Before Tuesday night (July 12), I’d seen ScHoolboy Q perform live a grand total of two times, with experiences that felt like they were on the opposite ends of the spectrum. The first time was Hot 97 Summer Jam in 2013, where Black Hippy—Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, Jay Rock and Q—took the stage alongside the ASAP crew right as torrential rainfall hit. It was cool and all, but since it was such a (crowded) shared stage, Q’s time on the mic was limited. This was pre-Oxymoron, the album that boosted TDE’s comical cohort to a new, mainstream level of stardom, so there were only so many songs one could perform before the crowd demand the mic get turned over to the headliner, K.Dot.
The second time was a couple days before Oxymoron actually dropped at an NPR First Listen Live, an intimate affair at NYC’s Le Poisson Rouge. Not only did Q man the stage by himself with no assists, but also there were no barricades, photo pits and yard-wide spaces peppered with event security dividing the artist from his fans. Or his fam, rather. Handshakes were given out to front row attendees in abundance and he hopped right into the center of the crowd to mosh. And even though the stream was only out for a short span of time, day ones packed into the cozy space armed with an arsenal of lyrics to sing-along with Q to. His lazy demeanor went right out the window as he jumped around in his camo jacket, commanding the stage with an energy that surprised and invigorated me.
So when I entered the packed Highline Ballroom and wiggled my way to the front, I already knew it was about to be one hell of a party (one ScHoolboy was an hour and a half late to).
The blended crowd—which, once again, was heavily salted with young white rap enthusiasts overly excited to scream the N-word—was treated to a wide variety of Schoolboy Q’s best cuts and a hearty dose of charisma and a stage presence that felt almost personal. “Y’all like that Crip sh** don’t you?” he asked the crowd rhetorically, grinning to show off a glimmering bottom row of royal blue grills. In between the breathless banter (because, asthma), he covered obvious faves from Oxymoron (“Gangsta,” “Studio,” “Man of the Year”), Habits & Contradictions (“There He Go,” “Hands on the Wheel,” “Blessed”), guest appearances (A$AP Rocky’s “Brand New Guy) and the basis of the forthcoming fall tour, Blank Face goods (“Dope Dealer,” “Groovy Tony/Eddie Kane,” “By Any Means”).
And to be totally honest, the highlight of the night actually wasn’t finally seeing Blank Face cuts performed for the first time, but his fan interaction. A noticeably slimmer Q got plenty of cardio throughout the night giving his energy and his voice to the ever-jumping crowd. “I want to sweat out this shirt,” he’d said early in the night. (He got his wish, eventually queuing up Kendrick’s “Alright” while he dipped off to the wings to swap his soaked turquoise tee for a white promo shirt.) The myriad daps and high fives, quick FaceTime acknowledgements, making his way to every tip of the stage and leaning into the crowd for the next song suggestion (“This is the pit stop, we doing whatever!”), taking in and passing back a blunt that floated his way, and pulling up one lucky fan onto the stage to fill in for Traffic and TF on “Tookie Knows II.”
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The crowd ate it all up, as did I. This was the most fun attending a rap show by myself in a long time.
Since he didn’t get into the nitty gritty of his brand new album during his Pit Stops—he said he wants to have fun and vibe out with intimate crowds before hitting huge venues—there’s so much more to look forward on the official tour. I’ll be ready and waiting.
Left the @ScHoolBoyQ concert with bruised feet and a fro that smells like pure weed. Which means I had a good ass time.
— Stacy-Ann Ellis (@stassi_x) July 13, 2016
“By Any Means”
“Hands on the Wheel”
“Tookie Knows II”
“Brand New Guy”
“Groovy Tony/Eddie Kane”
“Break The Bank”
“There He Go”
“Man of the Year”
“What They Want”
“Hell of a Night”