The second round of the US Open is in full swing at Pebble Beach. Two miles to the north, ScHoolboy Q receives a phone call as he stands on the chipping green at Monterey Peninsula Country Club. It’s the last day of his golf vacation to the central coast of California. It’s an hour until his tee time, and it’s been eight weeks since he released his third studio album CrasH Talk. The album release hasn’t exactly triggered a cascade of media and performance obligations; he’s been golfing almost every free day on his schedule, and he likely won’t head out on tour until later in the year.
“Right now I’m just trying to breathe, bro,” he tells us, “and just be who I am and keep my engine going. Because when it becomes a job, this shit gets depressing. And it takes the love out of what you do. We’re like superheroes. So our superpowers got to be on every day, 24/7, when we touch that stage. And I don’t want to give them no half-assed shit.”
One of Q’s defining qualities has always been the candor and eloquence with which he’s discussed the ups and downs of his mental health. On his massively successful 2014 debut album Oxymoron, which capped his rise from Kendrick Lamar’s hype man to TDE’s loveable party animal, he rapped unflinchingly about the vicious cycle of depression and addiction to drugs like Percocet, lean, valium, and Xanax: “My mommy call, I hit ignore/ My daughter calls, I press ignore/ My chin press on my chest, my knees press the floor.”
These days, Q sticks to weed and alcohol. Still, spelunking into the cave that is album mode still tends to trigger depressive episodes. He picked up golf about a year ago, after he had already made and scrapped two completed versions of CrasH Talk. The sport helped him get outside the depression, self-doubt, and fatigue that plagued him and push the album across the finish line. “Working on the album is tough, because you’re in the studio more than you’re at home,” Q says. “Golf’s gotten me out of a lot shit. It got me in a different creative space.”
Q’s obsession with golf (he’s already whittled his handicap down to a 12) is worth noting in part because hip-hop and golf are two worlds that have not historically intersected, for a number of cultural and socioeconomic reasons. For Q, golf is more than just a rich man’s sport. It’s more than an excuse to whack a dimpled ball with sleek metal appendage. It is an antidote to narcissism and melancholy, an easy way to commune with nature, and an opportunity to get back to the competition and athletic self-betterment he’s been missing since his days on the West Los Angeles College football team. Perhaps most importantly, it’s a way to meet new people. Q says this social aspect of golf has helped him maintain sanity, balance, and perspective, and by extension, keep his rap star superpowers intact.
“You gotta meet new people, because when you meet new people, you take a piece of them,” he says. “And you constantly reinvent yourself. If you’re constantly around the same people, the same motherfuckers having the same conversations, you’re gonna do the same kind of shit, you’re gonna wear the same kind of clothes. And if you don’t meet new people, you don’t have to humble yourself. I’m also a better partner to my girl, I’m a better father, I’m a better artist, I’m a better friend, and I’m a better person, just by taking a piece from everyone I met.”
Q is making friends who come from all walks of life – friends he never thought he’d make. The day he spoke with Highsnobiety, he was preparing to tee up alongside a 73-year-old executive. He’s even cozying up to the local wildlife; during a previous round in Monterey, he posted a video of his interaction with a deer grazing along the course. “What up bruh bruh, I ain’t gonna do nothing to you,” he assured the deer. “I ain’t white, I won’t shoot you, man. I’m a fella, I can’t have a gun, bro. It’s all good. I want to pet you, my nigga.”
The next week, back in LA, he headed to Wilshire Country Club in his red Ferrari for “drippy time.” A couple days later, he invited an octogenarian golfing buddy over to his house to try out his Trackman, an elaborate golf simulator he had had installed in his house. “Old homie couldn’t wait to pull up.” That same day, he took to Instagram to announce that he would be performing at ComplexCon Chicago, but in the comments he seemed mostly interested in figuring out which Chicago-area course to play. (He was leaning towards Cog Hill.)
Some rappers possess a Jordan-esque desire to achieve icon status. It’s safe to say that Q is not one of these rappers. He’s homies with elderly anesthesiologists and deer, he takes long walks every morning, and he golfs as much as humanly possible. He’s only 32-years old, but he’s living the charmed lifestyle of a retiree. And why not? He’s a millionaire, his legacy is mostly secured, and he’s at an age when many highly successful rappers enter a transitional period, in which they maintain their careers while fading away from their place at the heart of the zeitgeist. In Q’s case, this might be for the best.
“Once I crawled out of depression without knowing I was in depression, It was just like, ‘What the fuck, I can’t even explain why I’m just so happy,’” Q says. “When you look at my pictures, go back to my pictures, just look at my skin. If you go to 2014, 2015, I look way different from there. It’s crazy. Your whole body, your whole face change, bro. Your organs, everything changes when you be happy.”
For ScHoolboy Q, the rap game can wait. Right now, he’s focused on giving his superpowers to raising his daughter. (“I can’t be a deadbeat out here.”) Besides that, leisure is paramount. The links beckon. Since the beginning of our phone call, he’s wandered away from the chipping green at Monterey Peninsula in search of good cell service. He winds up in the parking lot. His tee time is in 30 minutes now, and he needs to get ready. “I gotta go hit a buckets of balls.”