feel symbolic of your own movement through time and space. Emma Shaheen’s voice is so lightly applied to the song that it helps make the song feel like a conversation and not a statement.

Mixtape Review-New Wave by Ibn Inglor

Mixtape Review-New Wave by Ibn Inglor

by Dan-O

I’m old enough that if I told you I’ve only listened to hip hop I’d have to be lying. I grew into it and found that pathway in what my young mind viewed as the exhilarating expression of emotion. I found a direct link from Johnny Rotten to Ice Cube in the potency of the imagery and immediacy of the delivery.

While all of me loves Ibn Inglor’s new 9 track mixtape New Wave the kid that fell into hip hop to feel connected to the power of emotion through music…adores it. The last rapper you could feel this much hostility and fragility from at the same time was first album Eminem. On Selfish his tone of voice rips at the track in a way seemingly a quarter second from screaming and a half second from crying, while the bassline (by Kris Henry) carries us all away. In a little over two minutes Inglor tears into a team of doctors trying to take a loved one off child support “You see her fightin’ you see us cryin’ you want this burden on your F#%%ing mind?!” Inglor has a way with lyrics that connects everything to emotion. On Cold Storm he says “B#$%^ I ain’t even done talkin’ don’t ever interrupt me N…I had to deal with a couple N’s that love interrupting N’s.” His lyrical lashing out can be aimed at distrustful friends, fake industry people, but so much more.

All this graceful anguish is evocative but wouldn’t mean much without the right production choices. Inglor’s unique style of rapping and content construction is only half the story. The other half is the story telling done by Mhone Glor through the five track majority of the tape he produces. In the title track things find their way into the background that keep you engaged; church bells and chanting. you might hear animal sounds on a track if you really pay attention or that happy Miami club beat outro after Inglor cries and shouts shut up at the end of Everything. Glor’s production is every inch as interesting as the wildly repeatable lines you catch from Inglor.

New Wave has one feature (Drea Smith of PYRAMIDS) brought in for the hook on Fire. Handling all the rhyming himself isn’t to prove he’s lyrical, heck Gawdspeed should have proven that. This is a declaration that Ibn Inglor has a strong enough team to make great music without any help. My favorite moment might be the song Black Print/Justice where he focuses all seven levels of his frustration on the blogs and the media for comparing him to others. He shouts down Kanye comparisons and demands to tell his own story. If he does get more shine because of this mixtape and make it into the spotlight it will be because of his own artistic intelligence and the bravery he expresses to bare himself on every bar not because of a co-sign or a major producers magic touch. New Wave is the story of an artist demanding to tell his own story and I love that. No matter what genre you come from.

stream or download New Wave below: