Rap thrives on competition and ego; it always has. Kendrick Lamar came out of the gate first, but now it’s time to shine the spotlight on Lamar’s Black Hippy co-member (and Top Dawg labelmate) ScHoolboy Q. The much-hyped, highly anticipated Oxymoron debuted in February at No. 1, thanks in part to the absence of a new Taylor Swift release. The album is honest and raw and endlessly entertaining, almost exactly what you’d expect from a former dealer/addict. It’s an epic, beat-filled autobiography (“Gangsta,” “Hoover Street,” “Prescription/Oxymoron,” etc.) with an all-star production team. ScHoolboy Q headlines back-to-back shows at Hard Rock Live on April 4 ($25), and, yeah—he looks much better in a bucket hat than you do.
The first time I heard “Good Dancers” by The Sleepy Jackson, I thought it was the second coming of John Lennon. The band released a couple of records before Luke Steele focused his attention and considerable musical abilities on Empire of the Sun, whose debut album, Walking on a Dream (2008), was a huge international success and essential listening for fans of psychedelic synth-pop. Last year’s follow-up, Ice on the Dune, might have been overshadowed by Daft Punk, but songs such as “DNA,” “Alive” and “I’ll Be Around” sound even better when paired with the eye-popping theatricality of EOTS’ live shows. Empire of the Sun play the Chelsea on April 9 ($35-$45), and don’t be stingy with the guyliner.
On Sale Now
Billy Joel hasn’t recorded much new material since 1993, but that hasn’t kept him from setting up residency at Madison Square Garden or selling out venues all over the country. Joel plays the MGM Grand Garden Arena on June 7 ($84.50-$199.50), and nobody likes shaking up a set list more than this big shot.