Schoolboy Q is rap’s man of the year

An interview with Quincey Matthew Hanley ahead of his POP Montreal show (tonight!).

Schoolboy Q

There is absolutely no debate that Schoolboy Q is rap’s “Man of the Year.” The mixtape maven whose wildly popular Black Hippy crew — where his talent stands with Kendrick, Jay Rock and Ab-Soul — is shaping into a hip hop dynasty finna make the decade theirs. His label debut, Oxymoron, is one of the most talked-about records of the year 2014, which definitely belongs to Q.

Making his Montreal debut tonight at Olympia as part of the POP Montreal festival, Schoolboy Q hit Cult MTL with an 11th hour phone call to let Montreal know what’s good, and why it’s so damn good.

Darcy MacDonald: So you’re not a brand new artist, but this year and the last have totally been yours. From a lotta fans’ perspectives, you’re new. How long do you really think a hip hop artist can get by on being new, and being hot right now, in this day and age?

Schoolboy Q: Well, all you need is one song — it’s messed up. I think one song is the perfect set-up for failure, yo. You know, like when people blow up before people know who they are? I think that’s like the worst thing that can happen for an artist. You blow up off one song and yet you never even dropped a project, a full project that people can listen to. Because people already start puttin’ you in that lane or in that box. People try to box you in an’ they ain’t even give you a fair chance.

Now, I’m not like that. I don’t blame…it’s not the artist’s fault that they came, made one record and then blew up, nahmsayin’? Like, he just made the record. Only the fans can make the record be. But I think that’s just hella failure.

But in this day and age, for a new artist to get over the hump, I dunno, man!  You gotta depend on mixtapes. Put out a mixtape and then get you some recognition, or put out an album and then get you some recognition, however you wanna do it. Because you see a lotta artists that can have a bunch o’ mixtapes, be like seven mixtapes in, and then last year they signed a deal and people think they just came out. So I don’t know what a “new” artist is, really. You can’t really call it. You got mainstream new artists, and you got underground new artists. You got the mainstream artist who was already underground before they popped. Like with me, I already dropped two albums before I dropped my major label debut. For some people I may be new but to the hip hop world, I’ve been doin’ it for three years.

DM: Why do you feel you as an artist found that right position, to make that crossover from the underground mixtape grind, to the mainstream with a studio album, to Billboard?

Q: I don’t know, I think I just kept growing. Personally you have to just keep growing as an artist and try to make it to that next level. I think I did that. I made a demand in my music, and made myself in high demand. This is one of the most talked about albums this year, and of 2013. People were talking about my album coming in 2013 and I’m still puttin’ singles out from it this year. But it just all depends, man, straight up.

DM: When you’re making music, do you consider longevity or are you really just focused on the moment of what’s current, and what’s gonna represent you best, now? Or is there a balance?

Q: It’s a balance. But you have to know what’s current, right now. You can’t be in denial. A lotta rappers out here be like, “Well, I’m not tryin’ to do nothin’ for these or those people!” And it’s like, no! Of course I’m trying to relate to what’s goin’ on. I’m just gonna do it my way. It’s a difference between when you do it somebody else’s way and do it your way. You gotta still sound current, but you don’t necessarily have to have a beat from DJ Mustard or Mike Will to sound current, nahmsayin’? You can sound current by yourself. That’s my main thing, just staying current but do it my way. I didn’t have no super-producers on there doing my singles. Every single that came out from me was all homies that I know, people that were on the come-up.

DM: What do you think your special touch was in getting through the club-bangin’-ness and the underground legitimacy on Oxymoron?

Q: I just wanted to give y’all somethin’ that was all me. That’s me and I’m a real person. It may be in the attitude. That’s just my life. People may not know what I’m doing, like I can’t be bothered, and I’m just off writing a song in my head. For the most part that’s how this record was. You had the story telling, you had the fun records, you had the titty-ass records. This album was a good variety to me and (that comes) from doing it my way.

DM: When it came out, people were fucked up by it being a concept record, and figuring out how much of what you were talking about was you versus a character you had created. It was discussed a lot in that context. Do you think people are starting to understand what it’s about now that it has sunk in?

Q: Yeah, and I think that’s what you have to do as an artist. It’s your job to shake shit up. I don’t want my shit to drop and everybody hate it, or everybody thinks it’s the best album in the world. I want people to be confused. I want people to try to figure it out. Then they figure out where you stand as a genius in your music. Of course, it’s never good to call yourself a genius, but in order to be one, everyone can’t understand what they hell you’re saying.

You’re a genius if you get it right off the fuckin’ top. “I know what he fuckin’ wrote!” Yeah, right. It took years for me to make this album. And some people that like to review things don’t realize that it took two years just to write the first song, or the intro. People don’t even understand. ■


Schoolboy Q plays Olympia (1004 Ste-Catherine E.) on Saturday, Sept. 20, 9 p.m., $75 advance/$83 door/$58 students