A Top Dawg Entertainment fixture since the early 2010s, ScHoolboy Q played no small role in elevating the label to hip-hop’s upper echelon. With his Black Hippy cohorts Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, and Jay Rock, the tremendously talented Los Angeles native made a compelling case for continuing the West Coast’s rap legacy well beyond the G-funk era or the days of Death Row dominance. Even still, his relative absence from the game after CrasH Talk dropped in 2019 has been hard to ignore, particularly as the most prominent member of his group departed TDE while SZA became the roster’s most undeniable hitmaker. Indeed, it’s been nearly five years since he gave us more than a loosie, which makes the arrival of his sixth full-length BLUE LIPS all the more auspicious. His concerns as a lyricist draw upon the micro as well as the macro level, as a parent decrying mass school shootings on “Cooties” or as a rap star operating on his own terms on “Nunu.” Elevating the drama, the Saw soundtrack cue nods of “THank god 4 me” accent his emboldened bars targeting snitches, haters, and fakes. Q’s guest selection reflects a more curatorial ear at work than the gratifying star-power flexes found on CrasH Talk. Rico Nasty righteously snarls through her portion of the menacing “Pop,” while Freddie Gibbs glides across the slow funk groove of “oHio” with scene-stealing punchlines. A producer behind TDE records by Isaiah Rashad and REASON, Devin Malik steps out from behind the boards to touch the mic on a handful of cuts, namely “Love Birds” and the booming paean “Back n Love.”

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