ScHoolboy Q's "Perscription/Oxymoron" is a brutal, unapologetic take on the cautionary tale.
Praised as a writer of many talents, ScHoolboy Q’s storytelling prowess occasionally slips beneath the radar. Lest we forget, the man is a disciple of Nasir Jones and a nuanced author in his own right. Consider his Oxymoron titular track “Perscription/Oxymoron,” in which Q opts to let his tale unfold in a non-linear fashion. The first part, dubbed “Prescription,” finds Q reflecting in a drug-induced state. “Prescription drugs show me love,” he raps at the onset. Rather than wasting time in the expository stages, Q allows our own existing knowledge of the listed substances - Percocets, Adderall, Xanny bars - to kickstart the imagination. He’s aided by an otherworldly, distant synth drone, striking a melancholic chord. On paper, his bars may be read as glorification. Yet not thirty-seconds deep, and alarm bells are already ringing. The following lines act as confirmation: “Stuck in this body high, can't shake it off, I'm falling off, I can't hold a thought.” Despite his early admission of the “love” he receives from using prescription drugs, his chosen language skews negative, with terms like “stuck” and “falling off” weighing heavy.
Q’s storytelling practice, at least in this segment of the song, is paralleled by the phenomenon he’s attempting to convey; a hazy plane akin to looking in the mirror while heavily inebriated. He occasionally grounds the narrative in the present by providing further detail. My mommy call, I hit ignore, My daughter calls, I press ignore,” he raps. “My chin press on my chest, my knees press the floor.” Physical qualities we can visualize beyond the abstract help set an anchoring point between both explored realities - the trip and the real. “I'm blanking out, woke up on the couch, dinner on my shirt, my stomach hurts,” he spits, pondering on whether karma brought him to such lows. An interesting detail is unveiled here, cementing Q as one of the game’s most fascinating figures. He openly admits to enjoying his tenure as a drug dealer, and his suggestion of karmic retribution points to an awareness of his own moral wrongdoing.
The inclusion of his daughter Joy adds another layer of immersion to Q’s tale. Rather than outlining her presence, he allows her infantile voice to move the story forward. The following verses unravel like a memory reel playing on a projector that’s slowly burning out. Now, Q has changed his tense from the present to the past, flipping the opening line. “Prescription drugs, I fell in love,” he raps, this time accepting responsibility for his own potential doom. “My little secret, she gon' kill a thug.” The following lines draw parallels between the allure of the high and a woman’s touch, yet it has already been established that he’s a prisoner by his own admission. Even when he has the “love” he seeks, the physical phenomenons he associates with the trip are predominantly negative. Seeing as much of said negativity stems from the first verse, in which Q is reflecting on the past, his female analogy suggests he’s trapped in a state of perpetual idealization. In other words, he’s chasing the memory of something he understands to be destructive, if only on a subconscious level.
Like Future, Q is able to imbue single line with plenty of imagery, opting out of any linguistic dazzling. In a bittersweet moment (though more bitter than sweet), Q outlines his priorities through a line ripe with subtext. “May 7, Ali calls, p.m. of 6:45, I finally answer this time,” he raps. He said "Come to the stu', I'm mixing all your rhymes.” His own family gets snubbed, but the call of the booth is enough to get his drug-addled ass up and shambling. As his journey descends into further blurriness, Q leaves the ultimate state of his fate unknown “Continue right, remember seeing light,” he concludes, strategically failing to mention the specific color of said light. Red and blue? Green and red? Or simply unbearable white?
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While the musical apex of “Prescription” reaches a haunting crescendo, Q once again employs the practice of nonlinearity. Sounwave’s instrumental begins Part B, "Oxymoron," with a creeping piano riff, grounded by a devilish root note; an appropriate tonality, given that Q is about to reflect on his the catalyst of his soul’s dissolution. He proceeds to use a playfully deceptive refrain - “I just stopped selling crack today” - which suggests a redemptive epiphany. In reality, Q simply opted to shift his focus to selling Oxy, a far more profitable endeavor. Given that this verse takes place in the past, before Q found himself tangled up in his masochistic affair, his attention to detail is more shrewd than before. In the first verse, Q engages in a more traditional manner of storytelling, while still remaining abstract enough to require attentiveness. “Crazy, got my stash somewhere in her Mercedes,” he spits. “80's, get these off new shoes for my baby.” Essentially, Q is attempting to rationalize his decision, as his profits can be directly used to benefit his newborn daughter. Such is the brilliance of Q’s approach - we’ve already come to understand his path was a fruitless endeavor, doomed to conclude in a comatose state.
What you know about a pill, plus a 8-ball
You gotta re-up 50 times just to get a rack off, ungh
I can get a hundred of 'em, make over 3 G's
Only took two days, only re-up'd one time
Q proceeds to educate the layman about the nuanced business practices involved in professional drug-dealing. His lessons unfold in an anecdotal fashion, which imbues his voice with a sense of authenticity. It’s in “Oxymoron” where the influence of his “favorite rapper” Nas becomes evident. Anyone familiar with Nasir Jones recognizes his brilliant mastery of storytelling, deftly weaving plot threads through tangentially related segues. When Nas gains momentum, a closer reading is often required to gain a clear perspective. Q’s own reflection has him weaving up and down memory lane, traveling from his drug-dealing days in Seattle to painting cautionary tales of what might have been. "Feeling life ain't fair, If I was in your shoes, I would've copped, don't care,” he raps, drawing a connection between life’s harsh reality and the comforts of drug use. Despite that, he seems to understand that such a decision ultimately spells a bleak fate. “Had a scene, had the medics like clear, big body cold like a Polar Bear.”
In the second verse, Q dives deeper into moral bankruptcy as he outlines his damned sales pitch. “Without the injections, do the same love and affection, how could they say feeling good is an addiction?” he ponders, evoking similar language to that used at the height of his addiction. Seeing as “Oxymoron” chronologically arrives prior to “Perscription,” it’s curious to note that Q’s selling point ultimately becomes his own reality. Is it safe to say he began his pushing days by projecting his own innate desires for escape onto his clientele? Either way, Q's unconventional approach to structure helps ground his reflection with a hazy sort of authenticity, in which conclusions must be inferred rather than given. With lines connect in an unpredictable fashion, Q's Oxymoron centerpiece is brutally dark and unapologetic take on a cautionary tale.