Just three months shy of his 30th birthday, L.A. rapper ScHoolboy Q has the sage, assured demeanour of a sexagenarian. About to release his fourth studio album, Blank Face on July 8, the artist is experiencing a coming-of-age. "Life changes for you when you hit 30," says the former Hoover Crip. "You experience life more, your kids are probably older. You take your time with more things. I think most rappers hit their prime in their 30s."
Q's come a long way since signing with indie powerhouse Top Dawg Entertainment in 2009. Home of Compton prodigy Kendrick Lamar, TDE has become one of the most dominant forces in hip-hop, and Q's brash, truculent rhymes have made him a standout on the label. In 2014, his label debut Oxymoron hit number one on Billboard and was lauded by fans and critics alike. Now ready to release the followup, Q approached Blank Face with the confidence of a seasoned rap veteran.
"When I'm on a song with somebody, I'm usually gonna win. I don't really have competition with nobody," says Q. "I used to be one of those competing [artists]. 'Oh he did a banger? Let me try to do a banger bigger than that.' But I'm just having fun, man. I don't care about anything else but doing me."
Blank Face's first few singles — "Groovy Tony," "THat Part" (featuring Kanye West) and "By Any Means," which served as the score to a short film promoting the album — prove Q is soaring toward a creative peak. In March, TDE co-president Terrence "Punch" Henderson told Billboard that Blank Face will showcase Q's lyrical ability and eye for detail like never before. Despite previous successes, Q seems determined to further refine his skills as an artist and is more concerned with the integrity of his sound than simply selling albums.
"Any creator that tells me I'm tight — I like that more than anything. Because you create music, you understand it. Don't get me wrong, it feels good to see that you did good or have a number one album. But at the same time, you hearing the music feels better."
As the promotional short films for the album suggest, Blank Face will be an immersive, cinematic look at a gangsta's life in L.A. From West coast standouts Anderson .Paak and Vince Staples, to East coast veterans Jadakiss and Swizz Beatz, the album features an impressive list of collaborators and an eclectic mix of sounds that will push Q to showcase the full range of his talent. Although in some ways we can expect to hear a "new" Q, fans can rest assured that his dedication to listeners remains unchanged.
"I've got my fans and all I'm trying to do now is keep them pleased," says Q. "I meet kids and they're like 'I was listening to you since my freshman year of high school.' And it's like 'Damn... you've been following me since 2011.' Five years. That's amazing to me."