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Schoolboy Q: ‘Habits & Contradictions’ Project Is ‘Rugged’

Jeff Forney

In 2011, Schoolboy Q made a noteworthy entry into hip-hop with his debut mixtape, ‘Setbacks.’ With his riot-inciting verse on Kendrick Lamar’s ‘Michael Jordan,’ the Los Angeles native had already established a fan base prior to that first collection. Born Quincy Hanley, Q made a strong impression with his brash demeanor and brazen lyrics. ‘Setbacks’ offered a view into the rapper’s mind and represented his fresh outlook on life after having experienced a few personal setbacks. As a part of Top Dawg Entertainment’s roster, Q and his tough-guy talk served as the perfect companion to Kendrick’s keen social observations, Ab-Soul’s detailed introspection and Jay Rock’s hard-nosed recollections of ghetto life.

Q peppered his rhymes with Crips references and homages to his Hoover neighborhood. Beyond describing street tales, he became known for his haze-filled verses, a trait that nearly overpowered all others and landed him in the “weed rap” box. It’s a label Q said he was underwhelmed by, so as he worked on his second tape, ‘Habits & Contradictions,’ he was careful to mix things up a bit.

‘Habits & Contradictions,’ released last month, displays the exorbitant growth Q has undergone in the span of a year. His ability to build solid tracks from abstract concepts has continued on this second offering, but Q’s delivery has become even more insistent and forcible. More than just a weed rapper, Schoolboy Q is closer to being whoever he wants to be. The BoomBox spoke with the West Coast native about adjusting to his new life, why he prefers solitude, crying while writing verses and how Twitter helped get him a Curren$y verse.

Setbacks just came out a year ago, but you seem to have developed so much since then. ‘Habits & Contradictions’ is so different and so much darker. Was that what you were going for when you started working on it?

Yeah. I wanted it to be a lot darker, because ‘Habits & Contradictions’ is my prequel to ‘Setbacks.’ The reason that I have setbacks is because of my bad habits and me contradicting myself. ‘Setbacks’ was more people-friendly. This one is more rugged, dark and more me. It’s the s— that gives you setbacks. That’s what ‘Habits & Contradictions’ is about. You gotta have your story, man. That’s part of being an artist.

OK, so bad habits and contradictions cause setbacks. But then what? Will the next project be in keeping with the story too?

Yup. I’ma keep it going for the rest of my career. The whole story started from ‘Setbacks’ up until the day I retire or the day I fall off. [Laughs] I’ma keep the story going.

How many songs did you record for ‘Habits & Contradictions?

I actually recorded like 60-something songs. A lot of them were unfinished, because I did a verse and a hook and didn’t like it. I know I got a lot of s— to freestyle to [laughs].

Watch A$AP Rocky & Schoolboy Q in ‘Hands on the Wheel’ Video

What’s the craziest or most unexpected studio experience you had while recording ‘Habits’?

I really don’t have one, because I usually work alone. I don’t really let people in my studio sessions. I usually don’t even let my manager or anybody in my studio sessions. I usually like to be by myself.

Why?

I don’t know. I get better emotions out. It’s too much of a distraction. Sometimes I’ll bring people to the studio, but it depends on if I’m doing a party song or a real hyper song. Outside of that, I don’t want nobody there. I just wanna zone out.

Kendrick has said that he’s known to get emotional in the booth, sometimes to the point of crying. Does that ever happen to you?

Yeah, I’ve cried a few times writing verses. Not necessarily in the booth, but as I’m writing it, there have been times where I’ve actually cried. I’m good in ‘Birds and the Bees’ and things like that. I’ve never cried in the booth, but I spill my heart out in there. When I’m in the booth, I look at it as my job now. When I’m writing, it’s more of a passion taking over me, but when I’m in the booth, I’m just trying to sound like a monster in whatever I’m doing. It’s different.

You just dropped the visual for ‘Nightmare on Figg St.,’ but which other tracks were you thinking of making visuals for?

‘Druggys and H–s Again,’ ‘Sexting,’ ‘There He Go.’ I was thinking about ‘Oxy Music.’ I wanted to do videos for everything, really, but we’ll see how it works.

Dom Kennedy and Curren$y did a nice job on the record as well. Obviously, Dom is from L.A., so that was a no-brainer, but how’d you end up with both he and Curren$y on there?

Well I’m cool with Dom, and we’re both from L.A., like you said, so that was pretty easy. He had me on ‘From the Westside With Love 2,’ so I figured I would get him on my record, because he’s getting heavy play on that record. The lane that he’s in and the way that he raps, I just knew that he’d sound perfect on there, which he did. He killed it. With Curren$y, I was on Twitter and just said, “Yo, I wanna work with Curren$y,” and he hit me back. That’s how me and him linked. He hit me back and was like, “Yeah, let’s do it.” That s— tripped me out, ’cause I was just talking. I wasn’t expecting him to hit me back. He was like, “Yeah, let’s do it.” I’m like, “Oh s— … f— it.” I sent him the record; he hit me back like, “Yo bruh, this s– is crazy. I’ma send it right back.” He sent that bitch right back in, like, two days. It was cool. Everything just fell into place.

What’s your favorite track on ‘Habits & Contradictions?’

The interlude ‘Tookie Knows,’ because literally, probably only [Stanley] Tookie [Williams] knows what I’m talking about on there. There are no real lyrics in there, but if you go back in the days to the Crips [history], how they used to act and the things they used to do, the murders and not giving a f— about murdering somebody, no heart, no nothing, that’s what the whole interlude was about. I just closed my eyes and thought of the 1972 Crips. I actually have another record on there right after the interlude, ‘Raymond 1969′ … A lot of people don’t know. A lot of people say Tookie started the Crips, but he didn’t. It was a dude named Raymond Washington. He started it in 1969. I just gave people what’s really going on, not the sugar-coated gang-banging rap music. Our gangs really are still out here. It was really important because Tookie and Raymond are, like, damn near the same person. One’s Crippin’ on the East Side and one’s Crippin’ on the West Side — with a strong foundation.

Are you planning on touring for ‘Habits?’

We’ve been talking about putting a tour together. I don’t know that it’s been finalized yet, but we’re talking.

How much has your life changed since ‘Setbacks’ dropped last year?

Big time. Big time. People are noticing me a lot more, and it’s gotten to the point where I’m kinda uncomfortable now [chuckles], certain places I go … But it’s cool. I’ve got more money in my pocket. My family’s happy. I’m happy. The fans are digging me, my management happy, everybody in my label happy. Things have changed a lot, but it’s keeping me more motivated. I really don’t wanna talk about my life changing until I drop my debut album. Right now, it’s still settling in with me.

You’re just as laid-back now as you were last year.

[Laughs] Yeah, I’m not really into the whole flashy-type s— and all that … I mean, it’s cool and all, but my whole focus is on that debut album. Nowadays, in this era, people look at your mixtapes as an album, so you get a lot of praise for a mixtape. But I’m like an old-school rapper: Albums are really important to me. A lot of people don’t take their first album as important … They just name it anything and put a bunch of tight radio songs on there and call it their album, but I really want to put my story into it.

A lot of people started calling your music “weed rap” after ‘Setbacks.’ If you had to label yourself, what would you say?

If I had to label myself, I’d just say I’m Q. I can’t say I’m a weed rapper. I honestly can’t even say I’m a gangsta rapper. I call myself a gangsta rapper, ’cause I’m a gangsta-ass n—-, but I’m not, like, a gangsta-ass n—-, you know what I’m saying? [Laughs] So it’s like, I don’t really have a category. You can’t categorize me as a weed or pothead, that’s why I didn’t do those songs like, ‘Bet I Got Some Weed’ on there, because I was tired of the weed rapper comparisons when I’m not that.

How often do you find yourself in situations like the one described on ‘My Hatin’ Joint?’

Nah, I haven’t hated on anybody since I was, like, 13. I just thought it would be good because rappers always talk about how they’ve been hated on and s— like that, but I was like, “How ’bout we do some hatin’.” I thought it would be dope and creative, but I don’t get down like that. Everybody’s comparing it to [Drake's] ‘Marvin’s Room,’ but what’s funny, I did that song before I heard ‘Marvin’s Room.’ It was one of the first three songs I did for ‘Habits & Contradictions.’ I started working on ‘H&C’ a few months after ‘Setbacks,’ so you can imagine how old that song is.

Music to me is like a conversation … People look at it like it’s so crazy how we write lyrics and come up with concepts, but honestly, rapping ain’t nothing but having a conversation, so it’s pretty easy. I don’t know. I just started saying s—, like if I was to hate on a n—-, how I would hate on a n—-. And it was some player s—.

Watch ‘Learn About the History of Rap’

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Learn About the History of Rap

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