ScHoolboy Q’s “CrasH Talk” – Album Review

After a three year wait, Groovy Q is finally back with new music for fans.

Somewhere hiding just behind Kendrick Lamar at the loaded label TDE is ScHoolboy Q. With classics like Oxymoron and Blank Face LP already under his belt, the expectations for Groovy Q’s next album have been set sky high since 2016. After being M.I.A. for the last three years, the south L.A. rapper returned with single Numb Numb Juice in mid-March, kicking off his release strategy for the album that’s finally here: CrasH Talk.

Q kicks off the album with a track that screams his name from the start with Gang Gang. After an energetic intro and opening hook, ScHoolboy’s only verse on the song is just filler until the next hook comes in. The hard trap instrumental combined with ScHoolboy’s gritty voice introduces the album in the best way, but as soon as the hook ends, there’s no flavor in the track – it’s like eating ice cream for the first time followed by eating dry oats. The track becomes stale and repetitive even though it’s only just over two minutes, and the album immediately jerks you in another direction with Tales. The second track is basically a hollow version of Blank Face standout By Any Means, lacking any sort of punch or real substance in it’s three-minute runtime. Neither of the first two tracks are bad, but they’re just awfully disappointing as an introduction to a body of work.

CHopstix with Travis Scott does Q no favors from there. On top of throwing listeners in a completely different direction for the third time in three tracks, the song is an attempt at a rap hit that falls extremely short. Both artists feel like they’re giving mailed in performances, and fail to meet any expectations for what a track with the two should be. Numb Numb Juice acts as the first true “ScHoolboy Q moment” on the album, but it’s short-lived – before the song even gets a chance to flex its muscles and settle in, it’s gone.

For the fifth time in as many tracks, the tone of the album shifts with Drunk. The collaboration with 6lack has a very old, somber feel to it, but ultimately is a poor man’s version of MPA by Pusha T. The track is fine, but doesn’t have anything that stands out to give it any replay value.

Ty Dolla $ign brings life to the album and keeps his undefeated feature streak alive on Lies, but he’s the only great thing about the track. Q raps in a voice that I never want to hear again over a generic summertime instrumental, and YG gives some of the cringiest bars of his entire career (‘Imma try to stop thinkin’ with my dickhead for once‘ really dude?). A song that could’ve been a fine summer hit is made terrible by truly bad verses that just act as fill-in-the-blank inserts between a great Ty Dolla hook.

It took seven songs for ScHoolboy to deliver any kind of energy, but he finally does on 5200. The song kicks off with incredible momentum brought courtesy of Kendrick Lamar’s ad-libs and Q’s distorted vocals before a beat drop that features Q entering like Batman does in a fight with the Joker – filled with unapologetic malice and ass-kicking energy. The song is really good, but it kept from being great because of its length. On an album where many tracks feel too short, 5200 is about a minute too long. Black Folk then enters the scene with a hypnotic instrumental, but nothing interesting happens at all during the track. The concept is incredible, and the message is a great one, but it comes together as a boring lullaby. As Black Folk fades out, it’s hard not to think how a good beat and great concept were just wasted (get it?).

Floating with 21 Savage is a welcome addition to the project, with a menacing beat that was tailor made for both Q and 21, and the second truly charismatic performance from ScHoolboy on the project – Floating really is an appropriate title for his hook and verse. 21’s verse is solid, but is just another moment on CrasH Talk that’s too brief. The small winning streak continues with Dangerous. Kid Cudi’s continued resurgence to the top-tier of the hip hop world has been a joy to watch, and his hums and distant vocals lift a great performance by Q into astounding territory. The song sounds like what CrasH Talk wants to be, but has failed to execute through ten tracks. The only negative here is that again, it’s too damn short.

Die Wit Em is the official marking of fatigue on the album. Being the eleventh track on the album, it’s about that time where Q needs to bring it home with impressive tracks, but Die Wit Em is just another generic rap song that could’ve been great (also, the mixing is really quiet and off, the track needs a revisit if it’s fixed). CrasH quickly revitalizes the album with an insightful, perfectly somber track. It’s another one that feels like what Q was going for with CrasH Talk. Not a single bar is wasted over an instrumental that encapsulates the feeling and weight of the lyrics, but it also shows how great this album could’ve been, after hearing a mixture of ‘just ok’ tracks.

Lil Baby’s appearance on Water marks another potential left turn into garbage, especially after the most generic hook besides CHopstix on the album, but is saved by a great closing verse from Baby. Just when you start to doubt the track, Baby comes in with a verse that just keeps going and going. 2018’s breakout star packs in a ton with a flow that’s constantly moving, with bars like ‘blue hundreds stacked taller than Uzi,’ bouncing from ear to ear throughout his verse.

Attention brings close to the album with a summary of Q’s recent activities and life story. The track is solid, more seduced version of Groovy Tony, but doesn’t hit as hard as it should after a group of mediocre songs before it. If the album was really good, the track would service better as an outro, but with all the disappointments before it fresh in mind, it’s just kind of… there.