ScHoolboy Q Kickin' Buckets

ScHoolboy Q Kickin' Buckets
"What's up, ScHoolboy Q, you fat bitch?"

This is how a complete stranger approaches a 52 Hoover Crips gang member, a former drug dealer who has a tattoo etched on his face and has spent months in jail for a crime he doesn't want to talk about, a man who jacked his alias from a neighbourhood pimp.

"He didn't say, 'I'm a fan' or nothing. He just walked up and called me a fat bitch," says Quincy Hanley, the rapper who has gone from showering in the studio sink to having the No. 1 album in the United States. "I don't want to fight or do nothing to a fan that supports me, you know? He puts food on my table. But he got a little too comfortable. I just looked at him for a minute. He didn't realize what he did."

As the second member of Top Dawg Entertainment — the best rap crew in the game — to drop a major-label album, 27-year-old ScHoolboy Q is tasting fame. Though he might sip a little lean, the only weight he moves is iTunes downloads — more than 150,000 of them in the first week. He now gets recognized daily and has been gifted so many of his trademark bucket hats that his massive eight-drawer dresser is full of the headwear originally made hip-hop couture by EPMD.

"I joke with my fans and shit a lot on Twitter," Hanley says. "That's how we bonded back in the day. Me and the homies would just roast each other all day. So I just try to make my fans feel comfortable by bustin' on them."

The hip-hop education of ScHoolboy Q has been swift. He's embarrassed to learn that a reporter has listened to his "wack" first mixtape, 2008's Schoolboy Turned Hustla, which sounds like 50 Cent Lite, a one-dimensional imitation of a MC cribbing his style and voice from the gangsta one desk over.

"Nas is my favourite, but 50 is one of the reasons I'm rapping. I totally identify with him. We're almost the same person. Some of the stuff he was kicking, like 'You could lose your life,' I felt like that was me. Then I felt like, I could do this shit," explains Q, encouraged to make it in rap after his arrest. "I went from baby steps to the pros, like getting drafted out of high school."

Oxymoron is Q's third LP but first with a major push and first following the success tornado that was friend Kendrick Lamar's good kid, m.A.A.d. city, the 2012 TDE opus that awoke the mainstream to a West coast renaissance. Its title is a nod both to the obsessive OxyContin he both sold and ingested, and the paradoxical nature of his life. Hanley is fatherless himself but adores his toddler daughter, Joy. He grew up in L.A. ("Even the principal was bumping Dr. Dre") but blasted New York anthems in his headphones; his favourite Oxy guest spot is Raekwon's. And despite his MC handle, ScHoolboy made it to college on the strength of his football prowess and other kids' study habits.

"I had good grades my whole high school, but I did that by cheating. You can do that in high school, especially if you're cool with everybody or you're the funny dude. They'll let you copy," he says. "It was easy to skip. My mom was sleeping all day because she worked nights, so I could just go to the homie's house. Sometimes I would leave my house in the morning and walk right next door. I'd go play video games with the homie or lift some weights. Chill, drink. When time is up, I'd catch the bus just to go to [football] practice. Then I'd come up and my mom would be up to go to work. I'd be in there pretending to sleep until she leave, and then I'd leave again."