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Schoolboy Q at Grand Central June 21

Historically, the West Coast is the homeland of gangsta rap. From cop killing to drug dealing, every horrifically real element of life in the hood has made it into song, for better or worse.

Though the game hasn't changed much since its earliest pioneers, the message and the messenger have. And at the center of West Coast rap's rebranding is the Black Hippy crew, particularly Schoolboy Q. With gang ties, a drug-dealing past, and a short stint in jail, Q could've easily chosen the street hustle over the record business. But with his natural, honest flow, tackling the music industry proved to be the much wiser decision.

Earlier this year, Schoolboy Q dropped Habits & Contradictions, the rapper's second LP and followup to 2011's critically acclaimed Setbacks. At its core, the record is an hour-plus journey through the struggles of street life. But rather than approach it from the perspective of the community, Q tells his own story.

Street life, weed smoke, and Schoolboy Q.
Street life, weed smoke, and Schoolboy Q.

Whether he's rapping about slanging Oxycontin, getting ratted out by a friend, feeling hurt on "2 Raw," or spending more time chasing "pussy" than going to church on "Nightmare on Fig St.," Q's ability to engage his fans on an emotional, human level is what makes him one of West Coast rap's brightest standout talents.

 
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