Battling flu-like symptoms and often pausing for breathers, rapper Schoolboy Q finished off Friday’s offering of Blue Stage talent with a forced plastering of his stellar rap tracks. "My bad," he said, hands on his waist between songs and telling us about his cold.
For respite Q had his DJ play Kendrick Lamar’s "m.A.A.d City" as an instant singalong. It’s among the most beloved and harrowing rap songs of the decade; though Schoolboy Q and Lamar form two-fourths of rap Planeteers Black Hippy, "m.A.A.d City" nestled it’s way into the set chiefly to kill time. Shortly after an exasperated Q, closing a run of breakout albums and performing for the last time before releasing a new one he said is nearly finished, looked crestfallen at the realization that he had another 30 minutes of stage time.
"I’ve been performing that for three years," he said after a brisk run through the Lissie-sampling "Hands On the Wheel." "Last time I’m performing these old-ass songs."
Sporting kaleidoscope-printed, muumuu-esque fabric, crisp jeans, and a brown fedora, the 29-year-old rapper born Quincey Matthew Hanley at first seemed exuberant. He began by tearing "Gangsta," from last year’s "Oxymoron," a new one. He barked at the audience to ditch their pretensions and join him in dance. He rapped about spending $200 on socks. As a pure display of technical talent, he performed both his and Lamar’s parts from "Collard Greens."
Where Kendrick Lamar is absorbing lessons from the A-listers he’s suddenly sharing green rooms with and recording an album blessed by legends like Dr. Dre and George Clinton, Schoolboy Q has found his lane and voice: He’s Lamar’s brawny big bro, who excels at juxtaposing gruff cadences and hard barks with soft, ethereal beats. Outside that blueprint, Q struggles to find his footing until the snares and bass kick in. (See: The EDM-tinged "Hell Of a Night," which washed over the chilly evening sans punch.)
Before commercially viable jam "Studio," one you may have caught on Beats By Dre ads, Q ditched any notion of banter, looked to his backline, and just said "play." He was down for the count.
But on the fast life-homaging "Ye Ye," his statement of origin, his distilled essence as an artist, kicked him into gear: "Most my life on 51st, went to school on 52nd, used to fight on 49th, Grandma said be home by night." Right after 2012’s glimmering and funky "There He Go," a heartfelt thank you.
"You put my daughter through school," Schoolboy Q said.
He closed with obligatory big single "Man of the Year," but just before attacked behind the dynamic one-two knock of reflective ballad "Blessed," and the toasted, poker-night hi-jinx of "Break the Bank."
"Remember this is my last show before my album," he said at the end, beckoning one final display of crowd participation. We got it, dude. Now let’s hear it.