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April 23, 2024

ScHoolboy Q takes Baltimore Soundstage

By ALEX HUROWITZ | May 1, 2014

Top Dawg Entertainment, the independent hip hop record label that has developed a huge following recently, especially due to the success of Kendrick Lamar, landed at the Baltimore Soundstage on Sunday with performances by L.A.-based rapper, ScHoolboy Q, and Tennessee-based rapper, Isaiah Rashad. Due to how fast the tickets sold out weeks prior to the show, a second show was added later in the night. This had its pros and cons. On the plus side, the performers were set to a strict schedule and set times, which helped since most hip hop shows are notorious for having the headliner delay the start time. However, this unfortunately meant shorter sets for the performers.

The opener, Isaiah Rashad, who has recently developed some hype after getting signed to TDE back in late 2013, released his debut EP, Cilvia Demo, back in January. While I hadn’t heard much of Rashad’s work, his performance was good enough to convince me into looking into his studio material. His flow was smooth yet rapid, rapping over the trap-inspired West Coast beats that TDE is known for. It will be interesting to see what place he finds himself within the label and what his output will consist of.

Rashad’s thirty-minute set was followed by a ten-minute break in which the DJ pretty much played his iPod, consisting of mostly the more popular trap songs out right now. Afterwards, ScHoolboy Q took the stage. His whole show can be summarized like this: It started out strong, fizzled in the middle, and ended with a relative bang. First and foremost, the main problem that plagued this show, a problem which affects most hip hop shows, was how the sound was mixed. The bass overpowered everything, practically eliminating the mid range. While the high end could be heard, especially the hi-hat sounds that give trap music its name, the constant drums in every song got rather repetitive. It completely overshadowed the melodies for each song and made it hard to hear the rapper. The presence of the DJ did not add anything, especially since his performance was amateurish. They did a mediocre job mixing up the beats during the performance. Most of the songs were chopped up sloppily and bled into a homogenous mess of obnoxious bass.

Anyway, the beginning of his set consisted of most of his hits, especially from his recent release Oxymoron and 2012’s Habits & Contradictions (his prior release). The crowd went wild during “Hands on the Wheel,” “Collard Greens” and “Hell of a Night.” Q demonstrated the versatile rapping style he is known for-stretching vowels and then reverting back into double time. However, the middle of his set did not maintain that same energy. Songs like “My Hatin’ Joint,” “Blind Threats” and “There He Go” did not incite much emotion from the crowd. Whether it was because these songs were not as well known or they do not promote a party-like atmosphere, the applause after each song was less enthusiastic. Additionally, the melody line for “There He Go” (a sample used from the song “Wet and Rusting” by Menomena) could barely be heard, which diminished the song’s live value. The end definitely picked up but only because the audience realized the show was coming to a close. “Breaking The Bank,” “M.A.A.D. Cit”” and especially his last song, “Man of the Year,” revived the crowd’s liveliness.  People were practically jumping on each other and reciting each line.

However, another issue which was demonstrated in the performance of Kendrick Lamar’s song “M.A.A.D. City” was that Kendrick had cast a large shadow over ScHoolboy Q. While Oxymoron is a good album in itself and Q has a solid discography to his name, his material definitely does not demonstrate the same staying power as Kendrick Lamar’s. While I can safely say both Lamar and Q’s shows were practically identical in terms of sound and setup, Q did not carry the same recognition or the same energy as Lamar. ScHoolboy Q is definitely not the best rapper in the game, but he is still successful in his own right. The same can be said for his live show.

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