I really want anyone who’s reading this to go ahead and press play on the video above before continuing. It’s January 14th, and I’m ready to call “Blessed” one of the best songs of 2012. Not the first two weeks of 2012… the whole year. Sounds ridiculous, right? Just remember where you heard it first. Let the track ride out while you’re reading this review, and don’t be afraid to hit that replay button once or twice. Take your time and let it soak it in, because there’s a lot more where “Blessed” came from.
If Section.80 was Kendrick’s announcement to the world that he had officially arrived, Habits & Contradictions is ScHoolBoy Q’s deliverance of the same message. I’ll be the first to tell you that 2011 was the year of Kendrick Lamar, but that doesn’t necessarily mean by the same formula that 2012 is going to be the year of ScHoolBoy Q. It is, however (and I say this with great confidence), going to be the year of Top Dawg Entertainment. Dave Free’s collective consisting of Kendrick, ScHoolBoy, Jay Rock and Ab-Soul is a step or two away from being on top of the world, and between Habits & Contradictions already setting the bar high for 2012 and Kendrick completing his “debut” album, there seems to be no end in sight for the musical greatness TDE is providing.
This is about ScHoolBoy Q, though; there’ll be plenty of time to talk about Kendrick and Top Dawg later. I think one thing should be made clear before the real HnC review gets underway – ScHoolBoy Q is not Kendrick Lamar, nor does he try to be. Too many people have already tried comparing their two styles and expect that because Kendrick sounds a certain way or talks about certain things, his label mate should do the same. That’s not how music works. ScHoolBoy and Kendrick are two different artists, two different people that have lived two different lives… and that means there SHOULD be two different sets of content. The comparisons should end at the fact that the two operate under the same umbrella that is TDE. Aside from that, sit back and enjoy the music. Section.80 is a masterpiece and Kendrick is a legend in the making – everyone knows that – but Habits & Contradictions is a hell of a project too, and ScHoolBoy Q is without a doubt one of hip-hop’s brightest rising stars.
Let’s get into it. We’ll start with a quick overview, then go through HnC track-by-track to provide the most comprehensive review possible. Be sure to hit the links at the bottom of the page and hop over to Rap Genius for the lyrics and explanations when you’re done.
Overview: If I had to single out one strength of HnC, it would have to be the boldness and diversity of the tracks. That’s sort of two things in one, but that’s kind of what this project is all about. Throughout HnC, there’s such an incredible variety of sounds and content, and ScHoolBoy capitalizes on absolutely everything he’s working with. Some of the beats on here are just silly, and honestly, there aren’t two that sound remotely similar. The whole concept of the mixtape, as hinted at in the title, is about ScHoolBoy’s life and the balance of habits and contradictions, and it’s executed beautifully. There are tracks like “Gangsta In Designer” that literally begin with no direction – “..nigga ain’t got no concept to this shit so I was just on some crazy shit like – bad bitch, long hair, skin pretty, curvy ass, flat stomach..” and end up being about (essentially) weed and bitches, and then there’s a song like “Blessed” that features some of the most down to earth, passionate verses laid down by anyone, forget that it’s ScHoolBoy Q, in years.
I’m not sure anyone would claim to be blown away by the lyricism on this project, but ScHoolBoy has enough of it to garner attention, and his flow and charisma make up for whatever’s lacking in terms of “lyrical” content. Above all, Habits & Contradictions is an entertaining listen, and it’s an extraordinarily versatile mixtape. For me, at least, ScHoolBoy Q has set the bar awfully high for 2012, and we’re only two weeks in.
1) Sacrilegious - A few seconds in and you might feel like you accidentally pressed play on a new track from The Roots. The instrumentation on this track is complex and attention-grabbing, and ScHoolBoy’s patient, monotone delivery is captivating. “Sacrilegious” is about the temptation surrounding him and so many others in daily life and the struggle to make the right choices and avoid falling into self-deprecating habits. A very musical beginning to the project. (Sacrilegious – Lyrics)
2) There He Go – The hook on this one goes, “I’m shinin’ hard, they be like: ‘There he go!’ No bodyguard, they be like: ‘There he go!’ Up in your broad, they be like: ‘There he go!’ They be like: ‘There he go! SchoolBoy, there he go!’”… and a few more lines like that. There really isn’t much more to say. The track, produced by Sounwave of digi+pHonics, is fun, and ScHoolBoy’s manic flow gives “There He Go” a kind of hectic, over-confident feel, and it’s essentially about the ScHoolBoy x TDE come-up… so why not? (There He Go – Lyrics)
3) Hands On The Wheel (ft. A$AP Rocky) – It should go without saying that when I saw this on the tracklist before HnC released, I pretty much spazzed. ScHoolBoy and A$AP on a new track together??? Could it be something like this one?? A$AP is one of my favorite young artists in the game, and before I even listened to “Hands on tHe wheel,” I knew it was going to be one of the best on the tape. As it turns out, it wasn’t one of my top three after I listened through them all, but I’m not complaining. For a track with a hook that goes, “weed and brews, weed and brews, life for me is just weed and brews,” it’s not bad at all, and it’s pretty fucking catchy. Plus, you can’t possibly hate on a Kid Cudi sample. (Hands on The Wheel – Lyrics)
4) Sex Drive (ft. Jhene Aiko) – If there’s one song on HnC I already know I’m going to end up listening to less than all the others, it’s “Sex Drive.” There’s just nothing special about it. The beat has a bit of a “Tammy’s Song” feel, but ScHoolBoy’s flow on it is very mediocre compared to what he puts forth on the rest of the tracks. Not really feeling this one, but who knows, maybe it’ll grow on me.
5) Oxy Music – This song’s dope. The spaced out beat, produced by tHc, creates the perfect soundscape for ScHoolBoy’s tale of the oxycontin and heroin hustle turned into a music hustle. The track begins with the lines, “blood on the wall, death in the air, birds on the ground, pistols everywhere,” and a description of the drug dealing process. ScHoolBoy analyzes the idea of “Satan in your soul” and concludes that “only lord knows and only time will tell, will I go to heaven or will i burn in hell?” The third verse recognizes a shift from drug-induced highs to the new type of high ScHoolBoy gets from music and the fade from a life dependent on the drug game.
6) My Hatin’ Joint – That not-so-quiet confidence is what this track is all about… well, that and the fact that it has one of the illest beats on the mixtape. If you’re listening to “My Hatin’ Joint” but you’re not a hundred percent focused, you’re probably going to think there’s a hook that’s repeated thrice. That’s not the case. The “hook” actually gets better and better as the song goes on – my favorite line, in hook #3, might be, “see that nigga there is a loser, besides my dick is a ruler, I’ll bring it to ya..” Everybody has a “Hatin’ Joint,” in the back of their head, so everybody should be able to relate to ScHoolBoy’s.
7) Tookie Knows (Interlude)
8) Raymond 1969 – “Cops’ll pat me down but won’t touch on my girl’s tushie, fuck they sent the lady cop they tryna book me..” – The third verse on “Raymond 1969″ is crazy. The first time I heard this track I found myself helplessly smiling at the insanity. I don’t love the song, but ScHoolBoy’s delivery is varied and controlled, and the concept is cool.
9) Sexting – “Said she never been with a star, and I can tell she never met a G, now get your pretty ass in the car, and please don’t get your pussy on my seat, said she never been with a star, and I can tell she never met a G, bitch do you know who I are, and a new nigga fuckin’ with me, if you wanna hang out then you gotta blow tree, if you wanna stay then you gotta bring three..” – ScHoolBoy drops straight bars on this track, and the DJ Dahi beat is out of control.
10) Grooveline Pt. 1 (ft. Dom Kennedy & Curren$y) – The first time I heard this and saw that it was a Lex Luger beat, I said something like, “What?” As it turns out, yes, it is the same Lex Luger that has annoyed the shit out of me for the past 24 months or so with his heavy ass beats typically blanketed by Rozay’s “ugghhhs” – well, this beat is subtle, and the track is super smooth. “Grooveline Pt. 1″ is juxtaposed perfectly between the hectic “Sexting” and the uptempo “Gangsta In Designer,” so it works perfectly. It leaked a few hours before the rest of the mixtape, so I already had a few listens by the time the rest of HnC joined my iTunes library. Man, I love Dom K and Spitta features. (Grooveline Pt. 1 – Lyrics)
11) Gangsta In Designer (No Concept) – I’ve hinted at this track a couple times already and with good reason. It’s meant to have no concept, and in doing so, ScHoolBoy Q created one of the most interesting concepts of all. “Gangsta in Designer” is a series of observations and commentaries on women and life, and the Willie B (digi+pHonics) beat is just absurd. This is one of those, “bump in the whip with the volume and bass turned up all the way,” tracks.
12) How We Feeling – “House full of money, tub full of bitches” is repeated throughout this track, which is basically an interlude with ScHoolBoy vibing out talking about continuing to get high as the world spins and he pens his thoughts about life. Somehow, this simple track is so fresh.
13) Druggys Wit Hoes Again (ft. Ab-Soul) – The first track featuring a fellow TDE member, and the ScHoolBoy Q x Ab-Soul joint is straight fire. Ab-Soul’s “been had game since Sega Saturn” after all. This song is just cool as shit. It surfaced a while ago and had a ton of people hoping it would make the final HnC tracklist. Thankfully, it did. Can’t wait for more from these two together. (Druggys Wit Hoes Again – Lyrics)
14) Nightmare on Figg St – This track is fierce. Who the fuck cares how much money’s in your pocket if you can’t back it up with realness… is essentially what ScHoolBoy Q so furiously spits on this track. Oh, and don’t fuck with a man from Figg Street. ScHoolBoy murders this A$AP Ty beat, and it’s now official – we would all like to see more from this TDE x A$AP Mob pairing. (Nightmare on Figg St – Lyrics)
15) My Homie – A$AP Ty on the last beat… Alchemist on this one? Damn, a couple of incredible tracks back-to-back – two totally different vibes, but ScHoolBoy handles both styles with ease. “What’s a real nigga addiction? Money, weed and bitches, hangin’ with snitches..”Dope track about the bond between he and his homie, whether it’s metaphorical or someone specific.
16) Blessed (ft. Kendrick Lamar) – I could say too much about this track. “Blessed” is going to be one of the best songs to release in 2012. I have no doubt about it. Forget the fact that Kendrick is on this track, ScHoolBoy spit some of the realest shit I’ve ever heard. The first two verses ooze passion, and then to no one’s surprise, K.Dot jumps in for the kill to close out the track. Honestly, this song is beautiful. The TDE President/GM, Dave Free, created an incredible soundscape, and ScHoolBoy simply perfected it. “Blessed” will be on repeat for a long time. My iTunes counter is already awfully high. (Blessed – Lyrics)
17) niggaHs.already.know.davers.flow – You already know Q did it on this one. Crazy beat, crazy song. Creative and experimental. The wild repetition doesn’t even feel repetitive. Try to explain that one. (niggahs.already.know.davers.flow – Lyrics)
18) [BONUS] 2 Raw (ft. Jay Rock) – Ab-Soul and Kendrick had their guest verses, so it was only fitting for Jay Rock to cap off the TDE features on this bonus track. To no one’s surprise, he killed it, and his hard-hitting, raw flow put an exclamation point on the end of HnC.
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