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Friday, April 18, 2014

Schoolboy Q @ The Rave

April 17, 2014

schoolboy q the rave eagles ballroom oxymoron tour
Photo credit: Kiri Lin
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The second major breakout star from a group that never really made much of a name for itself collectively, South Central-born MC Schoolboy Q has, in rapid succession, followed his fellow Black Hippy member Kendrick Lamar into the limelight, really breaking wide with the release this year of his third album, Oxymoron. The record had plenty of help, being the first of his efforts to receive major label distribution and featuring the talents of everyone from Pharrell and Tyler, The Creator to 2 Chainz and Raekwon, but ultimately it’s Schoolboy Q’s laidback charisma and effortlessly versatile flow that’s catapulted it into the public consciousness. He’s also been working the road, enjoying a streak of sold out shows that, depending on how you measure it, continued with Thursday’s highly publicized Milwaukee appearance.

Due to demand, the show was moved from the Rave area to the Eagles Ballroom or, more accurately, half of it, with a temporary stage set up perpendicularly across the giant oval of a room. It’s a little hollow to call it a sell out with 50% of an enormous hall sitting there dark and unused but, nevertheless, an impressive number of people came out to pack into what space the Rave allowed, and they went fairly nuts when Q took the stage, sans the eye-catching balaclava but of course rocking one of his trademark bucket hats, with a minimum of fanfare or hype. There were none of the special effects or visual flash one’s come to expect from a high-profile rap tour either, just his DJ, the man himself and a microphone.

There was no need for gimmickry though. Q has serious skills and knows how to work a crowd, even indulging an overzealous fan or two (“Happy birthday, dear white giiiiiirl...”), but, musically, the unusual setup took a toll, on account of the subtle acoustic changes that occur when you plop a sideways stage down in the middle of a ballroom. To their credit, the sound guys did their best to cope, so while the opener, the eponymous “Oxymoron,” and others were more or less washed out except for the chorus, tracks like the new “Hell of a Night” and “Hands on The Wheel” from his sophomore album, 2012’s Habits & Contradictions, faired far better. It was something of a rollercoaster, but whenever it levelled out, you could see why his career has taken off so quickly.