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There's no hiding behind anything if you're ScHoolboy Q. That throaty, caustic yap - the most abrasive voice in rap - makes everything he spits shivery and intense: gun culture, selling crack, anal sex.
The debaucherous 17-track follow-up to 2012's breakthrough Habits & Contradictions rubs your face in discomfort: Q explores drug use (and abuse) in great detail, especially on the sobering confessional Prescription/Oxymoron. He presents gang culture in all its violent non-glory on The Purge and Blind Threats. He describes sex with unsettling vulgarity throughout. As a strange counterbalance, Q's very young daughter pipes up from time to time, lending softness and humour - except that she's calling her daddy a "gangsta" and saying the word "nigga" (how un-Blue Ivey of her). As with most of the record, there is no right reaction. You have to decide how these songs play out after going through your own moral filters.
But through varied production, Q strikes a balance between his hard persona and the party vibe found on Habits' catchiest tracks. Hoover Street opens with funky, Thundercat-like bass; Mike WiLL Made It-produced What They Want sounds straight out of Atlanta; irresistible, Pharrell-crafted Los Awesome feels like a more sophisticated Ludacris joint; and with synths and an 80s-pop-like vocal loop on Hell Of A Night, DJ Dahi continues his streak of producing the most repeat-worthy track on major rap albums.
Top track: Prescription/Oxymoron