05.02.2012 Schoolboy Q at Toad’s Place, New Haven

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When Los Angeles-based rapper, Schoolboy Q released his sophomore album, Habits & Contradictions earlier this year, it was hailed as “half gangster, half left-field” by AMG. A good portion of that left-field-ness comes from the beat selection which moves from fat beats to the dark-and-brooding. Lyrically, Schoolboy Q is not necessarily a trailblazer. He mostly raps about drugs and women. While there is a certain insouciance in his lyrics, nothing really prepared me for the show I was to witness at Toad’s Place.
On a Wednesday night in Connecticut, a half-full Toad’s Place waited for Schoolboy Q to hit the stage. Rapper Ab-Soul had just finished up a brief 20 minute set and the crowd waited at least 20 minutes before Schoolboy Q hit the stage.
Once he hit the stage, I was surprised by Schoolboy Q. Clad in a bucket hat and oversized white tee-shirt, he looked more like a beach bum than a rapper. His stage presence was more similar to a hypeman than a rapper. He was jumping around, not finishing his lines and holding the microphone out to the crowd to have them rap along. While this tactic works for bigger singles like “Hands on the Wheel,” for deeper album cuts the response from the crowd was minimal but that did not deter Schoolboy Q from trying.
Once he broke into tracks from earlier albums he actually picked the two fans out of the crowd who seemed to know the words to every song and had them on stage to rap with them. This is where it got weird to me. Instead of playing the drug dealer with a sense of humor, Schoolboy Q went straight court-jester. Schoolboy Q (who is no bean pole) referred to one of the fans only as “fat boy” and made some witless jokes about his weight. The other fan had glasses so Schoolboy referred to him as “Steve Urkel.”
For an artist who benefitted so greatly from the dark pathos of his album, this type of persiflage in a live performance only stood to distract from the music. I do not have a problem with a little in-between song banter but straight mockery is a little much.