Interview: ScHoolboy Q

"Right now my passion is music. I love this music; my love isn’t making bucket hats."

Words

Before it had even released an album, Top Dawg Entertainment – home to ScHoolboy Q – was rapidly becoming rap’s most talked-about label. But TDE CEO Dangeroo Kipawaa really threw the internet into a frenzy in 2013 when he announced that the crew would be releasing six albums over the course of 2014. ScHoolboy Q was enlisted to lead the charge, firmly planting his flag with chart-topping 12-track magnum opus Oxymoron, which retrospectively explores the life of a gangster. Bringing his Oxymoron experience to fans in Australia for the first time, Q is on top of the world and focused solely on creating more music to keep the TDE train rolling.

Oxymoron has been a huge success. In the age of DatPiff and Pitchfork, artists normally release material between albums, but you decided not to go this route. Why is that?

One thing I can say is that it takes a lot of weight off you, you know? I figured if you put all your effort into one project, you’ll end up with the best project possible. I think, sometimes, artists release music too fast. If you just sit back and listen to the track for a little bit you could pick and choose how you want to do it and see if you really feel the song, because sometimes you might not even like the song after a few listens. A week later or even two days later you might open it and be like “what the fuck was I thinking?”.

I’m not the ‘rappity-rapper’ type dude. All my music is really true – you know what I’m saying? I can’t just rap about nothing, just metaphors and putting words together. I can’t just smash out material like other guys. I just want my albums to be crazy every time I drop one.

You must record a lot of songs that don’t make it onto the album, right? What do you do with them? Do you just chuck them in the vault and never listen to them again?

Oh yeah, I listen to them, for myself to evolve. It’s not like everyone can relate to everything I make. A song can be a song where somebody thinks you’re crazy. A song that gets released has got to be something that everyone can relate to. Most of the songs that I keep are un-relateable for most people – some of the music I make only for myself and the homies.

Some music artists are quite reserved when performing live, in comparison to their music. Do you enjoy touring and performing?

I’m a performer. That’s what I do. That and making money – it’s the passion and the care factor for the people that support your passion. And obviously I would do it for free; I did it for five years. Moreso it’s the people that support you, it’s the kind of people that go crazy and love your stuff. I have some people crying at my gigs.

Like, fans really like ‘Prescription’ off my album. I don’t know if you know, but the new age in America’s drug problem is prescription pills. A lot of people related to that and are always telling me how much that song affected them. I can look them in the eyes and just see that they’re hurt, you know – hurt but happy at the same time. Songs like that made them feel like a loser, like I gave them a reality check. I love that interaction with fans and am very humbled by it.

What do you think makes an album ‘classic’?

You’ve got to give it some time – you’ve got to let it go. I honestly believe you can’t break down and digest an album in a few days. It’s my personal opinion, you know, but I feel people are making music too fast. I feel like you’ve got to give it a year to really absorb it.

There were many albums that I hated at first and I love now; there are many albums that I loved at first that I hate now. By giving music some time, it can make the whole song better – you know what I’m saying?

One thing I’m big on is believing in giving an album time. I’ll say you’ll have to give an album three years before you can call it a classic. If you can’t listen to it three years later then it’s not really a classic.

Like, I spent a fucking year putting together Oxymoron, and these reviewers have figured it all out and made up their minds about it the day after it was released? Come on man – I poured my heart and soul into this thing. You can’t tell me you absorbed it all after one or two listens! 

Do you think that’s one of the problems with this fast-paced music blog mentality ingrained in the industry now? Where one thing is instantly a ‘classic’ or rubbish, and tomorrow it’s forgotten and onto the next thing?

As much as it helped the game, it fucked the game up too. When it came, people just got carried away. There was something dropping all the time. Every day there’s four rappers releasing shit. It’s just getting out of hand now, I mean. I don’t want to be one of the rappers complaining – I don’t want to sound like I’m playing anybody – but I’m just saying: the game is kind of fucked up.

With the success of your music, what are your next moves? You poured everything into this album – you still got more music in you?

I’ll keep making music until my passion goes out. I think that’s why rappers fade out, when your mind is elsewhere, you know? Right now my passion is music. I love this music; my love isn’t making bucket hats. [Laughs.]

Everyone wants me to come up with bucket hats, but my passion is music. I don’t know how to make a tight bucket hat, but I know how to fucking buy a tight bucket hat. Yeah I could probably capitalise on that, but I’m not in it for money, because money doesn’t last.

I mean, you always see it with rappers: someone gets that big cheque, stunts and acts flashy and three years later they look like they’re broke as fuck. They just want more money; that’s not my passion. If you love your job, then you’re rich. Music is my job, and like any job I’m going to retire eventually. Then I can get that pension or that retirement cheque, however it works. For now, I’m just doing what I love.

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