Looking back on 2007, how would you say this year was for you?
Honestly, 7 is God’s number. To me, 2007 was the year of completion. ’08 starts anew. I went through a lot and I learned a lot, but I’m still here and I came out on top. So 2007, it’s been a blessing for me. I released two hot-ass mixtapes, Black Gangsta, which did crazy numbers in the U.K. The ‘hood’s still banging that. And then I released my DVD and CD, The Most Anticipated. Honestly, that was my last mix-CD that I’m going to do officially. Somebody might grab my freestyles up and put one out, but as far as me, myself, it’s strictly albums from here on out.
Are you still signed to Ill Will and Atlantic?
Nah. I got my release from all of that, from Ill Will and Atlantic. I asked for my release and they gave it to me. I wish it would have got done sooner, but I’m thankful.
Why did you ask for a release from Ill Will?
Basically because Nas is focused on Nas and his career and what he has to do for him and his career. He’s a grown man just like I’m a grown man and I have to be concerned with my career and with how my family and with how my son is going to eat. When you’re in a situation where you know you’re carrying that flag but it seems like you’re the only one that’s carrying that flag, you have to put that flag down and carry your own. That’s the only way you’re going to make it. Food doesn’t just hop out the store and jump in your refrigerator. You have to go out there and grind and get it.
That’s all. I asked for a release and everybody gave it to me because they know what I want to do. It ain’t nothing. It’s all love. There’s no beef and no bitterness. There’s none of that. It’s just growth. Me and Nas, we had a beautiful record and a nice little run. We have a good relationship. I see him and it’s all love, but I have to do me like he’s doing him. That’s what it is. It ain’t nothing. Niggas are not going to hear me running around making diss records about homie. I ain’t like these other rappers out here, man. You give and you get respect and that’s what I’m about. Now if I’m ever disrespected, I’m going to address it the way a real nigga’s supposed to, and that goes for a young rapper or an old rapper, but it don’t make no difference. I make beautiful music and for those who want to listen to it and rock to it, hey, I’m happy.
Even though you’re not signed to Ill Will anymore, do you still work with producers like L.E.S?
I’m in touch with L, definitely. That’s nothing but a phone call. I got a record with Nas right now on the chorus.
What went wrong with Atlantic?
What went wrong with Atlantic, shit. Politics, man. That’s the best way I could put it. Atlantic wanted Nas to hold my hand when I’m an independent artist. I’m my own artist. It had a lot to do with that. I had poor management at that time. I had a manager that didn’t even get along with Ill Will and so those lines of communication was fucked up. So when it came time to deal with Atlantic, that situation was fucked up as well because everybody wasn’t on the same page. It had nothing to do with music. You can ask Gee Roberson and Nelson about that right now. Everybody on the Atlantic staff knows it was never about the music. It was about politics and bullshit and everybody not being on the same page. If you have a situation like that, you have to up and move.
50 was signed to JMJ and then went to Sony. None of those situations worked for him. Right before his album was supposed to drop on Sony, they dropped him. You’re never going to hear someone say, “It’s over 50.” Three years later, he’s selling more records than anybody. Jay-Z went through the same thing. A lot of cats went through the same thing and they overcame that. The thing about me is that I’m a warrior and I’m a fighter. I’m good even when I’m not. I’m all right even when I ain’t. I’m still here. I’m still here after facing five life sentences and the death penalty. I’m still here and I’m still smiling. I just have to stay focused and stay determined. I’m good, homie. There was just poor communication.
How did you navigate the situation with your manager not getting along with Ill Will?
It’s weird because I went from high school to the pros. There wasn’t no college. It was bam, all of a sudden, ‘Who’s this nigga Quan that’s all over my TV and all over my radio?’ So there was a lot of parts to the game that I didn’t know. You have to learn. When you come in the game with a manager who knows a little bit, but all he or she knows is up to a certain extent because they’ve never had a mainstream artist before, so they make a lot of dumb mistakes and dumb choices. After awhile, that machine slows down. So it was different things. It was different situations and circumstances. You can’t just nitpick at one thing. There were a lot of situations that caused it, but honestly, man, if that’s what God willed, that’s what would have been. More than likely that would have been the most proper place for me, but it’s cool. I got my release and I got people still waiting for me. It’s cool. I’m not complaining.
One thing about me is that I’m a real nigga. I’m comfortable with my lane. All right, nigga, you got a Benz, I’m good in my Chevy Capri. I’m not going to say I don’t like the Benz, but if that’s what my hand calls for, I’m good with that. If I don’t sell a million records, I’m not going to commit suicide. If I drop an album and 100,000 people buy it, I’m happy. I’ll drop an album a year. I like communicating with the people and giving the people music to ride to. I’m always going to be here. If you don’t hate, I don’t have no problems with it. Brother, life goes on. That’s where I’m at.
You’ve been through a lot from your legal situations to dealing with the politics of the music industry. How do you not get discouraged?
You’ve been knowing me for a minute. I’m still the same person despite my trials and tribulations. I’m here, man. What could somebody do to me outside of pull up on me and blow my head off? They can’t do nothing but kill me or kill something that I love, and even then, I’d be okay. So with that being said, I’m good even when I’m not. I’m all right even when I ain’t. I stress that because I’m alive and I’m free.
Those situations, man, those are minor situations. As big as they might be and the effect that they had on me, those are minor situations when you look at the bigger picture of life. Anybody that I know that’s successful and that I admire, they went through the same thing. And anything worth having has to be worked for. So if my album drops and I do crazy numbers, one thing’s for sure, two thing’s for certain, I’m at the point in my career where I’ll feel justified because I know I’ve busted my ass for my career. I live, eat, breathe, sleep and shit music, 24/7. All of my sacrifices are geared to my music because outside of music, all I’ve ever had is the streets and we all know how that shit goes. I’m past that. I’m trying to get so far away from the negative shit. I concentrate on the good things, Man, I’m still here, man. I stress that after weaving five life sentences and the death penalty. See, I ain’t no snitch so they’re not going to put me on American Gangster. I didn’t make $500 million so they’re not going to put me on American Gangster and the cover of F.E.D.S. I ain’t gonna be up there but I can relate to all of that. And if I can make it through all of those situations, homie, a misguided record deal ain’t nothing.
From your hotel situation to your manager misrepresenting you, you’ve had a lot of trouble with the people you surrounded yourself with. Who are you surrounding yourself with today?
Let’s start with the management. Okay. A lot of the decisions that were made were made because of inexperience to cause the riff in the first place. That’s crazy. Here I am chilling and it’s all love with Ill Will, and then this particular individual comes around. But that was minor. Those were minute, amateur mistakes, man. As far as the whole hotel room and getting caught with the guns and the money and the weed and me fighting the police and all of that, it was a situation that, you know, was an ugly situation that got uglier that God brought me up out of, point blank. I came from up out of it and I’m thankful. And I’m tired. I’m tired of going through things like that, so I don’t even move certain ways that I used to. I got a whole new focus.
Add that to the fact that I got a son now. I’m a daddy. That nigga don’t comprehend nothing but “Dad, I need and I want”, period. And I got to be here because my blood’s in him. And the fruit don’t fall too far from the tree, so I have to be here. If I can sell 50-100,000 copies of everything I drop and I can be here with my child, I’m happy. One of the best things you can let me do is play with my son in the park, I’m good. I don’t care about none of these scandalous hoes, none of these snitching-ass niggas. I’m about love, life, freedom and happiness. That’s it. That’s what matters. I don’t even concentrate or focus on the negative or the bullshit because I know what that is. Now don’t get me wrong. If you come at me with that bullshit, you’re going to get that bullshit ten-fold. But other than that, I would rather give you a pound and a bearhug and give you some jewels to help your life become better. Other than that, it’s nothing.
How much does being a father influence your music and the moves that you make today?
Whether I do music or not, he has to eat. I can’t just think about today. I have to think about tomorrow. And I was a wild boy, man. It wasn’t doing 120 down the freeway with two pistols and no tearing the club down. That’s stupid. I don’t have time for it, my dude. I don’t have time for it and I sit back and I see a lot of these other situations.
As long as my son’s happy, my dude, and healthy, then I’m good. I don’t love my child. I’m in love with my child. Do you see what I’m saying? I could come in the crib at 6 o’clock in the morning and that nigga can wake up at 8 and I’m up with him. He’s going to get his vitamins and he’s going to get fed and we’re going to play because I love that and I’m in love with being a father. A lot more black babies need stand-up fathers. It has a lot to do with it.
With me, getting as much money as I can get, I’m trying to have as many babies as I can, because if you ask me, we need as many beautiful, black babies growing up in stable homes as possible so we can turn this genocide around because there are so many misguided youths out there who don’t have that. That’s what it does to me.
I look at my little homies that I done raised in the streets and I think like, ‘Damn, my son can’t do what we’ve done and do what they’re doing.’ At some point in time, it has to change. My daddy’s daddy was a gangster. My biological pops was a gangster. His sons, me and my brothers, was gangsters. Every last one of them niggas has never been in a true position to really raise their children. I’m the first one. So I have to be there. I have to break that cycle, man. My daddy’s been to prison. My brother’s been to prison. I’ve been to prison. My grandfather’s been to prison. Somebody’s got to break this cycle. It’s all of these elements. I can’t do these things anymore. It’s not about me. It’s about him first. I have to keep in mind that anything I do affects my child. I can’t be no selfish cat. I have to move differently and outside of that, the streets ain’t the same no more. These niggas got it all backwards, man.
I’m talking about this rap game to the streets. Whatever it is that you’re doing in this world, a lot of cats got it backwards. A lot of these so-called rappers that are running around talking about how they rep this and how they rep that got it backwards. What they think is cool ain’t cool. They got it all backwards. They’re coming out here and disrespecting the OG’s, the ones that laid it down before us. How are you going to take shots at a vet that didn’t take shots at you? There’s just so many different situations, man, that I see and I ain’t no mad rapper or none of that. I don’t even like to discuss other rappers because they can come out their mouth the wrong way. So I don’t get into none of that. The thing is, the streets in general, there’s a lot of wisdom and jewels that are missing and they’re missing because the backbone of our community is occupying too much penitentiary space. So they ain’t out here to nurture these kids, man.
What happens is that these niggas nurture themselves or they look at these rap cats and they think that that’s what it really is because it looks so attractive. I see these cats. They emulate these rappers and every other day, I’m seeing them getting their head splattered. I’m seeing them die. Every other day, some young’n is getting his wig pushed back because these so-called standup cats on TV got them thinking something is kosher when it’s not kosher. These kids don’t got bodyguards in the ‘hood like the rappers. The things that they emulate, like a little homie sees someone with a red bandanna on, he doesn’t know that the nigga with the red bandanna doesn’t have to walk out the door to niggas shooting at him and all of that. So when little homie wraps a rag around his head thinking he knows something, a nigga will pull up on him like, ‘What you is, cuz?’ And he’s not built and prepared and conditioned for what comes with that shit and he dies. And we suffer. That’s just that.
As far as my ‘hood, Newport News, Virginia, everywhere I go, I get love, homie. Now there’s probably niggas that walk around that don’t like me, but they respect me. When they see me, they respect me and they smile in my face. I’m good, man. I get love. I be everywhere, from New York to L.A. to Atlanta. I be in Harlem. I be in the Bronx. I be everywhere and ‘hood niggas show me love. They might not have seen me on the screen in a minute, but they’re banging my underground music and I’m happy about that. I’ve been through too much big stuff. I know how to appreciate the small things, man. That’s what it is. I get love, man. And I thank God and I’m glad I can say that. Real talk, I’m glad I can say that. I really get a lot of love and support from my ‘hood. And if you don’t have no ‘hood love, then you’re nothing. If you can’t get that, the rest of the world’s not going to give a damn about you.
Will you get that same love and respect from the record labels the second time around?
I signed a $2.2 million deal in ’05 off of a feature. They didn’t know who I was. Do you see what I’m saying? It had a whole lot to do with Nas, damn right, but I’m a seasoned artist. I’m not a vet, but I’m a seasoned artist. I know how to make an album and I know how to conduct myself in interviews. My resume is beautiful. People can say what they want. I’ve worked with some of the greatest people in the music industry. I see the haters in their blogs and they’re forgetting that their favorite rappers said that I was the future. You can’t take that away. Their favorite rapper said, “If I’m going to pass the baton to anybody, I’m going to pass it to that nigga because he’s the truth.” I’m thankful for that. I’m going to do this to the best of my ability or I’m going to die trying. I’m thankful. I don’t really have to namedrop. I’ve been places and it’s cool and I know what this game is about. It’s WWF, but I know what it’s about. You feel me? I’m focused. Whatever questions and doubts I had, I have my answers. They let me off the papers. That’s a 23 year sentence behind me. I’m out of the paperwork that had my album being held up in the first place. I’m good, man.
‘08’s coming. I get 800-1,000 plays on MySpace, religiously. I appreciate things like that. I got half a million views off word of mouth. I appreciate the comments. People pull up on me in the ‘hood and they tell me they love the music and that my song helped them get through something difficult. That means so much to me. That means more to me than anything, man, to know that I’m doing the world more good.
I’ve done so much bad and I have to balance it out. I have to get me some angel wings and a halo before the Good Lord snatches me out of here. I just have to even the scale and have balance. I’m real happy and I’m very excited, man. My album is coming out in ’08. Until My Death. I really like that. For those who love what I do and that follow a nigga’s music, hey, thank you and I appreciate it. This is what I have to give you. For those who don’t, hey, I ain’t mad. That’s your choice as a customer. I ain’t tripping off of that, man. My life is good.
I’m happy, homie. And I mean that. I know you can hear it in my voice. I was talking to you when I was facing life sentences and going through things with niggas. I know you can hear it in my voice and feel it in my sprit. I’m happy. I just want the world to know that there are no issues and no beef and no animosity between me and Nas. He’s a grown man and he does him. I’m a grown man and I do me. We see each other and it’s love and respect. That’s that. Life goes on. We might make more music, we might not. It is what it is. It’s all love. And I think the game is kind of finicky. There ain’t no song out there with me dissing Nas and there ain’t no songs out there with Nas dissing me. He do him and I do me. It’s nothing. Have we ever had a misunderstanding where we didn’t agree on certain things? Yeah. What niggas don’t? What people in your life do you not have disagreements with? That’s just life. But my path is my own to walk and my own fans know that and respect that. My path is my path. You can’t look for Nas every time you look for Quan and you can’t look for Quan every time you look for Nas. We’re not Siamese twins, man.
[Click here to read Part 2 ]
Photo Credit: Elijah Conway/Who Shot You Photography