On Thursday night, Schoolboy Q paid a visit to Maplewood venue Myth, roughly four months past the release of his excellent Blank Face LP. Considering the kind of albums that the Los Angeles rapper tends to make, this was perfect timing for fans to see a Q show.
For those who started listening to Blank Face at the time of its its July release, enough time has passed to allow said listeners to grasp the album’s true depth, what a well-rounded body of work it is from front to back. On top of Q’s previously established hits -- like “Collard Greens,” “Man of the Year,” and “Studio” -- the album adds new dimension to Q’s catalog, leading to a well-chosen setlist at his first Minnesota show since his Oxymoron tour in 2014.
The show began, in earnest, with an outstanding performance by opener Joey Badass, the 21-year-old Brooklyn rapper and leader of the Pro Era crew. Joey has long been known for his retro style, one of the rare young MCs who got his career started by embracing classic East Coast boom-bap sounds (the same kind of stuff that Lil Uzi Vert pretty much declared dead during an interview with Hot 97 earlier this year).
At the same time, it’s increasingly clear that Joey is built to last, evidenced by more contemporary-sounding records like “Devastated” and “Lord Knows” (with Chicago’s G Herbo). His set was a concise showcase of everything from early mixtape tracks like “Survival Tactics” and “Waves” (both from his debut mixtape, 1999) to more recent songs like “Christ Conscious” and “Devastated.”
Eventually, Q took the stage, a day past his 30th birthday and looking strikingly more fit and agile than he was when he first rose to fame back in 2012. When 10:30 p.m. came around and he was an hour into his set, Q told the packed crowd that he was supposed to be ending the show soon but didn’t feel like stopping; he said he felt his catalog was just too stuffed with strong material to end the show so soon.
The crowd’s thrilled response to the previous hour of songs more than justified the extra time, and with the inclusion of the encore, the night was convincing evidence that Q has one of the most beloved catalogs of any rapper who’s emerged in the past five years. His new material connected well, too, particularly “That Part,” whose Kanye verse is an absolute joy to shout along to, and “By Any Means,” the cinematic album highlight that features Q’s TDE/Black Hippy partner Kendrick Lamar on the chorus.
Even with all his huge choruses and goofy ad-libs (“YAWK! YAWK! YAWK! YAWK!”), Schoolboy’s biographical details have always been present in his music, especially in his dense verses, which so vividly depict his former life as an active gang member. This was undeniable during his performance of 2012’s deeply heartfelt “Blessed,” another Kendrick collaboration.
Maybe even more telling, though, was the performance of Blank Face LP closer “Tookie Knows II.” The track is a raw, minimal collaboration with the relatively little-known rappers Traffic and T F, both of whom joined Q on stage last night. There’s nothing commercial-sounding about the song, and judging by the crowd’s enthusiastic reception, there’s no doubt that Q has built a fanbase that embraces both his purely street-oriented music and his more personality-driven material.
Critic’s bias: I’ve been a fan of pretty much all things TDE/Black Hippy since I first heard Kendrick’s Section.80 back in 2011.
The crowd: White enough to make Q point out the awkwardness of performing choruses that have the N-word all over them.
Overheard in the crowd: “There is nowhere near enough twerking going on.”
Random notebook dump: I will never, ever get tired of DJs playing “Hard in Da Paint” loud as fuck.