You’re working on an album with Fieldy from Korn. How did the album come about?
Man, it was a thing where he and I were both kind of sponsored by this clothing company called Tribal. The president of the company, Bobby, gave a copy of Vengence is Mine to Fieldy and Fieldy liked it. He called him back and from what I understand, he said, “I want to work with this guy.” I got a call back on the East Coast about if I would want to work with Fieldy from Korn. I was like, ‘Hell yeah!’ I bought my plane ticket and went out there. I thought I was just going to get a feature and then bounce. We did the beat and from there we just became friends and the chemistry went really well. I went out there with my MPC and I started playing beats and he picked one that I had actually played on the keyboard and he played along with it and that’s where “Killing Myself to Live” came about. I finished the vocals out here in New York and he was real happy about it. And then I went with him on a couple of shows and we did the video at one of his shows. He was really happy with everything and he said he wanted to be the producer of this album.
That’s a big change for a former b-boy.
Yeah. It’s a huge change. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever expected. A lot of people ask how I feel about this. To me, it’s still weird and surreal because when you come up as a rapper, you always imagine yourself being able to do things with your peers. I got the chance to do something with Raekwon real quick. I did something with La Coka Nostra, but I never anticipated I would be working with someone who was completely out of my genre. It’s miraculous in a sense. It’s a strange miracle.
Have you always had an interest in rock music?
I grew up listening to rock but not as intense as an Ill Bill or Necro. I always loved it, but I never attempted to chase that dream. Being raised in the Bronx, what was immediately in my face was hip-hop. Rock was a subculture that I never saw in the Bronx. I always thought it was a Cali thing. There are certain bands that come from New York, but I always thought it was a California thing.
You had to put yourself in the shoes of a rock star to right “Killing Myself to Live”. What was that like for you?
You know what? It came really easy in a sense that when I went there, I thought I was going to do the normal Q-Unique song. I didn’t know what to expect so I went in there with crazy punchlines. When I was building with Fieldy, I saw that it was going to be something more than I ever anticipated. Then when I went back to the Tribal warehouse, it was nothing like I expected. Fieldy said I should write about my experiences. The way the story unfolded for the song is that I went to his house and when I went to use his bathroom, his Grammy was on the toilet. I thought that was bugged. I’m looking at all of the stuff he has in his house and I’m overwhelmed by it. I’m like, ‘How was it walking on stage to accept a Grammy?’ He said he couldn’t remember because he was in a fog because that’s when he was dealing with drugs. I was like, ‘How does that happen?’ That’s bugged that he has all of that and he can’t remember the experience. I was thinking about people like Kurt Cobain and others who spun out of control and I went into character to write the song.
What do you think of the reaction to “Killing Myself to Live”?
It’s been beautiful but it’s also been scary. When you’re dealing with something at this level, you have diehard fans. The same was Kiss has Kiss soldiers, Korn has Korn soldiers. It’s huge to be accepted by them because I know there’s a huge percentage of them who don’t like rap music. I’ve gotten two emails about how I should leave Korn alone and how they don’t do rap music. But then I get these other letters from people who don’t know who I am or who the Arsonists or Rock Steady are and they say what we’re doing is awesome and they’re giving me a whole lot of praise. It’s a whole lot of love and it’s another fanbase of people who wouldn’t know who I was if it wasn’t for Korn and Fieldy. It’s definitely a whole new ballgame for me, man.
You shot the video for “Killing Myself to Live” during a Korn show. Was that difficult?
That was another incredible Fieldy idea. The song is based on an artist losing control. It was like he wanted me to come right after the show, get onstage and do the video, but everybody had to ignore me. Everybody was supposed to ignore what I was doing which was ill because they weren’t paying attention to me as I was killing myself to live. The video was done in one take and one shot. What I did was to go along with the vocal track, I hooked up my iPod and ran the headphones through the back of my shirt and wrapped it around my ear and kept the vocals going. That video was fun to do, man. (laughs) There were a lot of people there, man. It was a lot of fun.
Is this project catching your hardcore fans off-guard?
I think some of them are going to hate it and some of them are going to love it. I’ve been in the music industry for a long time and I’ve put out three albums and I’ve kind of gotten used to the balance of love and hate. I have to grow. If you listen to the first two Arsonists albums and my solo album Vengeance is Mine and the mixtapes I’ve done, which I hate doing, you can listen to the growth. Especially with being taught by someone like Fieldy, who deals with music on a much larger basis than I do, I realize you have to grow. I’m enjoying the experience because overall, I love to make music.
Obviously my roots are in hip-hop and to me, there is nothing wrong with hip-hop, but for me to take this to another level and evolve with it in a different way, it feels great to me. I’m all for it and if there are fans that want to roll along with me, obviously the love is going to be mutual. For those who want to hate it, there’s going to be another Q-Unique album coming out soon. I guess I’m going to have that split personality for awhile until something totally takes my attention or maybe I’ll always have that split personality where I’ll do the street stuff and go back to being Q-Unique again.
How important is to you and Fieldy to not replicate the rap-rock sound that has been done by artists like Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park?
Extremely important. The first thing that we took notice in was that this would be too easy for Fieldy to get a bunch of musicians and for them to just drum it out and riff it out and for me to come back and write a rap to it. We could have made that really quickly. No disrespect to any of the bands before, but we don’t want to just follow in somebody else’s footsteps. Especially when you look at what I’ve done with the Arsonists and what Fieldy has done with Korn, you’re looking at two groups who have done things that didn’t sound like anyone else. We both had our own signature sound. We already know what’s been done from Run-DMC and the Beastie Boys down to Kid Rock and Limp Bizkit. We’re not here to do the same thing. We’re here to evolve. What’s good is that you’re getting two extremes. Again, no disrespect, but I don’t know how deep these guys’ hip-hop history is and I don’t know if you consider them MCs as much as rock-rappers. See, I’m not a rock-rapper. People know me for being an MC first and Fieldy is known for being in a metal band and he’s known for being in that culture.
You’re not getting somebody who just knows how to write raps. You’re getting somebody who’s been a b-boy and graffiti artist and somebody who’s rubbed shoulders with Crazy Legs and Fat Joe. You can see me at big shows or at open mic events. I’ve been thought it all in hip-hop and you’re getting two extremes now. We’re really thinking about what we’re doing and we’re being smart.
There might be things in this Street Metal project that people don’t agree with, but it’s its own entity. Street Metal is not the name of the album. Street Metal is what I came up with to put a title on what me and Fieldy were. I’m street and he’s metal. That’s the name of the company that I started. We didn’t come up with a name for the album yet. Right now Street Metal is just the name of the company for this. If it does become a label, it will probably put out the next Q-Unique album. It’s not just going to be the music that me and Fieldy make. I don’t want to get ahead of myself and say I’m going to blow up and take over the world. For me, it’s like I’m enjoying myself and we’ll see what happens. I’m very happy with it and I’m very excited about it.
How do you and Fieldy work together on a song?
The way it works is that I roll through with the MPC and I’ll play several different drum programs that I came up with. He’ll pick one. We always start with him obviously playing bass first. If it calls for me playing a little bit of keyboard, I’ll do that. Because I went on the Family Values Tour with Korn, he was able to roll some band members in and we got Clint Reilly down who used to be down with Sevendust. We got a lot of big musicians and we’ve been fortunate really to get real musicians. That’s been an incredible experience.
And what it brings out of me is that I’m thinking about songs and music now. I’m not thinking about complaining on the record about rap music and I’m not telling you how lyrical I am and I’m not going to say the most shocking thing to get your attention. That’s not what I’m doing on this project. This project is conceptual and it’s about making music. That’s what it’s brought out of me. And it’s not only about my experiences, but it’s to show you how observant I am as a musician and as a writer. Usually when you’re in the hip-hop world, at least for me, I get caught up in the same standards that everyone has been accustomed to and now I feel as though I’m back in that place where my soul is and it feels much better.
How’s your hip-hop album Capital Q coming?
Man, because of the growth that I’ve been seeing with the Capital Q project, it’s made me come up with more conceptual stuff. The beats are real boom-bap. I’ve done a few tracks myself. I’ve been producing since the first Arsonists’ joint. I got some production from this cat The Lost Sun and Quincy Tones from London. I’m real happy about that. My manager wants me to release this album soon, which to me is kind of crazy, but I kind of understand where he’s coming from.
Because of the way the internet moves, things can be promoted in a week and you have a huge percentage of the world that knows what’s going on. It’s not like you have to go out in the streets and put up posters and stickers anymore. It’s almost not necessary anymore. If HipHopGame is behind the album and we do ads and I got it on my MySpace page, it’s pretty much promoted. Then you have your online radio shows and it moves. Vengeance is Mine came out in 2004 and it’s pretty much about time that the next album comes out. We already have the first two singles. We just have to shoot some videos and get it popping like that. I’m really happy about that project as well.
You’ve been quiet since Vengeance is Mine came out. Was falling back a good move?
Yeah. I think that the way I like to approach things is that I’m not the type that wants to flood and over-saturate myself. I’ve seen a lot of people do, like, a billion things and after awhile, it kind of loses its flavor. Who knows the effect it will have on me. I feel like I need to step back. I just put out a mixtape, which to me is whatever. I kind of have a love-hate relationship with mixtapes. It’s time for me to grow and learn more stuff about what I’m doing as an MC and a person that produces. It was a good idea for me to chill out for a second and put music together. I like what I’m doing. The proof will be when these albums come out and you can see if the time off has been worth it or not. (laughs)
Have you been gone for too long?
Nah. You know what? I think that the internet has kept me warm. Every time I look at my MySpace, there are a few new people that are checking out my music and people are still buying the album and still buying the mixtape and they’re still leaving their comments. When I see that slowing down, I’ll know we have a problem. The internet is keeping me warm. It’s not like the album has sold a few million copies. It’s sold a few thousand and to some it’s brand new. It might be old to me and you because we’ve seen it and we’ve heard it, but there are still some other people who have no idea what’s going on and they get it and it’s brand new to them. That’s what I learned from laying in the cut and learning about how powerful the internet is and how to keep it alive three years after it’s been out. That’s the power of the internet to me.
What’s the next move for Q-Unique?
Well, I’m going to see what’s up with getting this next Q-Unique album out. We’re going to shoot a video for the first Q-Unique joint. I’m also supposed to be heading out to California to do some more work in Fieldy’s studio. I should be on the road with this next Q-Unique album and I should be doing a lot of shows. If you know me, you know that’s one of my favorite things to do; get onstage and perform. I also want to get the Street Metal company rolling and make some things happen with it.
What do you want to say to everybody?
I’m always very thankful for people’s support. The way I look at it is that at this point, whether you bought it or downloaded it, obviously there’s more appreciation if you bought it, but if you listen to the lyrics and read the interviews and feel where I’m coming from, it’s a big thank you. A lot of people, in hip-hop especially, we’re not supposed to be that humble but I’m always humbled by these experiences and I appreciate that.