When Kendrick Lamar dropped “Good Kid, M.A.A.d City” in 2012, the plan was for his label-mate ScHoolboy Q to run with that momentum. But the spotlight he was supposed to step into felt more like a floodlight. Lamar set a bar that Q wanted to raise. With “Oxymoron,” Q offers a hazy and nocturnal self-examination driven by both the grittiest elements of LA (“Hoover Street”) and the smoothed-out soundscape (“Man of the Year”) that’s been its trademark since the ’90s. This isn’t a blockbuster — no Drake cameo, no Dr. Dre co-sign — but that’s the beauty of it. When Q trades notes with Suga Free on “Grooveline Pt. 2” or spars with Kurupt on “The Purge,” it has the feel of two ’90s cult figures riffing with a current one. But with production from Pharrell (“Los Awesome”) and a feature from 2 Chainz (“What They Want”), this isn’t a cult album either. It’s somewhere in between. You get the sense that rather than stand in Lamar’s shadow, Q chose to avoid it altogether. (Out Tuesday)
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.