It’s a bit redundant to go on about a gangsta rapper’s chest-beating, but Schoolboy Q does seem fairly sure of himself. He’s already scored a few points with the old Dubs jersey trick, and it’s not long before he tells us we’re making history – that the next time he’s in Ireland “it’ll be in a bigger venue so we gotta remember this first night”, our own little Sex Pistols at the 100 Club moment.
He has a point though – the Compton rapper is gaining on his label mate and fellow Black Hippy Kendrick Lamarr, who left Vicar Street last year with a gold star and trail of hyperbole in his wake. Q’s fourth album Oxymoron has been his break out of the also-ran feature ghetto – a Billboard No1 spiked with druggie self-loathing and urban squalor among the shiny Glock and VIP rope cliche.
The crowd’s taking the bait anyway, egged on by a snarly Q to get more “turnt up” – pogoing, spraying water, chanting hooks and, OK, smoking one-skinners while taking lip-curl gangsta face selfies. Oxymoron forms the main bones of the set – with the ricochet trap beats and gut-punch drops of ‘Fuck LA’ and ‘The Purge’ thrown in as early pacemakers.
We know from his lyrics and cross-eyed interviews that Schoolboy Q’s poison is weed, OxyContin opiates and the purple lean cough med concoction, so his energy from the off borders on comical. Q is refreshingly clumsy, using the brute force approach, hollering his lines a few octaves deeper, digging his chest and flailing from stage left to stage right. He takes the odd breather for the stoner shout-out ‘#BETiGOTSUMWEED’ and the soul-searching ‘Blessed’, but he’s otherwise turnt up to 11, especially when single ‘Collard Greens’ and his big daft club hit ‘Hell of a Night’ drops and it all gets a bit Electric Daisy Carnival.
Through all the bluster he burns out a few times and ends up on his hunkers, gasping. He drops ‘cover versions’ of A$AP Rocky’s ‘Work’ and Kendrick’s ‘mAAd City’ but it’s really just a run-through interlude while he gets his breath back, doing a Bez without the Freaky Dancin’. It all gets a bit surreal when his DJ summons him back with “Ole, ole, ole, ole”, recalled from a toe-curling crowd burst earlier in the show.
He’s tired and emotional, but Q’s got plenty left. He tells us he’s “pretty big in the States” but humbled that hundreds of people showed up, so he’s here till the death. Beforehand, we guessed he’d show up for an hour and do just enough to get the cheque signed, but he’s hitting 90 minutes when the bouncy ‘Man of the Year’ carries him off on an airy Chromatics sample, and he pulls some serious ‘YMCA’ movements for ‘Oxymoron’ – making letter shapes with his arms for the O-X-Y hook. It’s more disco than gangsta, and a hint that he can swap thug life for Schoolboy japes without losing face. He gets an A for effort too – maybe we’re gonna need a bigger club next time after all.
Photo: Olga Kuzmenko