Two recent interviews have all but confirmed what I suspected about Schoolboy Q’s Oxymoron album: it’s the product of the tedious, usually fruitless process of trying to please a major label while still making honest art. This isn’t surprising, nor is it a new trend. Most of my reviews note the lack of quality that results from serving these two opposing masters. But, until major labels curb their interference or mercifully die off, these stories will continue to be noteworthy. Especially when the artist complains so quickly after the release of his/her first album, and especially when that album seems to have succeeded with both critics and fans (Oxymoron has a 79/100 on Metacritic and debuted at #1) And, selfishly, especially when I just finished panning the album for this very problem.
Q couldn’t seem to figure out what he wanted Oxymoron to be. After those interviews, the fact that Interscope is partially to blame for this is apparent. He says that they forced him to present three radio-friendly singles. That explains the inclusion of Studio and Hell of a Night, hands-down the worst two songs on Oxymoron. In the Grantland interview, linked above, Amos Barshad talks of Q seeming frustrated by everything in his newly famous life, and of his disdain for including strangers from the label in his creative process. Major label life is not working for Q, and it’s hurting his music. Listening to Oxymoron, I knew something was wrong. Beyond the weak beats and rhymes, the album is directionless. I don’t care that Peter Rosenberg loved it, it’s bad!
I’m used to being the lonely voice of reason and dissent. But it’s nice to get some vindication sometimes, some evidence that I’m not crazy. Maybe everyone just has lower standards than me. But I feel bad for Schoolboy Q, and I hope that he does a better job dancing with the major label devil in the future.