Schoolboy Q Talks Breaking Out From Kendrick Lamar’s Shadow

With the upcoming release of his new mixtape Habits & Contradictions, the Cali MC wants to make his own mark in 2012.  

Posted: 12/28/2011 09:31 AM EST

(Photo: Courtesy Top Dawg Entertainment)

Since the release of his mixtape Setbacks at the top of the year, Schoolboy Q has gone from being relatively unknown to achieving the distinction of being the next rising star from the Top Dawg Entertainment camp that produced fellow Cali young guns Jay Rock and Kendrick Lamar. Many have gotten to know Q either through his show-stealing feature on Kendrick Lamar’s “Michael Jordan,” a high-powered street anthem off Lamar’s Overly Dedicated, or as one of the few notable non-A$AP mob member features on A$AP Rocky’s groundbreaking mixtape LiveLoveA$AP. A year since the release of his introductory mixtape Setbacks, Schoolboy is reintroducing himself, this time in the form of his Habits & Contradictions mixtape—the so-called prequel to Setbacks. In anticipation of the project, Q spoke with BET.com about his bad habits, how his 3.3 high school GPA (in spite of his criminal extracurricular activities) warranted him the name “Schoolboy,” and why he had to step down from being Kendrick’s hype man.

BET.com: So what’s the title, Habits & Contradictions, all about?

Schoolboy Q: It's a prequel to my first mixtape I dropped, Setbacks. When you have bad habits, you keep contradicting yourself...that gives you Setbacks so that's what I came up with. It’s my life basically, bad habits and contradicting myself.

Is that something you still struggle with?

Yup, I still struggle with it. I think everybody has bad habits, rather if it's something you really know or not but everyone has bad habits and most Americans contradict themselves.

How did you get the name Schoolboy Q?

Yeah, like my whole high school career besides 12th grade (that's when I was messing up) I had a 3.3 GPA through high school. I was in magnet classes and I played three sports in high school. I was actually gangbanging and selling drugs at the same time. It may sound like a lie or impossible but you have to go home at some point.

How did you manage to do all that?

When I went home, my mom she worked nights. My mom, single parent, my grandma passed away, it was just me basically. I go home after practice, basketball practice, football practice, baseball practice, no one's home because my mom worked graveyard from 12 to like 7, 8 in the morning. So it was like, I'm at home by myself. It was basically like I had a bachelor pad. Honestly from like 8th grade all the way up to me graduating and moving out the house she worked graveyard so once I went home I was hanging with the homies and just doing what the homies do and the homies called me Schoolboy.

And the name just stuck?

Well, when I was at TDE, me and Punch [President of Top Dawg Entertainment] we was having a talk because I didn't have a rap name, this is when I first began to come over there to TDE and I didn't have a rap name, I was just going by Q. Then I told Punch, they used to call me Schoolboy. I forgot how that convo went. Then he just said "Schoolboy Q" and I was like "That's the name!" I just ran with it ever since.

You were featured on more than few other people’s mixtape projects this year—Dom Kennedy, Smoke Dza, A$AP Rocky.... And you’ve gained a lot of notoriety for your verse on Kendrick’s “Michael Jordan.” Some people would say you stole the show on more than a couple of those features. How do you feel about that?

I wouldn't say that. I would say I'm just doing me. If I'm stealing the show then that means everybody from TDE stealing the show because every time I hear my homies on the record they kill it too. I ain't the only one that's just killing. That's what I'm supposed to do. I'm supposed to make the song tight. And most of those songs you heard I was the last verse so you have to just come with it on the last verse. I can't be playing like I gotta make a conclusion but I wouldn't call myself a show stealer, not yet. Not until the album out and then I'm on n****s albums killing. You know what I mean? When I start killing on n****s albums then I'll start talking a little more s**t.

What was it like working with the A$AP mob for the first time on “Brand New Guy” off LiveLoveA$AP?  

I was in New York and my manager Dave told me that this dude A$AP Rocky… I hadn't really heard anything yet, at that moment… he said he wanted to work with me and he said he was legit and hard. He played me the “Purple Swag” joint and I liked it so I told him bring him through and he came through and we did the record. Like within two hours he came through.

Did you ever think A$AP and the song would ever be as big as it is?

No. Honestly I didn't because I didn't hear too much music we was just doing the song but when we was working and when I first heard the beat I didn't like it at first but I was like maybe it's something that I don't, maybe I'm not hearing. After it was playing like after 45 minutes I just got into a groove with it, like, oh this hard. And then he spit the hook to me because at first the beat was just laid and he didn't really tell me what was going on, but then he spit the hook to me and I liked it. And then he did his thing and I did my thing and you know, stayed out of each other's way. We didn't have no weed in the place. It was horrible. But we still got it, we got it done with no weed in the place. It was real bad.

You smoke every time you record?

I'm high right now. Swear to God.

Last time I saw you, you were an integral part of Kendrick’s show. Will that continue? Will you be joining him on the tour with Drake?

See me and Kendrick had a long talk about it and I told him I wanted to step down from being hype man and actually following him everywhere. That's my bro. That's my n***a and everybody know that but it just comes a time and point where you just gotta break off and do your own thing. I mean, we Black Hippy for life but I just can't keep following him around. That's just going to keep me back as an artist. I gotta keep working to get to the level that he's at actually. That's just going to always keep me a step under him, me following him around, but I would love to be on the Drake tour if my name was on it, but I can't do the hype man stuff no more, but I will come out to a few shows you know, come out, rock, but for the most part nah, I gotta stay and work. I’m taking off myself. The only reason why I was doing the hype man thing at the time was because of course to help out the show and to help out the team but just to get exposure actually helped. People see me on stage, I do my song, do a verse, people see me next to Kendrick and it kind of worked for me. Now it's time for me to go ahead and learn how to fly the plane myself.

I know your manager tweets from your Twitter account sometimes but are you on there too?   

I really let my people do all that because I be like focused on the music... but I learned that Twitter is a big help with n****s music career.... So, yeah I'm on there. I f**k around sometimes. Sometimes I go on a little Twitter rant. Talk for a little bit. Reply to people. Sometimes I just look at it. Won't say anything for like two weeks a week but for the most part.

How does this project differ from Setbacks?

It's a lot more raw. A lot more aggressive. A lot more mature and a lot more fun. It's just Setbacks times five you know. I ain't gone say ten because I'm gonna do ten times when I do the album.

So who are some of the producers on Habits & Contradictions?

I got a beat from Lex Luger. I have a beat from Mike Will. I got something from THC. I got Tae Beatz of course, Willie B. I have Soundwave. I have my manager Dave, he even did a few tracks on there. I got a few people, Nez and Rio. A lot of up-and-coming people, but the only person who probably has a name is Mike Will and Lex Luger and Soundwave. Everybody else up-and-coming.

Who’s featured on it?

I have A$AP, of course the in-house [Kendirck Lamar, Jay Rock], and that's about it. I really don't like too many features but I got the in-house. Oh yeah! I got Curren$y and Dom Kennedy too. I got both of them on one record.

So when is it coming out? Still keeping that a secret?

Yeah. I can't say. I don't know. If you find the answer then come tell me. I'll be just as excited.

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