I’m Not Beautiful, I’m Saucy
A Rendezvous With Schoolboy Q, L.A. Rap’s New Elder Statesman
- Interview: E.P. Licursi
- Photography: Alexvnder Blvck
This is the summer of Schoolboy Q. In July, he released his fourth studio album, Blank Face LP, a distilled articulation of his stoned gangster rap for the 21st century. Last month, he embarked on a tour that will have him traveling the country and the world for the rest of this year. The day of his show in New York—in the midst of fashion week—Q was being photographed modeling clothes at the Jane Hotel. While most young performers might relish all this attention, Q seemed homesick. That’s because Schoolboy Q is a family man. His seven-year-old daughter is unquestionably his foremost concern, and he seems to aspire more to the role of soccer dad than globetrotting hip-hop superstar.
Through an endless fog of blunt smoke, Q posed for photos and cracked jokes. He said his interviewer had “snitch hair,” and corrected a stylist as to his own appearance: “I’m not beautiful, I’m saucy.” He also elicited an audible gasp from his entourage when he leapt onto the ledge of the roof to demonstrate the Stanky Legg, six stories above West Street. Q’s tendency toward mischief, however, belies an uncommon sense of philosophical maturity and artistic patience. As a member of the group Black Hippy along with Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, and Jay Rock, Q has become the elder statesman of the L.A. rap renaissance.
Fashion isn’t fashion when everybody looks the same.
I watched the trilogy of short films for the new record. I thought it was so good.
You fuck with it?
Yeah, it was great. Is that something you are interested in, pursuing acting?
Yeah. One day.
Did you write the story?
I mean, it’s a true story.
Based on your life?
Yeah. Except I didn’t actually rob a pawn shop. I robbed somebody’s house. [Laughs]
Right, right, right.
I thought it would look cooler if it was a pawn shop.
It seems like there are a lot of people in rap that are doing things other than music, like designing clothes and acting. Are you interested in being a kind of “renaissance man” in rap?
Yeah, I mean, you do school for a certain part of your life and then that’s over. And then you go on to the real world and it comes to a point that you need to retire. And when you retire from that, what you going to do? Just wait to die? I’m not waiting to die. I want to live it out and work everyday until I can’t work no more. I want to see my daughter have kids, you know what I’m saying? I want to be that great-grandfather.
I’m curious to know what you think about fashion and luxury as a subject in rap. People rap about expensive clothes, expensive cars, expensive jewelry, but those don’t seem to be subjects that you spend a lot of time on at all.
I think the fact that people just be bragging about the same shit all the time, it gets boring after a certain point. I’m not really with that. If you listen to all my albums, none of them sound the same. And after this album, I’m doing something way different than what I’ve been doing. I’m not a Crip anymore. I mean, I’m from where I’m from, yeah, but I’m not an active gang member, so why would I keep touching on that subject for five albums?
Right, you have other life experiences.
Exactly, it’s like life hits you differently. I’ve never even talked about my grandma really or my mother that much. I’ve made a million dollars, I’ve lost a million dollars. And then gotten it right back. I want to talk about that stuff, too, not just the good times but some of the down times.
I’m sure that’s something that people want to hear about.
It’s just jewelry, jewelry, this, this, that, that. But then you meet them and it’s like, you ain’t got none of that shit. Some of my richest friends don’t even own cars, or have one car or a modest house.
I remember in the 2000s, when MTV Cribs was on TV, everybody was renting cars and renting a house.
Which was, like, kind of smart! It’s like, I'm not actually going to spend $800,000 for three cars, just for y’all to see today. I’m never going to drive it. I just leased a new car. But rappers will tell you, “Oh, you’re leasing that shit.” I only wanted it for nine months! [Laughs]
That’s something you must be thinking about, with your daughter, her financial future and keeping things in perspective.
I don’t give my daughter what a typical person in my position would give their daughter. She still shops at Target, you know what I mean? Of course, she’s going to have every game system, but that’s about all the advantage she’ll get. That and being able to wake up and see her Daddy every day. A lot of kids don’t get that. A lot of rappers put their music before their kids. It’s impossible for me to drop two albums in one year, or even four albums in four years, because that’s a lot of time in the studio and away from family. When I get back from tour, I’m going to have missed three soccer seasons of hers, you know, half the school year is up and I wasn’t there for it.
At the end of the video for “Black Thoughts,” the third video in the trilogy, there’s a very poignant scene where you’re taking your daughter to a school bus and there’s a kind of flashback to you in prison. She seems to be the driving force behind your music.
I’m not trying to miss nothing. Like, I want to see my grandkids. I want to see her go to college, if she decides to go to college. I want to see her finish school, play soccer. When she scores a goal and she looks over, I’m the first person she looks for. She’s not looking at the coach, she not looking to high-five the other players. She scores a goal and her first thing is to look at where her Daddy is in the stands. I don’t want to let her down, go back to the hood and do stupid shit, all because of my pride. I ain’t trying to miss out on that.
And there are some artists whose egos lead them to put their artistic process before providing for their families.
Life is so real. All that shit just keeps me going creatively. Since the day I played my first beat, I haven’t stopped rapping in my head. That was like nine years ago. Every day I wake up to me snapping my teeth like a beat, like thinking of something, whether I’m rapping or just mumbling something. It never stopped. I literally went crazy.
A lot of rappers put their music before their kids. It’s impossible for me to drop two albums in one year, or even four albums in four years, because that’s a lot of time in the studio and away from family.
Do you remember your first tattoo?
Yeah, it’s a portrait of my grandma [Laughs]. My homies say that it’s ugly as fuck! The homies say it looked like a melted ice cream cone. That’s fucked up! It’s supposed to be my grandma. Man, I got this when I was like 15.
Well, it’s a nice thought.
And I’ve heard that you have a "Fuck LAPD" tattoo.
Yeah, and the LAPD is crossed out.
You’re probably too young to remember Rodney King and the L.A. riots. Or maybe you do?
You know I don’t remember it, but I remember being in the back seat and just seeing the liquor store on fire. That’s really it. Just like blank little...
Yeah, yeah. It’s like when you was a little kid, like you know how you can still kind of remember when you were like three, four years old? Like in the bath, in the sink. That type of shit.
Growing up, did those memories affect the way you viewed the police?
Nah, I have my own experiences. I grew up wanting to be a cop. My mama used to be like, “Nah, you ain’t about to be no cop, what you talking about?” And then I got "Fuck LAPD" on me. I got a strike on my record. I got two felony counts. I started gangbanging. Life just switches. Just by walking to the store everyday meeting the homies I fucked my whole life up. And at the same time, my loyalty is to my homies. They made me who I am today, the reason that I can speak on this shit.
So, in “Black Thoughts” when you say “all lives matter, both sides,” you are obviously not saying it in the way that those people who seek to downplay police violence against black people are saying it.
No. When I said that all lives matter, I was still talking about black lives matter. It’s the reason that I said “both sides” at the end. I’m talking about Crips and Bloods. I’m talking to my community. We get so riled up when a white dude kills our people, but your cousin just got killed by somebody you know last week and nobody ain’t protesting about that. I got about five little homies not even 21 years old that died recently. Nobody’s protesting about that. I’m saying that if we going to be all in, let’s be all in. Let’s not just be all in when we can bring out cameras and get credit. Like, I don’t see how rap personalities go to these marches and protests, meanwhile somebody is showing them hoes on Instagram. It’s like what do you really stand for? Are you doing this for the credit or are you doing this because you really care? That’s my whole thing. I really care about certain shit. I’ve donated so much shit and done shit for so many families, and not to put it on Instagram. If black lives really matter then why are you letting this cop do him like that? You just filming it, you get what I’m saying? Step in. You’re scared, but if that was your boy you would step in. You going to ride out for your boy? We taking bullets for our boy. Why not just another black dude? Cops are coming into our communities doing what they want. I mean, “he resisted arrest”—whatever, man, he ain’t pull a gun out. People resist arrest every day. How come only the black dude is getting killed?
Yeah, I mean, when you watch the videos...
It’s like, yeah, he resisted arrest. You’re a fucking cop, that’s what we do. We resist arrest. We don’t want to go to jail. Your job is to put us in jail. My job is to get the fuck away from you, but I ain’t pulling no gun out to shoot you. Why you shooting me? It’s scary. Like why is your gun the first thing you reach for, when you got a Taser, mace, you even got a fucking billy club? Break my motherfucking leg or something!
When it’s a crazy white guy that’s what they do, and they go to every length. The standoff will be like five hours.
Now they got the bean guns. They’re shooting the white dude with the bean gun. Meanwhile, we getting shot with bullets.
A lot of people see you and Kendrick Lamar as representing the renaissance of L.A. rap. Is there anything that is specific to L.A. in terms of rap style?
Well, it’s really a whole new sound, L.A. music right now, it’s not sounding like L.A., they all trying to sound auto-tuned. L.A. music is really about a whole lot of street substance.
It’s more about the content, the subject.
It’s like I’m one of them old rappers now, because I listen to a lot of new L.A. rappers and I’m like, “Where is he from?” They like, “Oh, he’s from Compton,” or, “He from South Central,” and it’s like, why does he sound like he from Kentucky or Atlanta or some shit? [Laughs] But as far as me, Kendrick, we’re just influenced by the people that did it before us.
Specifically, artists from L.A.?
Yeah, Snoop, Pac, E-40, Too Short, goes on for days. Q, Dre, but even Biggie, Jay-Z, Nas. My favorite rapper is Nas.
Aside from your daughter and your family, what do you miss about L.A. when you travel?
My dogs. Just being able to wake up and turn my game on and play all day. The weed, I miss L.A. weed. Waking up and not having to figure out what I need to wear, if it’s going to be cold or hot weather.
That’s got to be nice.
That’s really it. And Shabu-Shabu.
Since the day I played my first beat, I haven’t stopped rapping in my head.
And what about your approach to fashion? It seems like you aren’t someone that cares so much about trends.
Fashion isn’t fashion when everybody looks the same. I don’t even know half the shit I wear. I just know how to put it together. Like, the new thing now is “let’s look dirty” and everybody does it. Even the beards and shit. I’ve had a fucked up beard forever, now everybody’s looking ugly as fuck! The fact that they even let bucket hats slide in the fashion world at one point shocks me. I’m looking at motherfuckers walk down runways in bucket hats. I’m like, I wore a bucket hat because it fits my face! Everything’s just a fad, dude. Like, me, I just go to my closet and I just end up wearing the same jacket for a whole week, same jeans for a whole week.
So, the most noticeable aspect of your own clothing collection is the prevalence of tie dye. What inspired that?
So, where I’m from, we say groove. Bloods say “What’s up, Blood?” Crips say “What’s up, cuz?” Where I come from, the Hoovers, we say “What’s up, groove?” Like, you groovy? You straight and you cool? And this is a way of me repping where I come from, without it being gang-banging. The tie dye, when you hear and you see tie dye you think of hippy, groovy, the 70s. Groovy shit. It’s like, that’s what I identify with in my hood. I’m making it cool, actually, because you don’t see a Crip wearing tie dye shit, but I actually kind of pulled it off somehow.
- Interview: E.P. Licursi
- Photography: Alexvnder Blvck
- Styling: Dianne Garcia