HNHH sits down with ScHoolboy Q to find out why he's happier than he's ever been in his life.
Two and half months later, Q announced some troubling news on Snapchat. “Sad news,” he wrote. “Big Groove is gone.” Big Groove had run away.
He visited dog pounds all over town and offered a $20,000 reward to anyone who could find and return Big Groove, to no avail. He hasn’t seen Big Groove since. He has two other dogs to keep him company: Figaro and Hardell, a Doberman and a Cane Corso, neither of whom is neutered.
“If I see somebody with Big Groove, I’mma shoot ‘em,” Q says. “Guaranteed."
BluntBoy Q and Batgroove
2) Q sidles into HNHH’s NYC office one dreary, balmy evening in June. He wears a leopard print t-shirt, designer jeans distressed at the knee, and a chain emblazoned with the name of his upcoming album: BLANK FACE LP.
He’s on a press run sandwiched in between Montreal and Copenhagen, where he will perform for 15,000 people at Roskilde Music Festival. He gives a good-natured, albeit low-energy, half-hour interview. As he leaves he expresses his hopes of later hitting his favorite restaurant in New York, the upscale steakhouse Del Frisco’s. I would later learn that he was on several edibles at the time of the interview.
3) Q, 29, is a gangster rapper -- his gangster days are behind him. “I’m not a gangster, none of that shit no more. My pants tight and shit,” he explains.
Nearly all of Q’s music refers to the period of his life between the ages of 16 and 23, the prime of his gangbanging days. He was active in gang culture up until four months prior to the release of his debut album Setbacks in 2011. At this point, he had already come up with the titles of his next four albums and the themes they would each address.
His 2012 sophomore album Habits & Contradictions was a prequel to Setbacks. His 2014 major label debut Oxymoron, which opened at #1, delved into his addiction to prescription drugs. Blank Face LP hones in on the remorseless “Groovy Tony” side of his personality (“heart is an igloo”) and the time around the robbery that would briefly land him in jail.
4) When Q got out of jail, he decided to have a kid so he’d have a reason to never go back. Within a year, he and his girlfriend at the time welcomed into the world a daughter named Joy. She is seven years old now and a blossoming soccer star. She scored over 30 goals in 10 games last year and was named the MVP of her team. Q spends his weekends ferrying her to and from soccer games in his McLaren. “Soccer dad Saturdays,” he calls them.
5) Q lives with Joy in Tarzana, a breezy, quiet suburb nestled in the hills of the San Fernando Valley, 28 miles northeast of the neighborhood he grew up in. He has a pool in the back and he parks his McLaren out front behind the gate. He enjoys the pace of life in Tarzana. “You get to chill, relax, shit like that,” he explains. “I don’t like LA, man. I’m not cool with it.”
6) No man, woman, child, or animal is safe from the deadly roasting ability of ScHoolboy Q. He roasts Action Bronson for being obese. He roasts Isaiah Rashad for driving a hatchback. When Peter Rosenberg brought up Jay Rock’s motorcycle accident that left his leg broken in three places, Q burst into laughter. "That dumbass shouldn't have gotten at that motherfucker in the first place,” he said, fighting back tears. “Now he got the gangster lean. Now you're a real gangster.”
Somehow, it’s all in good fun. Q credits his mother for roasting him when he was a child and building up his thick skin.
“Soon as [me and my homies] see each other, first word we might say is ‘you a bitch.’ ‘Waddup bitch. You bitchass nigga,’” he tells me. “We greet each other by our mommas' names. ‘Waddup Darlene.’ That’s just how we are.”
7) Born Quincy Hanley, Q grew up in South Central LA a few miles south of Staples Center the only child of a hard-working single mother. His uncle Pat was a crack addict who would routinely break into their house and steal Q’s bicycle, video games, anything of value. He stole his own mother’s dog.
“Had roaches in my cereal, my uncle stole my stereo
My grandma can’t control him”
-- “Hoover Street”
8) Q earned the nickname “ScHoolboy” from the 3.3 GPA he maintained up until his senior year at Crenshaw High School, when his increasing involvement with the Hoover Crips caused his grades to plunge.
He attended multiple city colleges around Los Angeles and maintained a GPA high enough to keep him eligible to play on the football team. He dropped out and took a job at the railroad. On the side -- a variety of illicit hustles. He moonlighted briefly as a crack merchant but operated primarily in the highly lucrative Oxycontin industry.
“wHy my H always capitalized????” he tweeted in 2011. “HIIIPOWER X HIPPY X HOOVER X HEAVEN & HELL AKA MY LIFE.”
“At a younger age, never really gave a shit
Just my grandma arms, kept me out of harm
Nigga went to class, my football pads
Kept the burner stashed, they ain't gon’ catch my ass”
-- “I’m Good”
9) Q started rapping seriously at age 21 after getting fired from the railroad. He linked up with TDE through the engineer MixedByAli. Though he was at first trash by his own admission, TDE co-founder punch saw promise in him. In his early tapes, Q bit heavily off of 50 Cent’s vocal style and was still far from unlocking his full artistic potential.
Utterly broke, Q received a few dollars in food money each day from Joy’s mother and frequently slept at the studio where TDE recorded, ingratiating himself into the crew by force as he slowly found his voice as an emcee. For a short time, he found employment as Kendrick Lamar’s hype man.
It went on like this for a few years until Q dropped Setbacks -- the album that changed everything. “My life did a whole 180 after [Setbacks] dropped,” he said in a 2014 interview with NPR. “It just took me to the right spot. I made some fucking money off the project, it helped me see that I needed to do more positive shit in life, and it made me into the person I am now. All I do now is just chill.”
10) Sometime after the release of Oxymoron, Q commissioned the renovation of the house at the back of his property into a 1,000 square foot studio. He started working on Blank Face last June.
Studio sessions can quickly escalate into full-blown functions, particularly in hip hop. But Q likes to work alone, just him and Ali, the engineer. His daughter isn’t generally allowed back there because he’s constantly smoking weed, but she’ll come by to tell him she’s going to soccer practice. “I recorded just really by myself with my dogs and shit, little puppies.” he says. “Big Groove was there for some of it. A couple homies would come by here and there. But mainly just me.”
Q is a studio rat. He’ll work day and night, taking periodic breaks to decompress, play Call of Duty, eat, or go the gym. In the past three months, he’s slimmed down from 215 pounds to 185. His diet is high-fat, high-protein: steak, eggs, bacon, broccoli, and such.
11) Q is heavily rumored to have had a romantic relationship with comedian Kathy Griffin. It might be an elaborate ruse, it’s hard to say. He happily stoked the rumors in a 2014 interview on ESPN’s Highly Questionable:
“Kathy Griffin, that’s the homie, man,” he said. “That’s my secret lover right there, man. We fell in love a long time ago and we just kept it going. She hit me up. I come through, spend the night. I don’t have to say what I do when I spend the night. I spend the night. I wake up. I go home. She ain’t tripping. That’s my secret lover. She just joking with Rocky and Danny Brown. She ain’t really serious with them. She serious with me.”
ScHoolboy & Kathy
12) In the video for “Tookie Knows II,” the last song on Blank Face LP, Q and his friends stage a robbery of a pawn shop, only to be apprehended a few days later. It’s based on real-life events that led to Q’s stint in jail. The beat, organized around a slinky piano vamp, sounds like what Charon bumps while he's waiting to ferry passengers across the River Styx.
Appearing on the song is Traffic, one Q’s homies since Traffic since before first grade. Q was there to greet Traffic when he got released from jail last October. “4/5th extendo, with fifty in the clip,” Traffic raps in a hoarse yelp. “Q in the ride, grippin' on the fifth.”
13) In a recent interview with Hot 97, Q admitted that he nearly quit rap after Oxymoron because he went three years barely seeing his daughter.
“I’m not about to be that person that puts his job, his business, his money over his family,” he said. “I go out and I please everybody else, making this money and making other people money, meanwhile my kid, my family, they’re sitting back waiting for me to come home. That ain’t cool.”
After buckling down for months in his home studio to finish Blank Face LP (with the help of Kendrick Lamar, who put the tracklist in order), Q submitted the album to the label in April. He celebrated by taking several of his boys on a trip to Hawaii. It was the first proper vacation of his life and his first time on a yacht. “We stopped in the middle of the ocean once we got real far, like far out, and we just started swimming,” he says.”
14) TDE fans have long pined for a Black Hippy album -- a full project pooling the talents of Q, Kendrick, Jay Rock, and Ab-Soul, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles of the hip hop world. Q seems to doubt that such an event will ever come to pass. The Black Hippy album fell victim to success, and he doesn’t seem too upset about it.
“Everyone has their own creative space now,” he says. “Back in the day, we used to always be together like all the time. Me, Soul, Kendrick, Jay Rock – we used to be in the studio together all the time. Now we’re all busy. It’s hard for us all to be in the same room. Kendrick just performed with Beyonce yesterday [at the BET Awards]! You know what I mean? You know how many times you gotta go to rehearsal to perform with Beyonce???”
Q delighted fans by releasing a fully loaded Black Hippy remix of “THat Part,” his single featuring Kanye West, last night a mere hour before Blank Face hit stores. But even then, Q recorded his verse by himself in a studio in Toronto. The days of Black Hippy strutting through the streets of Los Angeles in “Zip That Chop That” and idly tooling around in an abandoned construction site in “Say Wassup” appear long gone. When asked if he misses those days, Q responds, “I mean, yeah, of course, but at the same time, no, ‘cause we was broke as a mothafucka.”
15) “Blessed,” off Habits and Contradictions, is widely regarded as one of the best songs in ScHoolboy Q’s catalog. He made it for a friend who had just lost his son. It’s about avoiding falling into a pit of despair during times of hardship.
I asked Q about “Blessed” and got a surprising answer: “It’s funny how so many people like that song – it’s not that dope of a song. Like my homeboy kid had just died, I was just getting over from being homeless and shit like that. I’m not in that space no more. That sad shit. That depressed music? Like I’m not really in that space at this point now. I’m too happy for that.”
It’s odd that ScHoolboy raps about his gangbanging days more vigorously than ever, but is quick to divorce himself from one particularly depressing period in his past. It might be because he sees that era -- sleeping on the couch in the TDE studio, rubbing dishwashing soap on himself to get clean -- as the beginning of his rap career. There’s no point dwelling on his hardships as a rapper because he has conquered them. Nowadays he makes 100 grand per show.
“I done did everything I said I was gonna do and I wanted to do,” he says emphatically. “I done did it. There’s nothing else I really wanna do no more beside just keep dropping albums. So I don’t know what to be complaining about. Everything I said I wanted, I got it. And I did it. So it’s like, pff! I just want people to like my shit.
“It’s all up to them now.”