Album cover of “BLUE LIPS” by ScHoolboy Q. Courtesy of Apple Music.

The LA rapper’s latest album is versatile, vulnerable, and strikingly down-to-earth.

BLUE LIPS finds ScHoolboy Q in his most clear and focused state thus far in his career. It is the American rapper’s most personal record, and finds him exploring topics like past drug use, newfound sobriety, family life, fatherhood, and his mental well-being. He is perfectly self-aware of who he is and who he used to be: he truly comes across as down-to-earth through his songwriting. 

“Blueslides” is an especially vulnerable song where Q gets candid about his mental health. He sings, “But lately, I ain’t really been myself, ain’t strong as I seemed” and “I done made problems my problems, now I barely can breathe.” 

“Cooties” is another introspective highlight. In this song, Q shares his gratitude for his daughters and their stable, healthy life, while also expressing his worries about their safety. Lines like “Why God blessed me? I never deserved it,” are perfect examples of the poignant, personal lyricism on this record. 

“Germany 86” is an ode to his mother and formative years, a track in which he juxtaposes his present-day level-headedness with the everyday struggles and pain of his upbringing. The rapper celebrates the current version of himself throughout the album, but he is inherently tied to the man he once was.

Q approaches BLUE LIPS as charismatically as always. His delivery is filled with conviction and intonation, as he shouts his ad-libs and navigates through tracks with rapid, razor-sharp flows.

The production on the album is volatile and versatile, continuously cranking the dial between understated jazzy cuts, rattling brash tracks, and hybrids of both. Elegant jazz samples set the backdrop for tracks like “Blueslides” and “Lost Times.” 

Contrarily, “Pop” features rattling grunginess and rock guitars, sonic characteristics reminiscent of Q’s 2016 album Blank Face LP. Trap production takes center stage on several occasions to maintain the high energy: “Yeern 101” is an adrenaline-filled cut where Q relentlessly raps over heavy 808’s and a multitude of fast-paced claps and percussive sounds. 

There are all sorts of beat switches throughout the record, creating an exciting and unpredictable listening experience. The majority of tracks begin and end entirely differently, constantly keeping the listener on their toes. Some of the beats are more ambitious and experimental: “Foux” features percussions clattering in every direction; “Love Birds” and “Time killers” are based upon rhythmic, off-kilter grooves, yet Q finds his way over them perfectly with unique flows.

The featured artists are fitting additions to the album experience. Rapper and singer Rico Nasty perfectly matches ScHoolboy Q’s energy with her brash and brazen performance on “Pop,” aggressively screaming the track’s title. Producer and rapper Devin Malik’s double appearances are perfectly complementary to Q, given how similar his vocal delivery is. Rapper Ab-Soul’s appearance is another standout, thanks to his alarmed delivery which matches the eerie, hypnotic vocal sample looming beneath him.

Overall, BLUE LIPS is a culmination of the best traits of ScHoolboy Q’s music—it’san LP that is unpredictable and impressive all-around. Q is as expressive as ever and showcases a new level of humility and self-awareness. He truly comes across as grounded, which heightens the significance of the personal growth he conveys throughout the record.

Score: 8/10

Trial Track: Blueslides

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