There’s an effortlessness, a mature elegance to the best live performers, a confidence that only comes through experience. Schoolboy Q played a sold out show at Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion, and conclusively proved that he has that star quality like the best live acts.
Riding on the back of his prior hit singles, and his acclaimed 2016 album Blank Face LP, Schoolboy actually managed to sell out his show, filling the large, warehouse-like space with adoring fans. After seeing the show, this makes perfect sense, as Schoolboy is obviously an experienced showman, and knows how to work a crowd like few musicians do. The show took the same form as many other rap shows, with Q rapping over his completed tracks, as played by a DJ, including the original vocal performances. Whilst this approach to a rap show is always somewhat controversial (it’s undeniably less impressive than performing the lyrics from scratch), Schoolboy showed why he uses it elegantly, spending much of the night working the crowd, telling the audience when to “bounce”, and even instructing people on where to form mosh-pits during the final few tracks.
The crowd seemed to love every second of the show, but were particularly fond of the singles from his 2014 album, Oxymoron. Compared to the burnt-out, psychedelic production on Blank Face LP, Oxymoron had much more of a pop-rap appeal, which showed in the booming, bass-heavy production on tracks like Man of the Year and Collard Greens. Q also made a habit of rapping the guest verses from tracks himself, like Kendrick Lamar’s contribution to Collard Greens. That then transitioned smoothly into a cover (rarely seen in the rap scene) of Kendrick’s mAAd city, which sent the crowd wild.
The newer material from Blank Face LP also translated fairly well to the live setting, with the increased volume giving the murky production an additional edge of menace. Unfortunately the depth of that album doesn’t show through live, and robbed of crucial political context, choruses like “you can f**k my b***h, you can have my hoe” come across more as naked misogyny, especially when chanted by the predominantly male crowd. However, in spite of the shallower content, THat Part is still a banger, and it got a whole room full of people to jump. Whilst he didn’t really step outside the rap concert box, Schoolboy Q knows how to put on an incredibly entertaining show.