February 23rd, 2014 started like most days.The sun rose, the birds chirped, and a bunch of other typical, mundane Sunday things happened---right up until 8:00 pm, when the good folks over at NPR Music decided to bring L.A.’s Hoover St. to NYC’s Bleecker St. for a basement party unlike anything I've experienced in a while.
As part of their First Listen series, the station unleashed everyone's favorite young South Central LA emcee on an eager crowd at NYC's Le Poisson Rouge in support of his forthcoming major label debut, Oxymoron.
From the moment he took the stage, Schoolboy Q was the confident host of a party that felt equal parts late-night talk show as it did the release of a project that's been labeled by many critics and music outlets as one of the most anticipated rap albums of 2014.
The venue was comfortably filled with a range of people from the requisite “industry folks” that were likely as intrigued by the buzz surrounding Schoolboy and his TDE camp---which was propelled into the stratosphere following the release of cohort and label mate Kendrick Lamar's Grammy-nominated album good kid, m.A.A.d city--- as well as diehard fans eager to see the next evolution from their favorite rapper.
Longtime fans will tell you that it's easy to get caught up in the tales of Schoolboy's (born Quincy Hanley) life stories as he details experiences in notorious South Central Los Angeles, where his words and sentiments strike a chord in many as he constantly, at times playfully, but always masterfully guides you through his complex internal conflicts. The recurring themes of drug dealing, gang banging, and other degenerate acts are balanced skillfully and naturally with an elevated sense of social consciousness, discussions of fatherhood, and frank conversations about the rise to stardom.
The party started as soon as Q picked up the mic and led with the aptly named “Banger (Mosh Pit)”, and there was no turning back. Throughout the show, he indulged newly converted and die hard fans alike by performing tracks from his 2012 independent release, Habits & Contradictions. Later, as he took a break to turn things down and wish his label mate Ab-Soul a happy birthday and as Schoolboy orchestrated the crowd in singing “Happy Birthday,” his Black Hippy co-hord made his way to the stage and the two performed “Druggies wit Hoes Again,” which got the crowd turned all the way back up.
Q kicked off his Billboard 100-charting hit from his new album “Collard Greens” by saying 'Let's get this sh*t out the way,” and then finished his single “Hands on the Wheel” by saying “I hate that stupid ass song,” making it clear that although he is absolutely down to party, he's still a little uneasy dealing with what has become the industry standard of watering down records for commercial success. Before premiering another track from Oxymoron, Schoolboy threatened to jump down and DDT somebody in the crowd if they didn't bring the energy for his next joint. He jumped down into the crowd as he dropped “Yay Yay” and everybody went crazy. He eventually made his way back on stage before going into “Blessed,” a clear crowd favorite featuring Kendrick Lamar, where he encouraged the ENTIRE crowd; Black, White, whatever to sing along with the chorus and it's prominent and repeated use of the “n-word”. For a brief moment, we were all able to live in Schoolboy Q's post-racial party and surprisingly no one got knocked out (that I'm aware of.)
As he approached his final song of the evening, Schoolboy took a moment to acknowledge all the people that had taken the time to download the leak of his album. It was obvious because everyone in the room knew the words to every song he played, and instead of chastising he kept it real and just said his thank yous and made a case for why 2014 belongs to him. The show closed with the insanely infectious single “Man of the Year” and as lights flashed, Q spazzed, and the Nez & Rio-produced banger interrupted time and space.
Ever the gracious host, Schoolboy Q hung around briefly to take a few pictures and shake a few hands, and if it was an option, I'm sure he would've kissed a few babies because that's just the kind of night he was having. On a night where he had to shine, where he had to sell----he delivered. On a night that LA found itself in the heart of NYC, Schoolboy Q did his thing and left unscathed and I know because the rest of us left Le Poisson Rouge sore and tired, and with the bruises to prove it.
Schoolboy Q's album “Oxymoron” is out today, via Top Dawg Entertainment & Interscope Records.