On first listen, it’s clear that Blank Face might not be exactly what everyone wanted from TDE’s second in command. The opening guitar riff, (yes you read that right) immediately differentiates this project from his last release Oxymoron, a darker and foreboding album that brought Schoolboy Q’s career to new heights. While the subject matter and overall tone of Blank Face isn’t all that different, it is Q’s progression as an artist which sets this album apart from the rest.
Where Kendrick is TDE’s saving grace with his humble outlook and more peaceful take on where he’s from at times, Schoolboy Q is a lot less political and his gang-banging roots are never brushed under the rug. Oxymoron explored some of the hypocrisies that came with him being a crip, Blank Face wears them like a badge of honour. Q may be quick to say that life is behind him, but he is not one to deny what got him where he is today. He champions his gang affiliated history with just a small portion of regret, always knowing that what he had to do in the past was out of necessity and not choice.
Lead single, ‘That Part’ stands out as easily the catchiest track. Whether that’s because of the infectious hook, rattling production or Kanye West’s playful guest verse is down to the listener. One aspect of the track that cannot be denied, is that it contains Kanye’s most insightful line of all time – “okay, okay, okay, okay, OKAY!”. Genius indeed..
Anderson Paak is a welcome edition despite only featuring on two tracks. He epitomises the west coast sound at this point in time with his hoarse vocals always adding layers of emotion to anything he touches. You get the impression that the Game, Dr. Dre and Q have employed him recently for just that reason. Paak isn’t the only one who delivers smooth singing on the album. It appears Q has been working on his own recently and it’s paid off. He can carry a hook in whatever fashion he likes and it results in some more consistent tracks than we’ve heard before.
The album’s varying styles leave it hard to stay stuck in a certain moment. The relaxed, piano driven ‘Kno Ya Wrong’ precedes the brutally harsh sound of ‘Ride Out’, which is followed by the more commercially pleasing ‘Whateva U Want’. There’s more than enough material to please everyone here, it’s just that some of it doesn’t fit that well together. It’s unfair to expect an artist to stick with one sound for their entire career, but experimenting can go either way and it quite frequently does on Blank Face.