“Oxymoron” Speaks To Contradictions In My Life
The two takes on drug culture hit close to home this week.
ScHoolboy Q’s Oxymoron came out this week (along with two other album streams and an unexpected Cudi drop) to largely positive reviews. The album’s title is a double entendre; initially explaining the particular drug ScHoolboy sold, which is oxycontin, and then illustrating the contrast between drug seller and drug user, both of which Q has embodied. This dynamic isn’t new to rap music. Tupac was notorious for showing both sides of that coin. But however conventional the story is, when spit at the right time, by the right emcee, to the right audience, that dichotomy can be extremely powerful. That’s what happened with me and ScHoolboy’s latest.
On Tuesday morning I received a text stating that someone very dear to me had been hospitalized. No need for names; my friend is still alive and I see no need to put my homeboy on blast. The reason for the hospitalization was a heroin overdose. This wasn’t particularly surprising because I knew he was regularly selling drugs, but I had zero idea he crossed over into the user world. But that’s inevitable, right? On my way to visit my man in the hospital I was listening to Oxymoron. I had heard the album several times before but it didn’t quite resonate like it did then. I kept playing “Hoover Street” over and over, reflecting on all of ScHoolboy’s anecdotes.
ScHoolboy Q talks about his childhood environment, something that I’m sure many of us can relate to. “Since a young nigga I admired the crack sellers / Seen my uncle steal from his mother, now that’s the money that I’m talking ’bout.” This is the same environment that my friend grew up in. The idolization of all that’s wrong with urban communities. The lack of honest work ethic. The selfish perspective; I’m going to get mine, fuck you. All of that which leads to drug selling, and eventually drug using. What resonated with me most about the song is in the line, “My uncle’s nuts, he used to give me whiskey to piss in cups / Knocking on the door telling me to hurry up, he in a rush / I gave it to him then got my ass whipped for doing it / Moms used to tell me like, nigga, know who you dealing with / Them was the good days.” Despite what is a terrible situation, them was the good days, and Q’s right. Being a dependent child, watching the mayhem around you, and still having an air of innocence — those really are the good days. At least that’s how my friend looked at it.
Two tracks later, on “Prescription/Oxymoron,” Q talks about his own demons with drugs. It’s almost like a life trajectory on wax. You start out admiring the crack sellers, then witness that shit hit your family, and all of the sudden you are in the mix. That’s exactly what happened to my homeboy. I don’t want to completely separate myself from his actions, we are friends, so I was there for most of this — I’m no angel. However, being surrounded by that constantly, which I wasn’t, results in a fabricated normalcy. This is all life is. I don’t know if my friend cried when nothing was wrong like Q said, but if it got to this point, the two of us alone in this cold hospital room, I’m sure he did.
What makes this song so genuine and sincere is that the “Oxymoron” follows “Prescription.” After we struggle with Q’s demons, we’re talking about selling drugs. We’re right back at square one. Yeah, I was just in the hospital with my boy for two days, grappling with real life shit. But when he gets out, who’s to stop him from heading right back to that life? Who’s to stop me from going out and ingesting whatever drug I want in the name of turning up? This contradiction is so popular in music because it’s an integral part of our lives.
ScHoolboy’s Oxymoron is a great album through and through. It will always mean something different for me, though. It will bring me back to this week, nights spent in the hospital, a weird sense of what’s right and wrong, a little dose of reality. Maybe it will prevent me from having that drugs-are-fun vs. drugs-are-bad contradiction. Most likely it will just bring me back to that hospital room, a place I don’t ever want to be again.