ScHoolboy Q could not possibly have rebounded better. BLUE LIPS is a complete banger and is immediately in the conversation for Q’s best album.

Release date: March 1, 2024 | Interscope | Website | Instagram | Twitter

Some rappers just have a voice that sticks with you and ScHoolboy Q has one of the best. It’s perfectly haunting, just gravelly enough, and can get incredibly loud and intimidating when Q feels like dialing it up. You never really forget the first time you hear him on “Collard Greens” or “Man of the Year”, it just sticks with you and makes you want to hear more.

Fortunately, Q didn’t settle in as a gimmick and matched his iconic voice with some standout albums to start his career. Habits & Contradictions really builds well on the ground laid on his debut, and Oxymoron and Blank Face LP are two of the best rap albums of the 2010s with Blank Face especially being a borderline classic to me. CrasH Talk did tremendous damage to Q’s reputation and to an extent it’s both undeserved and understandable. CrasH Talk is not very good: it’s a Frankenstein’s monster of an album made largely of trash Kid Cudi-tier features, and Q was very quick to disown it after its release, but it’s not The Big Day. It’s a plain ol’ not-very-good album; most artists with four albums as good as Q has would generally get some leeway when their first miss comes – Q got none.

Considering this, it took a while for Q to be ready to return to music and to leave that accident in the past, but his return on his sixth album BLUE LIPS could not have been a bigger success.

Q has always been an incredible hitmaker, and BLUE LIPS has some of his biggest and best hits to date. “THank god 4 me” starts off laid back as hell and Q raps with a very mellow flow before the horns come in at the 40-second mark and the track flips into one of the biggest hits of the year. Even as the track winds back down towards the end, Q continues rapping his ass off – it’s easily some of the best he’s sounded since 2016.

“Pop” is some classic ScHoolboy Q nightmare rap with a dark and grimy-ass rap-rock-esque beat and a perfectly placed Rico Nasty feature to match. It’s only a bit over two minutes, but “Yeern 101” is some of the best rapping on the album with Q just tearing the track apart at a lightning pace with no slowing down. Q’s flows have always been good but they’ve greatly improved on BLUE LIPS and “Cooties” is probably the best example. It’s a choppy, stop-and-start-style flow that Q has never really gone to before and he’s very open about some of the struggles of his day-to-day life and raising kids:

‘I ain’t poppin’ my shit, I keep a spear
I’m fresh as a mint, I’m hard as cement
You can’t leave a dent, demolish him, finish him
We gon’ belittle him, don’t fuck with little men
I’m not the middle man, bitches was watchin’
You gotta be kidding me, riddle me this
How many times I gotta tell y’all motherfuckas
Stop stealing this sh—’

As one of the more famous rappers of the last 15 years, Q has never struggled to find good production or good producers to work with, but the production on BLUE LIPS is easily the best on any ScHoolboy Q album.

There was a collab with rap group Paris Texas that was nixed by Interscope that Q mentioned, and I wonder if the song was repurposed into “Back n Love”. The beat sounds very similar to something that could have been off MID AIR, and I wish it had gotten to be released as much as Q did. There’s more alt-rap influence on parts of “First”, with some beat switches into some slower moments where Q has an incredible, quick, and breezy flow. “Pig” is a bit more of a traditional banger from Q, but the production is perfectly loud and in your face to match some great anti-cop sentiment.

“Blueslides” is one of my favorite songs Q has ever made. As a big Mac Miller fan, Q and Mac have always been one of my favorite pairings, both in the results of the few songs they made together but also in the countless moments of them just obviously being incredibly close friends (so your admitting u use da N WORD???). A small part of what made CrasH Talk so frustrating is that Q spends a lot of the free time on that album talking about how he’s clearly deeply struggling with the fact one of his best friends is dead, doesn’t know how to talk to his children about this, is also struggling with drugs, and can’t cope well, but the album never gets to expound on any of this because there were Lil Baby features that took priority. Q’s tribute to his lost friend on BLUE LIPS is very touching and revealing of his thought process that we never got in his last work.

The hook and song title references one of Mac’s breakout tapes/places where he grew up, before opening up about his own struggles with addiction, and how thinking about Mac and Mac’s mother struggling helped inspire him to get clean. There’s some Kanye defending on the second verse and chalking things up to people turning on him during his mental health struggles, which I’m not as bothered by as I would be if some other artists did it because Q is so open about his own struggles throughout “Blueslides” that his relating to Kanye makes some sense. The track also has some phenomenal piano worked into the beat playing that sounds like you’re at a smoker’s lounge, which was the exact vibe Mac had started going for before he passed and Q sounds fucking fantastic on the track.

‘How you made it up out of Figg’? It’s like He musta knew magic
Lost a Homeboy to tHe drugs, man, I ain’t tryna go backwards
WHen I realize that His mama Hurt and tHink, “Was it wortH it?”
Man I gotta sHake tHis sHit, wake up and move witH a purpose
Been a prisoner in my own House, I don’t know if they noticed
I done broke down so many times, next time, it gon’ catcH me
I done Helped out so many people, tHey took me for granted
I done lost out on so mucH sHit tryna live to your standards
I done made problems my problems, now I barely can breatHe’

The features are mostly subtle on BLUE LIPS, but when Q clears out he does so for good reason. “Foux” is the fourth entry in Q and fellow Black Hippy Ab-Soul’s “Druggys Wit Hoes” franchise (the third is an unreleased track that as far as I can tell only has one video proving its existence which is nuts because it might be the best), and it’s a great entry to one of rap’s longest-running collaborations. Freddie Gibbs provides a great verse to “oHio” continuing his feud with Akademiks, giving Q some time off after carrying the winding track through multiple beat changes.

BLUE LIPS also gives Q a great opportunity to let one of his greatest musical gifts shine with how incredibly catchy the writing here is. Q repeats ‘Bring tHe dope, bring tHe Hoes, bring tHe money bags in’ for most of the intro track “Funny Guy”, and by the time he starts changing things up he’s got you completely in a trance. “Movie” works well even though it doesn’t have a verse from Q, because he can work so well as a hookman whenever he pleases, and Az Chike gives a verse with some great West Coast flair.

It’s been amazing to see the overwhelmingly positive feedback for BLUE LIPS. Fans have absolutely loved it,  the critical response to this point has been very good, and most importantly Q himself seems much happier with this album than his last. With most other rappers from his era fading out of their musical relevance, Q re-establishing himself as one of the best of his era and an unforgettable rap figure makes this a huge win for the genre in 2024.

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